Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
The future and I have a love/hate relationship with each other.
There are times in life when I view the future with excitement. Things I've planned and worked for are about to come to fruition and I watch with anticipation as they unfold before my eyes—like when I completed a degree program, got married, or had a child. In those times, I love the future, and even strive to speed up its arrival—as if that were possible!
But there are other times in life when the future is not exciting at all. Instead, the future is dark with shadows and it seems to hide its intentions. I can't see what lies ahead and it fills me with dread and fear. The unknown keeps me awake at night thinking through all the "What if?" scenarios. "What if ____ happens? Then what will I do?" In those times, I do what I can to keep the future at bay—as if I ever could!
I'm in the midst of one of those "what if?" seasons right now. It's hard not to worry and fret about the unknown. It's hard not to fear.
And it can be hard to trust God with the future.
But I want to. I want to be able to say with the psalmist, "Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:2-3) I want to look at the future with anticipation and hope—no matter what lies ahead—knowing that God is my refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).
Perhaps you are in a similar season where the future looks fearful. You don't know what the future has in store and you fear you will be unprepared. You fear you aren't strong enough to endure whatever trial or difficult circumstance awaits. You fear the future will hold something too hard, too difficult, too painful.
In our battles against fear, we need to remember three things:
God Holds the Future
Our God is sovereign over all things. Every molecule is under his control. He determines even those things that seem random in our eyes (Proverbs 16:33). He rules over the hearts of man (Proverbs 21:1). We may make our plans, but it is God who directs our paths (Proverbs 16:9). God's purposes and plans always come to pass. Nothing and no one can interfere with his plan. "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose" (Isaiah 46:9-10). And whatever does come to pass is God's plan. This means that while our future is unknown to us, it is not unknown to God. When a difficult circumstance enters my life, I often repeat to myself, "God is not surprised by this." It's a refrain that reminds me that while I may be taken off guard, he is not. And because he is not surprised, it means everything is happening just as he planned it.
From the WCF Chapter V:
"God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy."
God is Good
God is good. "The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works" (Psalm 145:7). He cannot do anything that is not good. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). He never changes; there is no "shadow due to change." He is the Father of lights. In spiritual terms, darkness implies evil; there is no darkness in God. He is always good. As fallen creatures, it is hard for us to fathom what that means. Even our good deeds are often tainted by wrong motives. But God always does what is right. He is the source of all that is good and everything he gives us is good.
Your Can Trust Your Future to God
Because the future is in God's hands and no one else's and because he is good and only does what is good, we can trust our future to him. We can rest in his sovereign care for us. The trials and circumstances we fear, while not good in and of themselves, are always used by God for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28-29). He is at work in us, making us into the image of his Son. The work involved in that process can be difficult and sometimes even painful work, but it is good work. And the end result will be glorious when his work is complete. We can look to the greatest suffering—our Savior's death on the cross—and see how it was used for good, to set us free from sin and bring us into right relationship with God.
Yes, the future can be frightening. But God rules and reigns over it. While we don't know what will happen, he does. And because he is a good God, we can trust our future to him. We can know that whatever happens is not outside his providence and control. No matter how challenging or difficult or hard the future might be, God will use it for our good. He will make us like Christ.
"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:12-14).
When I read in your word about the relationship between your children, I feel a hole in my life, a vacuum where such friendships belong. I want those kind of relationships described in the New Testament. I desire friends who will walk beside me in the ups and downs of life, rejoicing in my joys and grieving with me in my sorrows. I want fellow believers who will meet my needs when I can't meet them myself. I need friends who will exhort and urge me on in the faith, who will remind me of what's true—even if it hurts. I need friends who will disciple me and train me, helping me see how the gospel applies to every area of my life.
I want and need gospel friendships.
Father, you are the provider of all good things. I pray you will bring gospel friendships into my life. I pray you would open my eyes to see people who need me to be that friend for them. Help me to be the friend I desire and long to have. Help me to seek to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to walk beside them in their trials and suffering. Help me exhort when needed, forbear weakness, forgive offenses, and bear burdens.
Forgive me for the ways I have let friends down in the past. Forgive me for making friendships about me and my needs and failing to consider the needs of others. Forgive me for idolizing friendship and finding my meaning and hope in them instead of in you.
I thank you, Jesus, that you know what it is to be lonely and without friends. Your closest friends left you when you needed them most. When friendship is hard and when they are filled with conflict and when I feel all alone, help me to remember you—my forever friend who never fails me and never leaves me.
Father, above all, I pray I would treasure Jesus as my truest and perfect friend. Help me to abide in and rest in my union with him. Help me to find my hope and joy in him. As he fills me with his love, may I then seek to share that love with others. May my friendships grow and thrive out of the overflow of my friendship with my Savior.
Because of Jesus I pray, Amen.
The seasons of motherhood are long and short at the same time.
When my kids were little, I longed for them to grow into a place of greater independence. It seemed like the days of little sleep and constant feedings would never come to an end. But they did. And all too fast.
The same is true of friendships as a mom. When my oldest was first born, there were a couple of other moms in my church who had little ones as well. We started meeting once a week to take our babies out for a walk, to have coffee, or to browse around a store—just something to get out of the house. Then we added "mommy and me" classes to our routine. Before I knew it, several times a week I met with other moms for fellowship and play time with our young children. Our group grew over time and became a highlight of my day. We were all in the same stage with our children so we had a lot to talk about: breastfeeding, nap schedules, development, illness, mommy exhaustion and more. These moms encouraged and carried me through those early days of motherhood. They reminded me of my hope in the gospel and the real source of my strength.
But then things changed. Our kids started school. Those of us who homeschooled our kids were still able to meet on occasion. Some moms returned to work. Eventually, we only saw one another on a special "girls night" we managed to squeeze into our busy schedules.
These days I find motherhood to be a lonely season. I've talked to other moms and discovered it's the same for them as well. Many moms are busy during the day with jobs, homeschooling, or helping out at their children's school. In the afternoons and evenings, they shuttle their kids from one activity to another. Saturday is often filled with sports and other events.
I find myself missing those early days of motherhood when my mom friends and I would sit around someone's living room and watch our kids crawl around and play. I miss having regular contact with people who understand the season of motherhood I'm in—though these days, instead of talking about feeding and sleeping issues, my concerns are braces, puberty, academics, and technology. I miss the spontaneity those early days of motherhood afforded and opportunities for spiritual connection and encouragement.
It's hard not to want to rush through this current season of life and wish my kids were more independent. Just like those early years, these will past just as quickly. Before I know it, the nest will be empty. I'll have plenty of time then for lunch dates and coffees with friends. So yes, this season is lonely. But just like every season, it will run its course and come to an end. Until then, I will treasure these remaining years with my kids, find joy in serving them, and watch them grow and mature into young men.
But that feeling of loneliness isn't something to be ignored or minimized. I have those feelings because I was made to be in community; God didn't create me to live life on my own. I need my sisters in Christ to pour into me out of the overflow of the Spirit at work in them. I need their gospel encouragement when I am overwhelmed and discouraged in motherhood. I need them to walk alongside me in this journey, pointing me forward when I lose my way, urging me back on the path when I wander, and picking me up when I stumble. What this means is, even though my season of life is busy, I need to make an effort to stay connected. I need to be intentional to seek out spiritual fellowship. I need to seize opportunities when they come. Certainly such fellowship will not be a frequent as it once was. It will likely not be spontaneous. And it will take effort and sacrifice. But I need it. Perhaps even more than I realize.
If motherhood has taught me anything, it's that things change. Motherhood is a season in itself but is also made up of seasons. And as sluggish as those seasons are in the moment, they pass by in a flash. I want to value and cherish every moment before it's gone. But I can't do it alone. No matter how intense or busy a season is, I need to find ways to stay connected to others. I'm better for it— which means my children are better for it as well.
What about you? Have you found particular seasons of motherhood to be lonelier than others?