Finding God in Disappointments
Hey, my name is Denny and I am a lover of Jesus and hopefully a voice for the voiceless. And God has allowed me the great opportunity to do that for some sweet friends in Africa. So anyway, I just want to talk about how I got here.
I lived a lot of my life, thinking that if I did all the right things, God was kind of obligated to bless me. And I found out in a really hard way that that’s just simply not true. And that most growth in our lives comes from walking through the hard places, the dark places, and trusting Him. For me, that happened when after 24 years of marriage, my marriage came to an end. And that was not in the playbook. I did not plan for that to happen. I was really shaken by that and just struggling to kind of regain my trust in the Lord when two years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And it was at that point, that I had a dream one night where I was like a cartoon character saying, “But I did all the right things.” And the Lord spoke in this dream and said, “It is not about you, it is about Me and I can retain more glory by you walking through difficult times, than I could with you having a trouble-free life.” I mean, it was shocking to hear that, because I thought it was about me. And for Him, because I thought, glory would come to Him as people saw your life looking good and looking perfect. It never occurred to me that He could, people could see Him better when your life looks horrible, but you’re trusting Him in it. It just never occurred to me that that was even a possibility. Because, you know, most people just want their life to look pretty good all the time.
So that started a journey of just learning to just walk with Him in the good times and in the really hard things. And let Him teach me what that looked like to trust Him in that. As a result, He has given me amazing opportunities to love people and care for people who are walking through difficult things. Because I can relate because I’ve been there and I can relate that God is good in those times. And you learn to know Him in ways that you would never know Him when your life is going along smoothly.
So over the last 20 plus years, He has just taught me that interruptions in my life or the different things that happen that I’m not counting on, I don’t have to look at as negatives, that I can see Him in those or look for Him in those and see where He wants to refine me, like shave off some rough edges, do work in my life, so that I can be more like Jesus. Because I mean, Jesus’ life wasn’t perfect when He was on earth; He walked through some hard things. I mean, the very first thing out of, after His baptism was going into the wilderness. So what makes us think we’re not going to go into a wilderness? He did. And when you look through Scripture–from the Old Testament through the New, it’s God does. I mean, you look at Paul, and God struck him down with blindness. And that’s what brought him to see Jesus was that. He was not, he was a hater of Jesus up to that point. Joseph, you know, was sold by his brothers of all things. And yet, that was God’s plan to use him for the redemption of Israel. So I think we, when we look at life, thinking it has to look good and all nice and perfect, and all the edges trimmed off and everything, I think we’re deceiving ourselves because I don’t believe that’s what God ever has called us to. He is more exposed and glorified through our lives in the midst of pain, in the midst of trouble, than He is when everything looks all rosy, and good.
And so He’s kind of, over the years, just kind of stripped away all the self-sufficiency. He has me in a role now that there’s, there’s nothing I can do to make, you know, I raise money. And that’s up to God’s dealing in people’s hearts. It’s a, it isn’t up to whether I ask correctly or, and honestly, I never actually ask, I just build relationships, and let God do the rest for them. And I think that’s the adventure we get to be on with Him is to take ourselves out of the equation and look to Him and let Him show us what He’d have us do, in each situation and it can look different in each relationship or whatever.
And then watch Him move.
I’ve realized, I mean, so my first response was, it was all about me, I did all the right things. Now, my response is not that, it’s what are You doing? And how can I enter into that with You and be a part of that with You? And what does that look like? Yeah, because I know, it’s not about me now. I mean, I probably, I probably default to that sometime. But that when I’m really pressing in, I know that it’s not about me. It’s about Him. But I think that’s why I approached my kids differently. Rather than telling them what to do, because it was the right thing to do. I said, Well, let’s talk about that. What does that look like? And what could that look like? And so, which helped them make decisions, not always the right decisions, but eventually the right decisions. And to see that because they weren’t getting beat over the head with the gospel, they were being loved. And I think that that was the transition, you know, is that it wasn’t about what you do. It’s about who you are, and how you trust Him. And there’s, that’s a whole different thing there. But I never saw it before. I just didn’t. I just thought it was about what you do. Do the right things.
I realized that God can use the pain that I’d walked through to talk to other people about life is not necessarily going to look like you think it’s gonna work. And that’s okay. But you can lean into Him and trust Him and grow in that, and you will be better for it. And He will use you in somebody else’s life along the way. When I went, started going to a church that we know each other from, they didn’t know what to do with me because I was divorced. And so they just said, well, you just need to be hanging out with the single women. I was 50. And they were like, in their 20s and early 30s. And I was like, Okay, I guess I’ll hang out with the young women. And, but which I thought was kind of punishment, in a way. But it really wasn’t, it was God’s gift to me, because He has allowed me to be in the lives of women, to be able to share some of these things that I’ve learned along the way. I wish somebody had shared with me, when I was young before I was married, you know all the stuff. And so now I’ve seen the fruit of that in different lives. So that’s, that was a gift. They didn’t know they were giving me a gift when they told me to hang out with single women. But they were. And it really did. That, that has changed the trajectory of my life.
Because that’s the real life we’re living. It’s not in this tied up in a pretty bow life. I know there are people that seem to have those lives, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what their life really is. It’s just what they let you see. And I’d much rather be who I am in the good, the bad and the ugly. Then put off this front that I’ve got it all together. Because it’s in the authenticity that we have real relationships with people. You can’t have those relationships when you’re putting on a show like you’ve got it together. And the reality is none of us do. None of us know it all together. If we put up this front and we kind of act like we’ve got it all together, we’re just, we’re doing that because we think nobody’s gonna love us if they see who we really are. And the reality is, when they see who we really are, they love us more because they know they’re broken. And it’s the best thing ever, just to be who you are.
When I went to Africa for the first time, I went with the young, the girls that I did ministry with, and I mean I told them, “I can’t do that, y’all are young, I am old.” I gave all the excuses. I was taking care of my mom at the time and I was like, I gotta have somebody to take care of my mom. I can’t afford to go and I can’t ask for money. You guys can do that because you’re young. And they said, “We’re just gonna ask God to remove every one of those barriers.” And He totally did. Like, He provided a caregiver to come stay with my mom. He provided the money like that (snaps). It just came in so fast. And then was the third. No, I am still old, I was still the same. He didn’t change that. But I went and it changed my life.
I was working at a university, and we were raising a lot of money for things like fountains, and they needed $65,000 to house 12, AIDS orphans. And the disparity between a million dollars for a fountain and $65,000 to help kiddos that don’t have parents anymore was like, I just couldn’t believe it. And I just said, Okay, Lord, if You will, this is on the flight home. I said, if You will open doors for me to raise funds. I’ve never raised a dime, right, except for the money to go on the trip. Like I worked for a vice president of development. I, I got him in the door to raise money, I didn’t do that. And I said, if You’ll open doors for me to tell Your story and raise funds for these kids or other people who need it, to be a voice for the voiceless, I will leave this job where I have a secure salary. I’d walked through my divorce and breast cancer with this group of people. And they had been a family for me, and it was like, I will, but I’ll leave. And I’ll do this if this is what You want. And He totally did. He just opened the doors for me to do this. And it’s just, it’s really been beautiful to see. And it isn’t, it isn’t that I have to twist anybody’s arm to do it. I just tell their stories and just love the people well. I raise funds for a ministry that empowers the poor in Uganda, refugees and Ugandans, with the gospel with economic empowerment every day, and I love what I get to do.