How often do you find yourself saying ‘if only…’ I know I do so, both consciously and subconsciously. And my ‘if only’ rate has probably increased during this covid-season. I expect that’s the case for us all, with all the things we wanted to do but haven’t been able to, or didn’t imagine we’d be doing but have.
I think my ‘if only’s’ increase with getting older too. When I was young it was easy to think ‘if only’ about all the things I didn’t have and hadn’t achieved. Now that I’m properly middle-aged my ‘if only’s’ have changed but I have a lot more life to look back on and ‘if only’ about! How easy it is, at every stage of life, to waste life thinking, ‘if only.’
Jennie tackles this head on and her book is an extended exploration of these questions:
So let’s get really practical. What is it that you need (or want)? What is the thing about which you think, “If only that were resolved, then I’d be happy” or “Life is fine, but I wish this part of it were different”?
Through the prism of scripture and the honest telling of her own ‘if only’s’ Jennie guides us through the way of regret and frustration towards contentment and peace. It’s very well done and very poignantly told and I really recommend it. The defining ‘if only’ of Jennie’s life was her desire – and expectation – of marriage and motherhood. These things have not happened for her. I’ve seen plenty of other people – men and women – in a similar position: waiting for Mr or Mrs Right to come along, but that never seeming to happen. Too often I’ve also seen some of these people decide to bail on their Christian convictions and go looking for romantic satisfaction in the wrong places. Jennie has chosen a different path, and found that God is sufficient for her most significant ‘if only’:
I may not have a husband, but I’m doing almost all the things I thought I needed a husband to be able to do. Even my longing for physical intimacy no longer stings quite so deeply as I have grown in spiritual intimacy with God. I released the dreams I was clinging to, only to find that he gave them back in rich and wonderful ways I could never have imagined.
We’ve been trained by our consumer society to constantly ‘if only’. Pastorally I find it a huge challenge to help people see that there is satisfaction and completeness available to us in Christ, whatever else we may lack or feel we lack. I feel the challenge of that personally, too. This book is a wise and compassionate answer to our confused hopes and longings.
If Only is released next week. Please buy it, read it, and pass it on.