Your story is not turning out the way you planned. This can’t be happening. How can this be your story? Whether you are facing an illness, job loss, a severed relationship, or the shadow of suffering has come in another painful way, your heart shouts, “This is not the way it is supposed to be!”
How many times have I thought the same thing? It has felt like a black cloud hung over parts of my life with no redeeming value. Sure, I survived. Yes, I grew, and I am wiser and stronger, but where was God? Did He see? Did He really know? Most importantly, did He really care about the hardships and devastation I was facing?
Where is God in All of This?
I have weathered many painful seasons in my life. In the last several years, I have buried my father and my only sibling, and my beautiful and loving mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I myself have also faced medical diagnoses that have turned my life upside down and inside out. As a result, I could no longer show up in this world as a wife, mother, daughter, professional, friend, or aunt as I had always been able to do. It was devastating on many levels, and in my quiet moments, I cried out to God. Where are you? Don’t you see?
I spent years regaining the health that had been lost. Thankfully, I have regained my health, and there has been incredible healing, for which I am very grateful, but I have often reflected on the pain and loss of it all with a wondering.
A few years ago, I felt compelled to physically go back and visit a few places that represent the pain of years gone by, and as I sat there, again, I wondered, “Where were you, God?” God doesn’t always answer me in the most conventional ways. For this question, He used a movie.
My favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast. When it was announced that Disney was going to remake this wonderful classic, I was recovering from a difficult injury, and my big goal was to have enough strength to see it in the theater. To my absolute delight, I was able to rally, and I savored every moment as I watched the familiar and beautiful story unfold on the big screen.
Throughout the film, I fondly reminisced about the first time I saw it in theatres when it debuted twenty years earlier. And I was pleasantly surprised that the remake had a new twist which answered a few unresolved questions about Belle’s past. In this new version of the movie, Belle had the opportunity to be transported into her past where she had many of her own lingering and painful questions answered. As she peeked into her past, she saw herself as an infant and witnessed the most transformative moment of her life, her mother’s death.
Belle witnessed the agonizing scene unfold. She saw the dreaded doctor’s mask and realized that her mom was dying from the bubonic plague. She watched as her mother pleaded with her father to flee in order to save Belle’s life. He consented, but before her father left his wife behind to die alone, he turned and handed her a beautiful rose. As Belle observed the heart-wrenching decision her father made in order to protect her, she was ready to leave the scene and return to the present. However, before she left, she decided to take something from the room with her, so she could remember. She didn’t take the doctor’s mask representing the plague that had robbed her of her mother. No, she took the rose. She found the love in her story, and that is what she chose to take.
Later that night, as I reflected on Belle’s choice to take the rose… the love from her story, God placed a question in my heart, “Can you find the love in your story?”
Viewing Life through a New Lens
I was taken aback by the question, but it rang in my heart. I began to sit with my story through this new lens, and I did see the love He had poured out through friends, family, doctors, nurses, books, resources, treatments, and quiet moments with Him. Yes, there were incredible blessings and abundant love. He gave me eyes to see love where, previously, I had only seen pain. Yes, I was able to see love where I had only seen loss.
A few months after I began “looking” for the love in my story, I was invited to see Beauty and the Beast as a ballet. I was excited to see the story told through the artistic expression of dance, and I secretly hoped to have a new or deeper insight into this new concept and way of seeing. The ballet was extraordinary. It did not disappoint; however, there were no earth-shattering revelations. The cast gave their bows, and Belle gave a beautiful dark pink rose from her bouquet to the prince before the curtain closed.
As I made my way out of the building, with a large crowd of people all around, I noticed a beautiful dark pink rose on the ground. I watched as people walked right by it, and I was afraid someone would step on it. I quickly rushed through the crowd to rescue it. It was THE rose Belle gave to the prince at the end of the performance. It was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t believe it! As I picked it up, I glanced to see if it belonged to anyone nearby. And I felt a knowing in my heart. It was as if God as saying, “The rose is for you, and I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have never left you. Keep looking for the love in your story. When you see love in your story, you see Me. I was there. I am always there. Nothing can separate you from my love… Nothing!”
Since that day, roses have had a new meaning to me. They speak love to my heart beyond words.
Dear friend, your story may also be wrought with pain and loss, but may I ask you a question: “Can you find the love in your story?” Your story may not look the way you had hoped and planned, but I can guarantee you– He has never left you, and because of this fact, there is love in your story. There will always be love in your story because He is there, and He will lead you home.
Ask Him for eyes to see beyond the pain and disappointment, and may you see Him. He is the love in your story.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV).
Ronda Barney, LCSW, RD is a writer, speaker and mentor for women facing a life-changing illness. She provides online resources, appears on podcasts and speaks at conferences sharing her messages of hope and resiliency. Barney is the author of “Dear Susan: Letters of Comfort, Hope and Peace for Women Facing a Life-Changing Illness,” published in March 2022. Ronda and her husband have two children and live in Dallas, Texas. Connect with Ronda at www.rondabarney.com.