One of my first childhood memories is playing house. From a young age, I was the girl putting honeysuckle in my hair, donning my prettiest thrift store dress, and “marrying” the little boy across the street. I would often convince friends to participate in the pretend worlds I created for us; worlds filled with hardships over which love would always prevail.

Time eventually caused me to outgrow these worlds and the dresses that went with them. But adolescence brought new (and terrifying) reality to the dream that still rested in my heart. Getting older was exhilarating—attraction intensified and real dating was within reach. Wrestling with feelings of rejection and insecurity were a low price to pay knowing I could meet my real-life Prince Charming at any moment.

When the Lord saved me at the age of seventeen, my understanding of marriage fundamentally changed. It was no longer about having a Pinterest-perfect wedding or fairytale meet-cute with Prince Charming. God’s Word brought my vague understanding of companionship into perfect focus: love is sacrificial, selfless, sanctifying. Marriage is a means by which we can walk in love, just as Christ loved and gave himself up for his Bride (Eph. 5:25).

The truth that marriage exists to display this profound mystery stirred my soul. As I took every internship, job, and opportunity available to me during university, I definitely did not have a “ring by spring” mentality. Yet as my adventures and challenges increased, so did my desire to share them with another.

I got that chance for a season.

The taste of what life could look like alongside someone I loved was sweet. He placed honeysuckles in my hair and spun me around in beautiful dresses like I always dreamed. But after years of dating, something was missing. An article published by For The Church last year titled “The One Life Dream That Makes a Girl Blush” by Andrea Burke communicates what I desperately yearned for: to create and care for a home.

In what seemed a cruel twist, the release of Burke’s piece coincided with the less-than-graceful conclusion of the relationship I thought would last a lifetime. As I read her words on the value of marriage and motherhood, it was as if smoke from the questions burning in my heart drew endless streams of tears from my eyes.

Why would God take the responsibility of displaying the gospel through marriage from someone who recognized its purpose? What was the point of all those wasted years? Was I not strong enough for that calling?

Even if your dreams are not the same as mine, I am sure you’ve pondered similar questions about God’s plans and your purpose or worth. Everyone has experienced some sort of loss or change to what they thought their life would look like (repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example). Not even the follower of Christ is exempt from these effects of sin.

As we sojourn in this broken world we face calamities (Acts 28:1-4) and we cry out in affliction (Job 30). We are perplexed, persecuted, and struck down (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We feel the weariness of life ache in our bodies and minds (Ecc. 12). Did Christ not experience this suffering?

Jesus was pushed face-down in a garden. Stripped, spat on, beaten, mocked. Given wine with gall to gag upon. Punished as a criminal, crying out in agony before death by crucifixion. In light of such events, it seemed foolish to declare this man the anticipated Messiah who would reign on the eternal throne of the Lord (2 Sam. 7:16, Matt. 27:18).

In such a world, it seems love does not prevail over hardship.

Yet those of us who know Christ know this is not true. Evil looked as though it conquered at the cross, but in reality, God enacted His sovereign plan. For it was at the cross Christ claimed victory over the domain of darkness and established his kingship. It is the slain Lamb’s selfless sacrifice that necessitates this song of worship from the heavenly beings in the throne room:

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

Revelation 5:9-10

Just as the suffering of Christ was real and immense, it was purposeful and glory-filled. The Son of God bowed in obedience to the will of the Father to fulfill God’s plan of redemption of humanity and restoration of our fallen world. As followers of this Christ, we can take heart, for Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).

So take heart, believer. There is nothing lost that cannot be redeemed; nothing broken that cannot be mended (Rev. 21). No matter what expectations are not met or what dreams die, we must call to mind the truth that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17, ESV).

Beloved, let us pick up our crosses together—proclaiming Christ even with thorns in our flesh.  For one day we will stand beside a sea of glass adorned in pure and bright fine linen. On that day, lesser dreams will be forgotten and our deepest desires will be fulfilled at the sight of our nail-pierced Groom. And finally, blessedly, we will eternally enjoy unhindered fellowship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.