Friday, March 24, 2006

Wrestling...and waiting, still.

Yesterday, I did some wrestling with the Lord.
Last night I went to bed with a bit of a limp. I felt fully convinced of my wrong, my lack, and my inability to do anything to correct it. My hope that the Lord could or would was, sadly, overshadowed by my “Woe is me. I am a woman of unclean lips…heart…mind…hands…feet…everything” state of mind. What really got the wrestling match going was the faithful wound of a friend. I’d been struggling emotionally with an issue and she challenged me on the area of my thought life. I “thought” I’d been doing just fine there, thank-you-very-much. Sure I thought about this particular circumstance, who could help but think about it?…it was big and important (to me anyway)…but, I reasoned, I was also faithfully taking it to the Lord in prayer and coming out of it with great (though somewhat momentary) peace. But, I was casting my cares on Him, going to Him for help, and crying out to Him in my moments of distress. Isn’t that what I was supposed to be doing? So what if in the moments of distress, I felt like I was going to die and sobbed uncontrollably…I was responding to the emotion appropriately…isn’t that all that mattered?

Well…no, was the answer both from my friend and from the Lord. Somehow, in trying to take care not to obsess and think too much and make this issue something it wasn’t…I did exactly that. I’m not sure how that happened…but that is where I found myself and what the Lord revealed. It wasn’t all for naught, though. The great surges of emotion are part of what the Lord is doing in me. I was to learn to take that emotion and go to Him with it and trust Him to protect my heart and lead me and keep me from falling. It doesn’t stop there, though, the next part of the lesson is learning that my “emotions are the servants of the will,” as Elisabeth Elliot says, and I can choose against my will. In fact, I must chose against my will when it crosses the will of Christ. I simply must. There is no other way to live a faithful and crucified life.

That night, I went home, and instead of opening the books I’ve been reading, I picked up my copy of Elisabeth Elliot’s “Keep a Quiet Heart.” I opened to where I had left off a few months ago and read: Let is suffice you…to know that God knows. If it’s time to work, get on with your job. If it is time to go to bed, go to sleep in peace. Let the Lord of the Universe do the worrying. To which I added…”and He is not worried.” Then I did “go to sleep in peace.”

Day 2.
I decided I needed to be really proactive about this whole thing and purpose to take thoughts captive, discern which emotion I needed to submit to the Lordship of Christ, and fill my mind with other things. To that end, I went on-line to see if I could find some good messages on dealing with emotions. What I found was a message on Endurance by Elisabeth Elliot, which was actually aired in 4 parts by Nancy Leigh DeMoss on her radio program called, Revive Our Hearts. I was thrilled. Elisabeth Elliot is someone I call my friend. I quote her almost as often as scripture in conversations, my journal and my blog. I am indebted to her not only for her life and testimony and the impact it has had on my life, but for introducing me to my dear Amma -Amy Carmichael of India. She may never know of the debt of gratitude I owe her on this side…but I look forward to rejoicing with her in glory.

Anyway, when I saw the message on Endurance, I knew this was the one I was sent to find. A day or two before, the Lord gave me this verse:

Enduring is your dwelling place and your nest is set in the rock (Numbers 24:21).

So I downloaded the messages, put them on my MP3 player and hung on. The sound of Elisabeth’s clear, resounding voice (which sounds a little bit like Sigourney Weaver’s) brought tears to my eyes. Many times through the message I was moved to tears hearing her actually speak familiar phrases or recount bits of her life that have so touched and changed mine.

She was addressing a group of college students and asked them 3 questions:
1. What do you live for?
2. How do you get it?
3. Is it worth it?

One cannot ask a believer, “What do you live for?” without sufficiently challenging them. The answer MUST be “For God and His glory.” But the challenge comes in reconciling that with how we live our lives every day. Did that choice I just made, that response, that word just say “I live for God and His glory”? Did the last 10?

That was the question I had to ask myself. One I pondered and put aside all day. That evening I went home and decided to spend some time reading “Through Gates of Splendor.” She had spoken so much about her first husband, martyred missionary Jim Elliot, and his life…I wanted to read a bit more about it. I’d purchased the book months ago and got caught up reading Passion & Purity and a few other things, so I just never got around to it. This night I would.

In the message she quoted Jim, who said: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. This wasn’t just a nice turn of phrase written in the journal of a sentimental college kid. This was something he truly believed and lived. The example she gave was of their courtship. Each believed the Lord might be leading them to go into the mission field unmarried. They had to make a decision regarding what to do about the feelings they had for each other. The decision was made to obey God and subject their emotions, strong emotions, to Him. They knew this was right because on the morning of the day the decision was made, Jim read the story of Abraham and Isaac in His bible. He knew the Lord was asking him to put his precious one on the altar and trust the Lord with the rest.

She read the verse and the words just leapt out at me:
God said take your son…your only son…whom you love…

Your son…your only son…whom you love. God knew exactly what He was asking of Abraham. He was not ignorant of the treasure He was requiring of this man. And, He is not ignorant of just how precious the things He asks me to sacrifice are to me, either. He does it on purpose because it is only through this type of offering that we can see what is really in our hearts.

So…with “What do you live for?” ringing in my ears, I went home and read “Through Gates of Splendor.”

In the first chapter, I was zinged again. So much so, I had to put the book down and the wrestling match began. Elisabeth was quoting Jim again, who said I am as sure of His direction as I am of His salvation.

As sure of His direction…whew. That cut to my heart. Now a new question was ringing in my ears, “Do you trust Him equally to lead and save?”

I can't say yes to one without the other. I can't trust Him to save if I don't trust him with all the steps between now and eternity. So...I had to give an answer. I had to say Yes. I could do nothing else. And that Yes was followed by:

I choose you - though all quakes within me. I choose you - though hopes are dashed. I choose you - though all else fails me. I choose you - though I must watch those I love suffer and sin. I choose you - though it invites slings and arrows. I choose you - though I stumble and fall. I choose you - though I must remain single and childless. I choose you - no matter what. I am yours. Here I am. Have your way. Strengthen my heart that I may stand and not dishonor you. Thank you Lord! Keep me true! Thank you.

They say the Christian life is all about walking the narrow road. Jesus said it, it has to be true. But it is my belief that the way is narrow only because it is crowded by our hopes, dreams, wishes, preferences, likes, dislikes, opinions, rationalizations, justifications, philosophies, cravings…by our sin. Clear all of that away and I believe where there was just a thread of a road through the wilderness, you will see a highway…where there was a mountain, you will see a level road (Isaiah 49:11).

These are His promises: He has prepared the way. If we walk in it, he will make our steps sure. He will enlarge the ground beneath our feet. He will lead us to the pleasant places He has prepared for us. And though the road may be rough, we are not to falter. He will uphold us by His righteous right hand. But, if we never step out in faith, we will never know the truth of these promises. If uncertainty, fear, and/or stubborn clinging to our own hopes and plans stops us in our tracks, we will never see the true goodness and sovereignty of God.

The righteous shall live by faith.— Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.—Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.—For nothing will be impossible with God. . . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. (From Daily Light 3/24)

This is the only way to get where I am going…and where I am going…where I am determined to go is to the place the Lord has prepared for me. I can’t see it. I can’t even see a signpost at this point, but I know it is there and I know, so long as I follow, I will arrive in safety and with much gladness and be able to say:
This is [my] God, [I] have waited for Him. (Isaiah 25:9).
I know it will be worth the wait!

1 comment:

  1. "They say the Christian life is all about walking the narrow road. Jesus said it, it has to be true. But it is my belief that the way is narrow only because it is crowded by our hopes, dreams, wishes, preferences, likes, dislikes, opinions, rationalizations, justifications, philosophies, cravings…by our sin. Clear all of that away and I believe where there was just a thread of a road through the wilderness, you will see a highway…where there was a mountain, you will see a level road (Isaiah 49:11)."

    This post ministered to me SO much! I don't know who this "friend" was...but I'm glad she/he was "friend" enough to call it like it is and speak the truth in love to you. I see BREAKTHROUGH written all over this post! God is so good! I especially loved the statement true it is!

    You know, if all of us were REALLY wanting what God wants for our lives...there would be a lot more wrestling going on and you could identify Christians by their mere limps alone.