It was my last semester of college. I began the term by getting rejected by a woman I’d wanted to ask out the prior year. There were circumstances that prevent me from asking her out sooner, so instead of getting rejected and simply moving on, my feelings had grown in a stilted, one-sided manner for six months. In short, I was infatuated.
When the rejection did come, it struck deeper than it should have, and in the melodramatic way emotions can work, it put my dream of having a family someday in doubt.
At the same time, I was uncertain about what I would do after college. I was aging into a new level of responsibility and freedom, but instead of excitement, I felt fear.
Meanwhile, my health was deteriorating; I had insomnia, digestive trouble, and depression. I lost ten pounds in a couple weeks. I took two weeks away from work and academics. My older sister expressed concern that I was close to a mental breakdown. In my darkest moments, I felt the temptation of suicide.
It was in the midst of this maelstrom that some author, I can’t remember who or in what book, encouraged his readers to read the last twenty-six chapters of Isaiah. I took up this challenge. God is close to the brokenhearted, and over the next several days, he spoke to me through passage after passage.
In the midst of a host of verses that spoke out to me, I sensed God saying:
- Don’t be afraid (Isaiah: 41:10).
- I have not forgotten you (49:14-16).
- I am with you (43:2-3).
- I will carry you (46:4).
- I lead you here (I don’t recall which verse).
- My thoughts are not like yours, and my ways are better (55:8-9)
- I am shaping you (45:9)
- I am refining you (48:10-11).
- Forget the past; I am doing something new (Isaiah 43:18-19).
- I have a plan (46:9-13).
Another passage stood out,
Though you [Israel] were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, “This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.”
Then you will say in your heart, “Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?” Isaiah 49:19-21
In the midst of this promise made to Israel thousands of years before, I felt a new promise being made to me: a promise that a day would come when my heartache would be a distant memory, forgotten in the bustle of life that would spring forth.
To be honest, I didn’t cling to or claim this idea. I noted it, but moved on with life. I’m not one to expend my attention or emotion getting excited about a future event. When a promising movie or book comes out, I wait to get excited until the day before its release. So I underlined the verses, and continued on living.
All of this happened eight years ago. Then the day before my fourth child was born, it was as if God whispered in my heart, a reminder of this painful time eight years before, as if he said, “The promise is fulfilled.”
This thought lingered in my mind as I waited in the hospital while my wife labored. After the doctor delivered the baby, I held her for the first time knowing that she too was part of that promise, a promise I had nearly forgotten, a promise that is now fulfilled.
I’ve been married to my wife for five years now, and with the birth of our fourth child, our home is almost bursting at the seams with young life. Whether it’s the tiny clothes lying around or the children’s penchant for turning the floor into a veritable minefield, the beautiful, messy evidence of life is everywhere and engulfing. As my children, ages four, two, one, and newborn run (or squirm) and holler and wrestle, I find myself acknowledging, “Yes, this place is too small for us.”