The Four Stages Of Wrestling With God When You Don't Get What You Desire Most
What exactly am I supposed to do when the plans God has for my life don’t line up with the dreams and desires I have in my heart? If you’re anything like me you have desires tucked close to your heart and you tend to do your best to hold these desires far away from God for fear that if you open your hands, He will take them away. If you’re reading those words and thinking, “Yes and amen, sister,” slide in close because I have a story for you.
It was the fall of my senior year of college and if life were to go as I always dreamed, I would be happily engaged and on my way to a lovely spring wedding. But, as senior year started, I plowed headlong into misplaced hopes. I was single without a prospect in sight. Talk about desires of my heart not agreeing with God’s plan for me, right?
I was hurt, disappointed, and a little angry. If the deepest parts of my heart wanted these things, why was the Lord not giving them to me? My heart ached for what I did not have.
Through this I realized that if I wanted Jesus to have all of my life, I didn’t need to give up my dreams, but I did need to realign the desires of my heart with His. This meant I needed to genuinely desire God’s plan for my life above my own, even when it hurt and no matter how long it took for me to get there. But how do I come to a spot where I desire God’s plan for my life above my own?
Just as there are stages to grief, there are stages to wrestling with God’s plan for our lives. My senior year is just one example of when the Lord asked me to wrestle with His plan and realign my heart with His.
Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1 provides an outline and guidance as we step into obedience.
The Stages of Wrestling With God According to 1 Samuel 1:
STEP ONE: Honesty
“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord” -1 Samuel 1:10 (NIV)
Hannah wanted a child. I imagine she ached with longing and felt the desire deep in her heart. Not only was this a desire but she also experienced social condemnation for her barrenness (verse 6).
Instead of running away to nurse her deep wounds, she took her pain to the Lord. She brought her bitterness and heartache to the Lord and cried out to Him, rather than letting it pull her away from her King. Hannah knew the desires in her heart but verbalizing them to the Lord with honesty is a crucial step when wrestling with God.
Bear your heart to the Lord and honestly say that this is not what you wanted for yourself, but that you ultimately want your heart and desires to line up with His. This is what it means to trust Him, even when we do not understand.
Honesty has a beautiful way of drawing us nearer to God when we present the hurt and broken parts of our hearts to Him. On the other hand, a lack of honesty encourages the Devil to slide his way in and play games with our hearts.
STEP TWO: Mourning
“‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah relplied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’” -1 Samuel 1:15-16
Step two goes hand in hand with step one, but it is so important that it deserves its own rung on the ladder!
It is important to notice that Hannah is not cheery throughout the entire process. She wept bitterly, so much so that the Priest, Eli, who was in the temple at the time thought that she was drunk. Hannah took time to mourn what she does not have. It is okay to be broken hearted. Disappointed. Desperate. Feel the feelings in your heart - it’s okay to do so! Give yourself room to mourn.
In most circumstances, God is not asking us to let go of the deep desires of our hearts, He is simply asking us to trust Him with them. Do I still desire to be a wife? Yes. Can I trust that God has the best plan for me, whether He gives me those things or not? Without a doubt. God simply wants us to hold our dreams with an open hand, to invite Him into the desires, to trust Him with them, and love Him more than we love the dream.
This part of the process took me months to move past. I had been holding on to the ideal of being married right out of college for so long that I needed a chance to weep over what the Lord did not see as good for my life at that moment. There were bouts of anger mixed with my grief but I did not stay in that place forever, and as I sought the Lord out in my grief, my heart moved toward trust.
STEP THREE: Trust
“Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went away and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” 1 Samuel 1:17-18
Hannah walked away from her time of casting her cares on the Lord and she was “no longer downcast”. What trust that speaks of! She knew who her King was and had confidence that she could trust Him. I imagine a sense of calm followed her wherever she went and when she began to doubt she need only remember that she knew the character of her God and trusted His plan.
What does this look like practically though?
Friends, when I went through the process of wrestling with my singleness I had to start challenging myself to imagine the beauty that my life could hold as a single woman. For so long I had thought of singleness as a despicable thing, so I had to remake my perception of it. I had to challenge myself to really believe that whatever my God calls me to is for His glory and my good. To trust that no matter what, Heaven and dwelling in perfection with God will be better than my dreams fulfilled or unfulfilled.
When I stumble and start to remember what I do not have, realigning my heart to trust God again is my first step. As long as we live in the flesh we will be playing tug-of-war with Satan, constantly fighting to trust a God that we cannot see.
STEP FOUR: Properly Placing Hope
“Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord…” -1 Samuel 1:19
The next morning, Hannah sang and worshipped with her husband and family. Her actions show her replacing her hope in what is eternal and not in what she wanted or what God could give her.
I have misplaced my hope many times, and every time I was bitterly disappointed. Hoping in a relationship fostered a lack of trust in God’s plan because I was trusting in the goodness of a temporary thing. Any hope that is not placed in the Lord will only lead to heartbreak because Jesus returning to Earth is the only thing that will not disappoint!
Properly placing hope means that the only dream I will set my heart on having is Heaven and a right relationship with a King that I do not deserve a relationship with.
If you continue reading in 1 Samuel 1 you will see that God gave Hannah the desire of her heart and she had a son that she named Samuel. But Hannah continued to trust God so much that she turned around and gave her son back to God. She learned that her hope should only be in dwelling in the presence of God. That God’s plan is so much greater than the deepest desires of her heart. She realized that all she wanted in life was to please God and that meant trusting what her heart dearly wanted with Him.
The same goes for you, friend. If, after a time of wrestling and trusting, the Lord gives you the desires of your heart, do not withhold these good things from Him! Trust Him with them!
Wrestling with the plan of God is roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty kind of work. It is a cry of war against a world that only wants to pull us away from our Heavenly Father. In the midst of the hard and the tears let me remind you, friend: this work is worth it! You will make it to the other side and you will have a deeper trust in and love for our Heavenly Father.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuck in the middle of it all: the middle of transition, the United States, and life itself Abbie seeks to delight in all of it; to laugh at the mundane as well as the intricacies of life. She finds joy in meeting women where they are at and pushing them to give more of their hearts to Jesus each day. For more from her visit her at xoxoabbie.com or follow her on Instagram @abbie_norris.