Settling Is Not Always Settling
I’ve been thinking lately how life is fluid and change is often sudden. Isn’t it interesting how our plans can change in an instant? We’ve all been there, right?
One moment you’re working, dreaming, planning, and striving for something, and then in the blink of an eye, everything has changed. Perhaps you’ve had an experience like that before. I’m convinced that what happens next, after the change, matters. And it matters a lot.
Some may say when something doesn’t work out, we do the natural thing. We choose the next best option. Instead of getting what we wanted, we choose to settle. But I’m convinced that settling doesn’t always mean something negative. At times, settling is not always settling.
There may be times in our lives where we’re forced to make a choice. It might be deciding between a couple or multiple factors. Or, it might simply be saying “no” to something in anticipation of what is coming next.
Sometimes the next thing is out there, past our view at this point in time. It’s hovering on the horizon, awaiting the right moment to arrive.
Whatever it might be, there are times when it’s okay to not have all the answers we need, but to be okay with the prospect. Sometimes we choose the thing we never thought was a thing only to realize that it was the right decision.
And then other times, our plans comes crashing down in a way we never imagined. And what happens next is good. It might not be what we planned, but perhaps it’s exactly what we needed.
I remember talking to a friend once about how you deal with the inevitable disappointment that life brings.
-It’s the promotion that didn’t work out.
-Or the money you thought you’d make and it just didn’t happen.
-It’s the relationship that went away.
-Or that paper–you know, the one you worked tirelessly on–didn’t get the grade you wanted.
Anyway, we talked frustrations and pain and the cycle of beating yourself up. Turns out, most of us do this when life isn’t so perfect and neat and clear for us to follow.
My friend said there’s something kind of redemptive about failure and disappointment though.
In those moments, he said, is when you get real and raw. Most of the time we’re so careful with our speech and thoughts because of how we’re perceived. We do this with God at times, too, worrying that God will somehow be disappointed in us.
According to my friend, when we get to this state of brokenness and frustration, life takes on another meaning. What matters seems to come to the surface.
I overheard a surfer say something similar in the water the other day. He was talking to his friend who had just wiped out on a massive wave. “When you’re in a wave like that,” he said, “nothing else in your life matters except getting out. All your worries go away when you wipe out like that…”
I thought that was brilliant. In the chaos and the turbulence, we gain incredible clarity. The same principle applies when life goes awry.
All the stuff that normally stresses us out, well, in those moments, it just doesn’t matter that much.
Turns out, the trauma of failure and life not working out is a really good spiritual discipline. It allows us to step back and say, “God, what is next?”
When we deal with frustrations and fall outs and the general crummy feelings associated with things not working out, we leave changed. And sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is to fail so we can grow.
Growth happens through success, of course, but it also happens when doors are slammed shut and we have nothing left. Growth happens there too.
Look for God in the success and goodness and in the beauty of things working out. But also, and really do this, look for Him in the rubble and chaos.
Find Him when everything around you breaks down.
Perhaps you’ll hear him there too. Perhaps His voice will rattle in your bones in the calm as well as the storm.
Because there will be moments where what you want, what you have your heart set on, won’t work out. It happens to all of us, and it will keep happening.
The Irish have this incredibly melancholy (but true) saying–“Live long enough and the world will break your heart.”
Live long enough, and disappointment and failure will come your way. Prepare for disappointment because it is ingrained in the fabric of the world. But what we do with the failure, that, my friends, matters immensely.
God is in the business of redemptive work.
He’s in the business of changing our stories.
He’s with us when all is right in the world.
And He’s with us when everything in the world goes wrong.
A closed door means another will open. A missed opportunity means another one is around the corner. A “No” is just in preparation for the “Yes” that is coming down the road.
So, remember that settling is not always settling. Saying no sometimes means you’re preparing for what is coming next. Maybe you’re not settling, but just waiting. Because somewhere down the road things will make sense.