When You Wonder Who You Would Have Been – Encouragement for Today – January 8, 2021

Brenda Bradford OttingerJanuary 8, 2021

When You Wonder Who You Would Have Been

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"So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days." John 11:5-6 (NLT)

Some seasons of our stories are so challenging, they invest themselves into who we become, leaving a clear before and after in their dust.

We hold these moments close, protective of their scars, as they nestle deep within our personalities, affecting the way we view ourselves and others.

Perhaps someone who was supposed to love you, didn't - leaving a hole your heart struggles to mend from a rejection it can't understand. Maybe a diagnosis or tragedy interrupted your plans, and you long for a do-over. Perhaps you're heartsick from a betrayal that also betrayed your dreams of happily ever after.

Whatever the hurts of our lives, our meandering minds aren't shy about chasing illusions, wondering who we would have been had certain chapters been absent from our stories. How easily we question whether our insecurities and struggles might be exchanged for confidence and calm had suffering not inked itself upon our yesterdays.

Over the years, as I've asked myself who I would have been without the disappointments of my life, God has lovingly shown me that every human answer I assume discounts His divine print on the pages of my story.

Time and again, Scripture reveals the Lord's delight in using broken people, shaping what would have been into something full of purpose and abundance.

While Jesus walked this earth, He and His companions weren't immune to disappointment and heartache either. John shares one such account when Jesus received a message from close friends, Martha and Mary, informing Jesus that their brother Lazarus was sick. Jesus was only a day's journey from Bethany where Lazarus lived, yet His reaction seemed confusing: "... although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days" (John 11:5-6).

Finally, four days after Lazarus's death, Jesus arrived in Bethany to the same heart-wrenching words from both Martha and Mary, "... Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21, 32, NLT).

Oh friend, how many times have we spoken our own versions of these words, too - wondering what might have been had the Lord not allowed our wounds to linger?

But, let us not miss the comfort in this passage, as Jesus shares His reason for waiting, "... it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this" (John 11:4b, NLT).

John continues painting the scene as Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead, resulting in many people believing in Him as the true Son of God. (John 11:34-44)

Sister, nothing is beyond His redeeming reach. Our sorrows aren't too great for God to find His glory in them.

The brokenness that causes us to wonder who we would have been finds its upside-down way of being a grace.

You see, right before Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave, He prayed aloud to God His Father, "You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me" (John 11:42, NLT). Jesus wasn't late to heal Lazarus; rather, His timing allowed for the awakening of more hearts than one that day.

We may not sense it amidst suffering, but the experiences written on the pages of our lives aren't random. Each chapter influences the next, shaping our passions and compassions, our understanding and wisdom in ways that also would not have been had we not known the sorrow.

When we look beyond who we woulda, coulda, shoulda been, surrendering our scars to the Savior, our imperfect stories testify to the power of God to resurrect seemingly dead things for His glory.

Dear Jesus, may every hurt my soul harbors become another story for Your glory. I humbly offer it all to You, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11, "‘For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" (NLT)

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For more encouragement, connect with Brenda on her website.

Consider some ways you might re-center in the new year. How might you release the disappointments of your life, opening your heart anew to God's narrative of your story?

We'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2021 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
P.O. Box 3189
Matthews, NC 28106