Finding Hope When You’re Standing Outside the Box


I sat in the school main office, the smile on my face betraying the tightness in my chest. With hope, I waited while my young son completed an entrance exam at a new school; but that hope quickly turned to familiar despair the moment he returned with the teacher.

This teacher did her best to offer some positive words, but it was quite clear—my son hadn’t performed very well. And sure enough, a few days later I received the official call stating how sorry they were, but my son simply wasn’t a good fit.

Good fit

Two words that seemed innocent enough, but they carried deep emotion for my worn out mama heart. Ever since autism came into our lives, we’ve heard those words countless times. And each time, they hurt.

Over time, it’s easy to feel as though you’re standing outside the proverbial “box.” Everyone else fits neatly into a category or some pre-determined plan. And yet, there you are, waiting on the outside of all those boxes and wondering where do I fit?

Perhaps you too can relate to the pain of failing to be a “good fit.”

Your dream job turned out to be more of a nightmare, and now you feel stuck in a job or career you never envisioned.

A friendship that once felt so solid disintegrated before your very eyes, leaving a black hole of loneliness in its place.  

The child you so desperately love and prayed for now faces an unclear and uncertain future.

Or maybe you’re standing inside a box far different that you ever hoped or imagined. Single, when you thought by now you’d be married. Divorced, when you thought your love story would stand the test of time. Widowed, when death swept in like a thief and stole the person you thought would be holding your hand for years to come.

Many years ago, a man named Job experienced the intense pain of standing “outside the box.” In an instant, he lost his family, his livelihood, and finally his very health—all of which left him wallowing in the uncomfortable space outside all the other boxes, wondering where in the world he fit and where God was in his suffering.

After crying out in desperation and going round and round with his “friends,” God finally spoke and answered Job with thundering wisdom. Over the course of five beautiful chapters of scripture, God reminded Job of His infinite existence:

“‘Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?’”

Job 38:2-5 (HCSB)

After coming head to head with his Creator God, Job found the perspective shift he needed. And right there in the midst of the chaos and pain, Job gained the clarity he’d been lacking. God eventually restored all that Job lost and more, but before that restoration occurred, Job’s soul found the true and lasting peace he needed most:

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’”

Job 42:1-2 (ESV, emphasis added)

Though written thousands of years ago, I believe the message of these words holds just as true for you and me today—for these words remind us of a key truth the enemy wants us to forget:

There is no box.

Our God cannot and will not be contained by any human system on this earth. He created all things, owns all things, and holds all resources at His disposal.

You and I may see no plan or no way through the problem pressing in right now—and indeed, our enemy wants nothing more than for us to believe we are forever stuck in the discomfort and pain of our current circumstances.

But in our fear and frailty, we must remember: God always, always has a plan. And a good one at that.

Dear one, if you find yourself standing outside the box, wondering what in the world to do and if God even sees you, may I gently encourage you to trade your fear for rest

As Job learned, may we too learn and know in the core of our being that nothing is too hard for our God. 

No option is closed to Him. No plan of His can be stopped or derailed by the confusion and suffering our eyes see. And where we see only options A and B, God holds options C through Z and a thousand more at His tender disposal.

Whatever box we find ourselves standing inside or outside of today, may we dig in with faith and expectant joy, knowing that He is working all things together in the good and glorious way that only He can.

With Grace,

Be Still

by Meredith H. Carr

Download my latest book, Be Still, about how to practice the art of stillness in the midst of turmoil.

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©2020 Meredith H Carr

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