Every single day is a constant surrendering to God. His will and plan are eternally more sufficient than our dreams. The Howard Family has been challenged through the loss of jobs and children to holdfast in their faith, and lean on the Lord’s promise of God.
The American Dream. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity.” The cultural disease of putting one’s faith in this dream is why so many are crushed and left hopeless when their plans come crashing down.
Another definition of the American Dream focuses on a life of personal happiness and comfort, which is exactly what Matt and Kristen Howard were pursuing in their lives: their plan. In the case of the Howards, their plan for workplace prosperity and family life did not accordingly, leaving them wondering how to pick up the pieces.
Matt and Kristen are both Alabama natives who met and dated at Jacksonville State University. They were both Education majors and had a passion for teaching. Within the first few years of their marriage they moved from Oxford to Birmingham and their plan was going incredible in their lives. They had secure jobs, a great marriage and they celebrated the birth of their son, Fulton.
When Fulton was three, the Howard’s wanted to try and grow their family. After nine weeks of carrying the baby, they experienced a miscarriage. Kristen said, “That was the first time in our lives that our plan did not go according to plan. Up until that point, every dream and everything we wanted to do fell into place.”
A few months after this tragedy, Matt unexpectedly lost his job as an assistant principal. However, a few weeks after Matt lost his job they found out that they were expecting another child yet again. “We kept thinking, ‘Thank you Lord. This is exactly what we wanted.’ We thought that if we could just have another baby, and Matt could get another job, everything would go back to normal.”
Soon after, Matt was placed into a director role in a new job and they were expecting a new baby. Everything seemed to be going according to plan and life was getting back on track. On September 4 of that year, their son Hagen was born at 18 weeks old as a stillborn.
Another tragedy had just walked into their lives and at that point they started to question God. The reasoning for all their pain and suffering seemed extremely blurred and there was no clear path for their lives. The said they would let God be all they needed but in reality, they kept putting their faith in jobs and family.
Currently, Matt is going through another job change. In the matter of a few years, the Howard’s have experienced the loss of two jobs and the loss of two children. How do you bounce back from that? If the American Dream is the goal, they were as far away from it as one could be.
In Romans 8:28 is says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those called according to His purpose.” and also in verse 18 it states, “For I (Paul) consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is revealed to us.”
These verses became very clear to Matt and Kristen in their time of suffering and when they thought God was abandoning them. They finally came to the realization of God’s sovereign will over their lives.
“Every main event or circumstance of suffering that we go through in our lives will not be able to separate us from God’s love. That’s why we can’t place our identity in them,” Matt said. If they were to put their hope in their family and jobs, they should be hopeless because they have lost those things. Their hope is finally found is Jesus Christ.
They want their story to be one of encouragement to others, especially young families who are being fed the lies of placing faith in the American Dream. Matt said, “We can take comfort in the fact that our high priest (Jesus) can relate with us in our suffering because He took on the suffering of the whole world.”
Every single day is a constant surrendering to God. His will and plan are eternally more sufficient than our dreams. No amount of hours worked and life savings quantified will be enough to gratify our existence.
Having full identity in Jesus Christ is what will allow us to understand that our suffering is not meaningless. When we suffer, outsiders will be watching to see what/who we turn to for hope. When we turn to Jesus, we are turning away from the American Dream and walking stride for stride in God’s plan.
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