He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Psalm 23:2-3
Anyone else need a long winter’s nap? I don’t mean the kind you need after losing an hour. I mean a few days of nothing but napping?
I can’t be the only one. We are a people who are busy, busy, busy. We move from place to place. Here and there. The next big thing without pause, and as a result we are exhausted-physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.
We need some rest.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
In today’s verses, we read of the importance of rest. How it is provided by God. We also often take these verses quite literally. We often think they give us permission to just take a nap. And they do, rest for the soul requires physical rest. Even Jesus napped. But it requires more than just laying in our beds. It requires we rest in Him.
See, Jesus was clear in Matthew 11:28 about those burdens. He instructed us to lay them down. We, however, often carry them around like a badge of honor. Until we become weary with the load. The burdens were never intended for us to carry, so what do we do?
Our sins. The expectations of this world. The acts of others. Our search for purpose. We surrender that to Him, and we let Him carry it. We get rest from carrying our load. A load too heavy for us to manage alone.
We do this, and then we remain still. Still in the presence of God. Waiting for His timing, and not rushing to make things happen in our time. We surrender, and He gives us peace. And as the Psalmist says, He will lead us to the “green meadows and peaceful streams” intended to restore us.
He will give strength for the journey if we just let Him lead, and rest a while.
Yes. I need a nap today. Hours of them to be exact. I am burdened from toiling. Traveling. And the busy, busy, busy. But today as I wearily embark on another day I will thank Him for it. Surrender whatever occurs in it to Him, and know He will give me the strength to get me through to those “green meadows” He has waiting for me.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:10
According to Psychology Today, the number one reason relationships fail? Trust. Well, lack of trust. I could go into all the reasons for this, but I have a story instead.
When I first learned to swim, it was one summer when I was about 7 or 8. We used to spend summers in Colonial Beach, which is a bit past Fredericksburg, Virginia; on the Northern Neck Peninsula. I remember spending a week on the boardwalk, and also in the deep end of the pool, learning to doggy paddle and swim underwater.
This later transitioned to swimming with reckless abandon in the Potomac with my brother, with countless jellyfish. Until we upgraded to the ocean.
No worries about what dangers lurked underneath. No fear. Trusting our legs would carry us back to the surface, and the waves would not take us under.
But now? Oh, I still enjoy the pool. Because I can see what is under my feet. I enjoy the ocean. The sound. The sun. The feel of the breeze as it blows over the water. But I will NOT be getting in those waters. Because I know what lurks there. My youngest has watched enough Shark Week to keep me from EVER jumping in those waves again. I have got trust issues when it comes to the ocean. Irrational fears of sharks, and other things that may get me and take me out.
I prefer to stay on the sand now. Where it is nice and safe. Because out there in the deep end, where I can’t see what lies ahead? That is scary. Unpredictable. I don’t trust that if I stick my toe in those deep, scary waters that something wont get me, or I won’t sink.
Trust in the unknown is scary now. Why was it so much easier as a kid?
The world had not tainted me. Yet. No one had failed me. Yet. No one had disappointed me or left me. Yet. Broken my trust. Fed me a big fat lie. Taught me that life was dark and scary. That no one was throwing me a life preserver, or could even be trusted. Yet.
I was hopeful. Full of faith. Until I wasn’t. Until I put my hope and faith in people.
It is the people and the world, and the weight of those that have drowned me. That have taken away the reckless abandon I had as a kid. That keep me worried about the darkness that still lurks, or the things that may reach out, bite me, or consume me.
But it is God who tells me He has got me. Nothing is going to overtake me. There is no darkness out in those waters that I should fear. Nothing too murky for Him to see, and even if I can’t see what is underneath my feet-He does.
Yet, we continue to put our hope in people. Things. Institutions. Wealth. These things that tell us who to be. That are all to unpredictable. That won’t catch us if we drown. That convince us we are not good enough, and if we fall, will often leave to pick ourselves back up. Until we are too fearful to jump into the deep end just to see if we can actually swim out there in the unknown.
We are fearful of all the things we can’t even see.
Until we remember who we can truly trust, and where our protection comes from. Who will not leave us drowning. Whose presence will always be with us in the deep end.
I don’t have to fear what lurks ahead. He knows. He knows where my feet will wander, and He won’t let me fall. He knows the waves may get rough. There may be darkness, but His presence is before me and beside me, helping me to stay above the waves, and to see light through it all.
To keep my faith strong when it starts to waver. To trust in Him when people and the world disappoint.
Trust. Even in the unknown. Unpredictable. Scary. Confident that His plans for me are good. In the waves. On the shore, and in the deep end, He won’t let me be taken under. I can keep jumping in as long as I put my trust in Him.
One word that requires surrender in any kind of relationship. In our personal relationships, and especially in our relationship with God.
Trust. Also the number one reason relationships fail, according to Psychology Today. Or lack of trust, actually. I could go into all the reasons this is, but I have an analogy, or a story instead: Learning to swim.
When I first learned to swim it was one summer when I was maybe 7 or 8. We used to spend summers in Colonial Beach, which is a bit past Fredricksburg, VA; on the Northern Neck Pennisula. Anyway, I remember spending a week on the boardwalk, and also in the deep end of the pool, learning to doggy paddle and swim underwater.
This later transitioned to swimming with reckless abandon in the water with my brother…the river really-with countless jellyfish. And once we upgraded, in the ocean.
No worries about what dangers lurked underneath. No fear. Trusting our legs would carry us back to the surface, and the waves would not take us under.
But now? Oh…I still enjoy the pool. Because I can see what’s under my feet. And, I enjoy the ocean. The sound. The sun. The feel of the breeze as it blows over it. But, I ain’t getting in it. Because I know what lurks in those waters. My youngest has watched enough shark week to keep me from EVER jumping in those waves again! I got trust issues when it comes to the ocean. Irrational fears of sharks, and other things under my feet that may get me, and take me out.
Nah, I will stay put in the sand, where it is nice and safe. Because, out there in the deep end, where I can’t see what lies ahead. That is scary. Unpredictable. I don’t trust that if I stick my toe in those deep, scary waters something won’t bite me-and then I will sink.
Trust in the unknown is scary, now. But why did it seem so easy then?
Jumping into the deep end, and expecting to just know how to doggy paddle. Swimming with jelly fish, getting stung, slapping some sand on the sting, and jumping back in for more. Jumping in with the waves and expecting to come back up without shark bites, seemed easy as a kid. We were fearless. Brave.
The world had not tainted me. Yet.
No one had failed me. Yet.
No one had disappointed me. Yet.
Broken my trust. Yet.
Fed me a big fat lie. Yet.
Taught me that life was dark, and scary. That no one was throwing me a life preserver, and that no one could be trusted. Yet.
I was hopeful. Full of faith. Until I wasn’t. Until I put my hope and faith in people.
Isaiah 43:2 gives us a different hope: When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
It is the people, and the world. The weight of it all that have drowned me. That have taken away the reckless abandon I had as a kid. That keep me worried about the darkness that lurks, or the things that may reach out, and bite me or consume me.
It is God who tells me He has got me. Nothing is going to overtake me. There is no darkness out in those waters that I should fear. Nothing too murky for Him to see, and even if I can’t see what is underneath my feet-He does.
Yet, we continue to put our hope in people. Things. Institutions. Wealth. These things that tell us who to be. That are all too unpredictable. That don’t catch us if we drown. Those that convince us we are not good enough, and that we will fall. Until we are too fearful to jump into the deep end. Just to see if we can actually swim out there in the unknown.
We are fearful of all the things we can’t even see.
Trust. What exactly is it?
Merriam-Webster defines it as a “firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something; or a person or thing in which confidence is placed.”
In Hebrew the word trust translates to “batach,” which also means “reliability or confidence.”
In terms of God, it means to rely on His protection even when we can’t see good in our situation. To have confidence that the outcome will be pleasant, and purposeful.
It’s like the words of this song…it’s been out for while, and every time I hear it, I think of my need to surrender my worries and fears over to Him again and again…
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior. -Hillsong
Wherever He would call me. Even if it means jumping in the deep end. With reckless abandon, as if I were a kid again. Because His presence is with me now, as surely as it was with me then.
I don’t have to fear what lurks ahead. He knows. He knows where my feet will wander, and He won’t let me fall. He knows the waves may get rough. There may be darkness. But His presence is before me, beside me, helping me to stay above the waves, and to see light through it all.
To keep my faith strong when it starts to waver. To trust in Him when people in this world just disappoint.
Trust even in the unknown. Unpredictable. Scary. Confidence that His plan is oh so good. That He is for me!
In the waves and on the shore. In the deep, He won’t let me be taken under. I can keep jumping in as long as I put my trust and hope in Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT
Ever skipped rocks across a body of water? Picked up one with just the right shape and texture? Tossed it in such a way that it skips over the surface of the water before it finally chooses the place it will finally sink? I’ve never tried it. But I have thrown a few. Outside our yard as kids, at the tires of cars that would ride by. Devious? Yes, maybe. But it always helped with the boredom, and it seemed fun until the day my brother and I got caught.
Chucking rocks at cars as they drive by doesn’t have carefree consequences as skipping them across a lake. Both are meant to be playful, but one has severe consequences if one of those rocks gets caught up in a tire, or worse-hits a target it was never intended to.
But both can be heavy. Bulky. Jagged. They can hurt if projected in the wrong direction. Cause great pain. Too much to carry around if lugging and holding onto too many.
Kind of like our burdens.
Like worry. It gets heavy.
Past hurts. They get heavy.
Even people. They get heavy.
And some of them, some of the “rocks” I was lugging around had become heavy.
I’ve blamed myself And if I’m honest, maybe I’ve blamed You too But You would not forsake me ‘Cause only good things come from You. Tasha Layton, “Into the Sea”
I blamed myself for the burdens that I had held onto for far too long. That I didn’t have enough faith. Wanted too much control. Went the wrong way and said “yes,” when maybe God said, “No.” And I blamed Him, too. Because He could take some of the hurts and burdens away in a hot minute, but He had not done as I had been asking.
Because I was still lugging too much stuff around
Think about the last time you spent some time on the shore, watching the waves crash. Anything in the path of the waves crashing either gets thrown back to shore, or thrown into the sea. As I walked along one morning, thinking of the burdens I had asked God to take. Those I wasn’t yet ready for Him to take. And those I didn’t yet realize I needed to give Him, I finally decided some things needed to be plunked into the sea. Only anything that came crashing back, because God had chosen it to, could stay.
Rejection. Approval. Shame. People. Control. Past hurts. The burdens of others. God, I give them to you. Help them not to pick them back up when you have left them buried in the sea. Help me to only pick up those things you have intended for good. Those things, meant for your purpose, you have decided was meant for me to carry.
I picked up a shell or rock, and one by one let each of the heavy, guilt-laden burdens sink into the sea. Surrendered them to Him. Knowing I would be OK. Knowing that once He grabs hold of these burdens, even if He sends some crashing back to me for some reason beyond my understanding; everything will be OK
What do you need to surrender to Him? What burdens or weights are you carrying around that you need to sink into the bottom of the sea? Allow Him to handle? To take away? Maybe it’s the weight of your sins-past or present. He doesn’t want you to carry that baggage. Maybe it’s the pain you still carry like a badge of honor. Or the burden of other’s expectations. Those are things He wants you to eliminate as well. Maybe you are the one carrying the burdens of everyone else. Toss it. Hand it over to Him. Give Him control of your burden, and rest in His promise that everything will be OK.
“You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Matthew 21:22
Prayer. It is our connection to God. The way we seek answers, and intercede for those we desire to be healed, saved, or to find peace. Prayer is a daily act of thanksgiving, surrender, and sometimes even our heaviest burden. Especially when we pray endlessly for the same thing, and don’t see any results.
How are we burdened by prayer? Our requests become heavy when we pray, but we pray out of duty, because it’s an item on a checklist. Or when we pray, we don’t let God truly handle it-we start taking the wheel, and controlling the outcome. So we show a lack of trust in Him. A lack of faith.
Our hope and our faith becomes wrapped up in our ability, and what we see happening around us. We start to manipulate things the way we want them to be, and doubt creeps in when it doesn’t happen the way we want it; or the way we asked for it to. We start to believe we have the strength to move all the mountains before us.
This is how our burdens become too heavy. Those mountains become too steep. Because we were never meant to carry them. And, we were not meant to move them.
Prayer requires a whole ton of faith.
When the deepest sorrow weighs on your heart When you’ve prayed for answers but the answers never come For every tear that you cry There’s a promise He will make your burdens light. Jamie Kimmett, “Burdens”
Prayer requires we relinquish our control, and let God do what He promised.
But these burdens, the ones we have carried for so long. We hold onto them. We tend to them. We hope to fix. We run to save. We pray, but we still keep picking it back up again. Until they are too heavy.
We don’t have to.
We can pick up our load. Our baggage. We can walk it to him. Lay it down at His feet, and say: “God, take it. You deal with it. I can’t anymore. It is not mine to carry. I give it to you. Deal with it, as you will. As YOU will, not me. I didn’t ask for this burden. So You fix this, God.”
And then BELIEVE that He will. And this is what it means to have faith as you let go.To truly lay the burden down at His feet. You can’t see what may happen. You can’t see the end. You have no clue what’s gonna happen after you lay it down, you just know He promised. You believe in those promises.
And then…watch what happens.
You are gonna change. Like a visible change.
Because you ever seen someone carrying a burden? They have a look. They look weary. They have lost a light, a bounce, a luster. They are physically, mentally, and more often than not emotionally exhausted.
Matthew 10:28 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
So, when you take that heavy burden, and you lay it down…you look different. It’s not just a physical rest. It’s a soul rest. Because here’s what’s happening before hand. You are not only carrying the weight of everything, or that person, because let’s be honest it’s usually a person, or a situation that involves a person…and what’s happening is we are all like-“but I can save them, but they are going through hard times, they need me…” well yes, but they need God…and God will fix. You lay it down. Tell Him to deal with it, and then they (God and that person) can hash that out.
Yes. That seems harsh, because we also read we are supposed to carry each other’s burdens. But here is the thing-we are not supposed to play God. God does the heavy lifting. The mountain moving. We plant seeds. We encourage. We build up. We leave the saving. The moving of the spirit. The transforming to Him.
Carry it. Lay it down. God, you deal with it. As you will.
Look, I get it. I realize how hard it is to drop that burden, and leave it there for God to handle. Some time ago I had a burden. I had it for years. I probably put it on myself a bit, but I do believe God also gave this burden to me. But it became too heavy.
In the final moment when I realized I had to surrender, I wrestled with God, and I found this passage in 1 Peter 2:
He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:22-25, NLT
We can’t carry everyone. We can’t pick them up, and carry all their weight. We can’t do all the heavy lifting. Those burdens are heavy.
But God can.
And I knew then, when I laid it down. And I know now. Even if. Even if I never see it. Never see salvation in those lives I pray for. It is well with me. Because I did what God asked me to do. I prayed. I surrendered. I asked for forgiveness. I showed love. Compassion. Mercy. Even if. It is well. I showed Jesus to those who didn’t know Him so that one day they may turn to the guardian of their souls, too. I am praying for that, laying them down, and letting God take over.
That is faith.
I had a choice to surrender. They have a choice to choose.
Even if. I will be ok.
And that is where we have to be. Ok to lay it down. And ok with even if. Ok with being the surrendered one and saying “God, you got this, right? You deal with it. I’m gonna pray it out, over here, while you work it out over there. You carry the burden. I’ll pray and rest.”
God’s got you covered. And guess what…he has them covered, too. That burden. As long as they want it.
Lay it down. Pray it out. Let it go. It’s out of YOUR hands. So today, simply put that burden in His.
There is something about being at the beach that seems to bring about the idea that life really does make sense. Maybe it’s the salty air. The sounds. Or the fact that our ever moving minds and bodies are truly in “vacation” mode. But here…I hear His Spirit once again and it revives me.
As I took one of my long morning walks along the shoreline, I took note of the pattern and rythym of the waves and thought of their movement. How do they know where to stop? The waves that is. How do they know how to get to shore, and know they can only go but so far?
I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. Jeremiah 5:22
They can only go but so far. God created boundaries so the earth would not be covered by the sea. As we walk along beaches we trust in the one who demands the wind and waves obey. Knowing they cannot cross His boundaries.
But what about those boundaries he sets for us? What happens when he tells us “You can only go this far?”
Do we listen? Or do we venture out on our own into territory He hasn’t set out for us?
Just like He commands the seas to stop at a certain point. Tells them you can go here, but not there-he sets the boundaries of right living for us as well. “You can go here, but only this far. Going any further without my guidance, against my better judgment will consume you.”
He provides us direction and boundaries because His way is always far better than ours. The direction we want to take isn’t always the one God intended. So in an effort to ensure we are not tossed by the waves, or consumed by the waters of the sea, He tells us, sends us as far as He is willing to let us go.
His boundaries are to protect not to harm. His boundaries are set to keep us safe, not to stifle us. His boundaries are set because His ways are higher than our ways.
Are we going to trust His judgment? Or are we going to stray too far away? Are we going to keep pushing boundaries until we are taken under?
What boundary are you pushing that is keeping you from going where God intends for you to go? Maybe it’s time to let Him direct you, and finally listen when He says, “You can go here, but there? I am not sending you there.”
I write to get things off my chest. I didn’t for a time. And those things, they took root in my soul and grew bitter fruit. Things I thought forgiven, lay buried underneath the surface. Waiting for a season of isolation to burst forth all that needed to come out from hiding. All that needed to be reckoned with. All that needed to finally be laid down at His feet. Surrended to the one who should really be carrying it.
Come to me. All you who carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Back in December I read a book that at the time altered my response to all the pain I was going through and feeling. When I read, I do so for pleasure, but I also try to take one sliver of something I read and apply it to my life. Otherwise, what’s the point of adding books to a “read” list. Head knowledge is no good without application. In it,the author, described her letting go of her nine year old self, and the burden of carrying that nine year old version around for most of her life.
I could totally relate, but what was the heavy burden I was carrying? It wasn’t nine year old me, but it was a 17 year old version. The version of me I could not rescue. I carried her in every kid I spoke a little too loudly for. Every student I stormed into rooms for demanding their voices be heard, even if I wasn’t invited.
She screamed out each time she felt not listened to. Was interrupted. She became a little more brazen. A little tougher in speech. A bit more bold. A bit harder to deal with and rough around the edges.
She refused to remain silent.
Silence was the driving force behind the forward motion of many events she could not be rescued from. Through each daily act of present bravery, I was taking back that 17 year olds power. Giving back what was stolen.
But it was exhausting. It cost a ton. It was anxiety filled. And it kept me stuck in the past cycle of defeat. A cycle God wanted me to release.
And I hear Him say: Surrender. Lay it down at my feet. This burden wasn’t yours to carry then, but you did brave girl. You did. Don’t carry it now. Give it to me. Let me do the recusing. He gently says, “Just give her back to me.”
So I do. In the stillness of a gray, winter morning. Christmas lights twinkling. Hot coffee in front of me. I close my eyes, and I surrender. I take her to the altar. I picture it. She doesn’t look much different than me. Still small and very fragile looking, but strong and brave in ways you wouldn’t believe. Dark, curly pony-tail bouncing, but head bowed in shame. She walks beside me. Dependent on me to protect her, speak up for her, help her hold her head high.
I whisper to her as she bows at the foot of the cross. “It’s OK. You were not asked. You weren’t given a choice. You didn’t know your voice. I’ve tried to rescue you, but He will now. He will.”
I step back. And I let God take her in His arms.
Knowing I held her, and I protected her and those like her in the best way I could.
And then I let Him hold me.
And in the that moment in the place of that dumpster, because that’s what I saw for many years; a dumpster when I thought of her. I see a cross.
Instead of a symbol of trash, I see a symbol of grace. Instead of a symbol of worthlessness, I see a symbol of my immense worth. Instead of a symbol of all the ways I was unacceptable. Unloved. I see a symbol of His unfailing love.
You’re not the worthless they made you feel There is a Love they can never steal away And you don’t have to stay the broken girl. Matthew West, Broken Girl
I left her there, and finally decided to honor me. All He had done for me, while I carried her around, and what He could do once I surrendered her.
No longer unworthy. Loved beyond measure. Unbroken.
Surrender. In common terms surrender is the act of giving up one’s power over something. In relation to God, it is one’s active choice to yield all decisions and all control to Him. Surrender is a bold act, and it is brave, courageous, and often we dive into it head first thinking that the road will be easy. The road to surrender is definitely not one of ease. It is bumpy. Full of fits and starts. Stop signs, and lanes that only seem to go one way. A roadblock up ahead, or two, or three.
Surrender may make you want to renege on your decision to surrender it all. Like seriously just give up.
Where am I going with this? Let me explain.
I choose a word to define changes I plan on making each year. I don’t make resolutions, because my resolve is to always make sustainable, consistent, and everlasting change. Not a year-long goal that ends when the new ball drops. So this year: surrender. I felt His tug on my heart (and my brain and body) to stop moving, and allow Him to move. To stop trying to control everything, and let Him handle it. It hasn’t been easy, so I am sitting back, and letting things be a bit.
Some things I have breezed through. Like a phone call later in the winter stating that there could be a barrier to preparation for my ordination service I hoped to be attending in July.
Oh, well if you have that one class left you may have to wait until next year.
He meant next year…like a whole new year. I really wanted it this year. So you know how I knew this surrender thing was working? Up to this point anyway… Because if this had been last year…you know like 2020 last year, I would have come undone. I would have been in a puddle of tears on the floor after that call. But I wasn’t. I just said to the advisor: It would be a disappointment to wait even longer after such a long time, and working this hard, for just one class…but if that’s what God wants. Then that’s His will. I’ll roll with it.
Until, the time came. And another meeting came. And, well-I didn’t roll with it. I knew in my heart I was supposed to be surrendering. And, come on. That is what we all do, right? Thy will be done, God; but…can you please do it this way? In this amount of time for me? Thanks!
That class did in fact become a hiccup, among some other things. And I do in fact have to wait another year. And, no…I didn’t roll with it. I broke down. I spent weeks in discouragement. Convinced I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t cut out for this. I had done something wrong. God was mad at me. I failed. I didn’t measure up, and I was just going to give up. And I told a beloved friend this. And this is what I heard…January, have you ever quit anything? Really, you haven’t have you? So why quit, now?”
And he was right. I hadn’t. I always finished. I may have taken detours. Started at different times than others. Maybe a little later. Taken a little longer. Maybe even a break or two. But I always finished.
I am not a quitter.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
So, I started that last class this week knowing it was the last one I would have to take, and knowing it was up to me to continue to surrender to His will in all of this. Even if it was not exactly the way I wanted it all to turn out.
His timing. Not mine. Because if it had been up to me, I would not have quit that class back in December. I would have pressed through, exhausted, worn, and weary. And gotten nothing out of it.
He knew I needed to wait.
Because when I opened the book, read the intro and saw the author had also struggled with giving up in ministry. When I read about the heart to embolden women to walk in their unique purpose. When I felt the Spirit tugging and pulling at me-I knew this was the time.
I had wanted to give up. Walk away. I quit the class out of necessity, but I was on the verge of quitting the journey all together.
But He knew I was just in a waiting season.
I just needed to be patient. I just needed more time.
His time. Not mine. He knew I was not a quitter.
I remember a poem I had to recite in 7th grade. Not read. Like memorize. Stand up in front of class and recite by memory. I still remember it. Still remember many of its lines. I will leave you with a couple of those lines today…emblazoned in the memory a woman, much older than that 7th grader, but still determined to never, ever quit.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low and the debts are high And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit. -John Greenleaf
Don’t you quit. Don’t you dare quit now just because it is taking a little longer. Don’t you dare let the devil’s ridiculous voice convince you to quit. You, you…you just keep rolling with it.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
Waiting on the Lord versus just giving up. Listening to Him to tell me when to move versus acting based on my desires, wishes, or what I think God should do. That is how my prayer life and spiritual walk has been for some time now. Praying for light, but seeing darkness among the very crops for which I have been praying. Continuing to plant seeds here, but looking around to see them wither and die in front of me.
There is a lot in the passage from Isaiah 30:18-26 that mirrors my walk right now. As I sat reflecting on its truth today, I could not help but see the parallels.
He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries (v 19).
And cried I have. I have laid before my prayer wall with tear-stained cheeks wondering why God keeps directing me to do something. To pray continuously. To keep trying. To not give up. And feeling like those pleas are not reaching past the ceiling. Feeling like, maybe, that still small voice I heard was my own, and not His at all. That maybe this is not His will at all, but all my own. I have pleaded for Him to “just fix it.” I have said the same prayer over and over and over until I have wanted to rip it off the wall and burn it.
I’ve called for help.
I’ve heard nothing.
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (v 20).
I’ve called for help and heard nothing. And I have certainly suffered for what He has asked of me. Hurt. Rejection. Criticism. Discouragement and disappointment. When the way I was told to go doesn’t produce the fruit I hoped I would find.
Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you he will say, “This is the way you should go.” (v 21).
This is the hardest part-surrender.
To a will that is not my own. To an outcome I may not like. One I definitely cannot see. It’s teaching me to wait. And I’m not so patient. It’s teaching me to relinquish control, when I want to be in control. It’s teaching me to trust, but I have soul deep trust issues.
It’s teaching me that it’s not my will, but His. And isn’t His always better than mine?
I may cry now. I may feel I am surrounded by darkness, and that all these seeds of grain I am planting are returning void and useless.
But there is a purpose in this season of suffering. While God harvests this turmoil here in my heart, he is also harvesting a victory:
Then the Lord will bless you with rain at planting time. There will be wonderful harvests and plenty of pastureland for your livestock (v 23).
There will be reward for your obedience, January.
There will be fruit for your labor, January.
Don’t give up now. Your tears mean something. They are not wasted. Your prayers are heard. Your work is not in vain.
I’ll show you if you just let me do the work.
If you just trust me with this harvest, I’ll show you what those tear-stained prayers will produce.
Don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep listening. God will do the rest.
These are the things that may swim around in our hearts and heads when we choose to relinquish control of a situation. When we choose to let our children, despite our prudent advice, follow their own path. When we choose to untie the strings that bind us to a past of hurt, and even the people who were part of it. When we choose to speak the truth in love to others we care for, instead of always “making nice” about how we feel about their choices or the way we are treated.
When we choose to simply take a step back and stop doing all the human intervening and fixing, our human hearts start to believe we have been left, or that we are failing others.
Here’s the truth:
The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. James 5:16-18,MSG
This means, I only let go of the string. I drop all of what I was trying to control, even the parts of that person I wanted to fix and manipulate, at the cross. I leave it up to the One who can truly change lives. My job is to ask God to fix it.
We never leave. We never abandon ship. We never give up. We always hope. We always love. For those of us who have God in our corner we are praying tear-stained prayers for that prodigal son or daughter. We are screaming at God in our cars on the way home asking Him to help us help you. We are desperately asking Him for miracles. Praying for the sky to open up, and for God to rain down His blessings on you.
We just may not be present to watch someone continuously make poor choices. To keep swooping in to save the day. We are desperately praying and waiting for the day that God will do that.
Because we know He is a God that never leaves. Never abandons. Always hopes. Always loves. Will make things new. And will bring healing to the broken. We can’t do that without Him.
So the ones who stay, rely on Him to do what only He can do. We pray. We ask for Him to work in the lives of those we love. And we stop doing all the work, so He can work.