Trusting God

Letting Go

It was an earnest moment of decision for my preschool-aged daughter.  You could see the deliberation on her sweet little face as she tightly gripped the Andes Mints, one in each hand.

If you will give ONE of your chocolates to Pa, I will give you another one.

I knew this might be a struggle for her and was watching with anticipation to see what decision she would make.

She loves chocolate candy so much, and this particular kind was only available to her once per week when we would meet my dad (her grandad) for lunch at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

I could see she was internally wrestling with the process of physically letting go of what was in her hand.  Did she believe me?  Would she trust me?

I repeated it again:  If you will give one to Pa, I will give you another one to replace the one that you give to him.

It was a promise.  But it required her action to activate it.  You see, she had to let go of the piece of chocolate in one of her hands, before I could give her another one.

This was a practical request.  There was no way her little hands could hold 3 pieces of candy, navigate a pass off, open the wrappers and avoid dropping one onto the floor.  With the crowd of people in front of the cashier’s desk, the candy could easily be stepped on and smashed.

After a few more seconds of consideration, she handed a piece to my dad, saying, “Here, Pa, this is for you.” I smiled, knowing that this had been an important step for her.

Before the smile faded from my face, I felt the Holy Spirit impress a feeling of even greater significance upon my heart.  I knew I needed to remember this exchange, and I wrote it down in my journal, trusting the Lord would eventually show me.

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A few weeks passed, and I had just learned of yet another major change coming my way.  The grief, anxiety and sorrow welled up in me anew.

Over the last 18 months, almost all the things in which I had found purpose, comfort and stability (with the exception of my husband and children) had been ended, altered, or shifted in some way.  A career.  A ministry role.  A few friendships.  Educational plans for my youngest daughter.  And on and on.

Honestly, I was so sick of change and felt like I really couldn’t take any more.  I was just done.  Over it.  Finished.  Seriously kaput.

Lord, seriously?  I was just getting into the groove.  I thought we had a plan.  Lord, what ARE you doing in this situation?   What does this mean for me?  I hate this.  Really, I hate this.  Can’t you just keep things the way they are, at least for a little while?

The next morning I was struggling through my quiet time trying to read through a chapter in one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, Hosea.  I was finding it a bit dry, which was also how my soul felt in that moment.  This is what I wrote in my journal that morning:

“Father God, help me have a God-attitude about the news I received yesterday.  I’m struggling and so sad, but most of all, I feel thrown out into The Wilderness, again.  God help me, help me to find joy and hope overflowing in this.  Release your blessings on my life… Make a way for me in the desert.  Bring me to a land of flowing streams, lush landscapes, soft hills, and babbling brooks.”

Later that day, I was still wrestling through what all of this meant and feeling gloomy.  While driving in my car, I heard these lyrics from a song in the general playlist of music on my phone.

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season you are good to me.[i]

These words that I’d heard so many times before struck me with such significance.  Letting go.  To let go, you have to open your hand.  It was like the Spirit was saying this:

Jennifer, if you’ll open your hand again, you’ll see that I’m good to you in every season.  Let go of what you cannot keep.  Give it freely, so that I can give you the next blessing. 

Oh wow.  The wisdom in this.

It was a promise.  And just like with the Andes Mint moment, it required my action to activate it.  You see, I would have to emotionally release what was in my hand.  I would need to give it to my Abba Daddy, and with faith and trust, believe He would fill my hand again with something good.  I had to believe that He would fill it with something that was valuable and cherished, with something I would relish and enjoy.

Jim Elliot penned this now famous phrase, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Maybe, like me, you are facing another period of transition.  Do you feel the stirrings of change?  Is the Lord asking you to relinquish something?  Is He asking you to hand over something that’s of high value in your life?  An opportunity that may not come again?  A ministry position or job you really love? The future you thought you would have?  The way you spend your free time?

Even when we try to keep that tight grip of control on the things we value, we can’t hold on to them forever.  Change will happen, and wouldn’t it be much better if we relinquish our valued things to the Lord before they get dropped or smashed into the floor?

Beloved reader, open that hand and give the Lord its contents.  He knows what He’s asking.  Trust Him.  He wants to fill it again with something just as sweet.

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: …  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.[ii]

May His streams of Living Water flow freely through you, bringing refreshment and lush beauty to the barren places in your life.

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[i] “Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective, 2018 Capitol Christian Records

[ii] Isaiah 43:14a, 19 (NLT)

Waiting

Skip the Wait?

Have I mentioned that I struggle with patience?  Waiting quietly with a happy heart is NOT something that comes naturally or easily to me.  So, as you can imagine, I was not particularly overjoyed to find myself facing a rather long wait earlier this week at my local drivers’ services center.

I’d already signed in at the “welcome” kiosk and been there a while when I noticed an advertisement over a different set kiosks that said, Skip the Wait, Renew Here.  My own heart skipped a beat with excitement, but then I remembered.  The letter I’d received from the Department of Safety said that I had to get a new picture taken, and that wasn’t something that could be done at those special kiosks. Ugh.

After I’d passed time by reading emails and catching up on my social media apps, I again checked the giant computer monitor that listed the service numbers and order, carefully noting my number and its place.  Tapping my foot rhythmically on the floor, I finally glanced around me in the nearly full room, noticing, for the first time, the varied responses to this long wait.

Most people were buried in their mobile phones or tablets, some were chatting with a companion, others were sitting quietly staring blankly at the ceiling or wall, and few were grumbling.  One or two in the crowd looked like they might, at any minute, storm impatiently out of the place.

At that point I decided to leave too. Ha – I’m just kidding, of course, but I did stand up and walk back out to my car to retrieve a book. I have this extreme aversion to wasting time, and I was absolutely determined to do something productive.

After returning with my book, the time began to pass quickly as I read about one of my favorite heroes of the Old Testament, King David.  I find his story so fascinating – filled with highs and lows, victories and defeats, friendship and betrayal, all intermingled with a beautiful love for God and David’s epic gift for writing the most exquisite poetry.

Lately, the most relevant thing to me about David’s early life is the amount of waiting he experienced.  For example, did you know that it was around 15 years after being anointed as king by the Prophet Samuel before David was actually crowned as king of Judah?  For much of that 15 years, David was on the run as a fugitive for his life, hiding in caves, and hanging out with vagabonds and social rejects.  And then, even though he had been crowned king of Judah, it would be another 7 years before he was crowned as king over all of Israel.

When I read about the turmoil in King David’s early life, my impatient side wants to ask questions like: Did God act too early when he told the prophet Samuel to discover and anoint this shepherd boy buried in obscurity in Bethlehem? Or was it Saul, that nasty, jealous, and emotionally unstable king who really messed up God’s timing and plan for David?  Or maybe David himself caused all this mess?  I mean, if David had been less bold and confident, the Hebrew women wouldn’t have sung that song that made King Saul get so angry and jealous of him, right?

Shouldn’t have things gone more smoothly for this man after God’s own heart who would be a part of the lineage of Christ?  Surely God’s plan wouldn’t have included all these detours and delays?!?

But I stop there, because I know otherwise.  Yes, there were those around him who had some very evil intentions, and David, himself, wasn’t perfect. But we can see that he was being prepped for something much greater than he could have imagined.  And there is a beauty, even if seemingly painful at moments, to what the Lord was accomplishing in him and through him during this time of waiting.  No class, no training program, no apprenticeship, and no seminar could have been better preparation for his God-sized destiny than this period of waiting and all the many dramatic events it entailed.

David was learning to rely on God, completely.  He was learning compassion and hope in the midst of hopeless circumstances.  He was learning extreme leadership skills and military prowess.  He was developing a following and an inner circle, some of whom would be part of his royal court and future army command.

Those delays and detours must have at times seemed like the death of David’s dreams, but instead, they were vital to his future success.  These delays and detours helped him to walk in the fullness of God’s plan.  They WERE God’s best plan for him.

So like me, are you in a season of waiting?

Maybe you’ve been waiting on an answer to a prayer you’ve been praying for days, months or years?  For a loved one to be healed or for a treasured relationship to be restored?  Or for a new job, the one you’ve always wanted?  Or for justice to be administered in a court case?  Or for a child to be conceived and/or adopted? Or maybe you don’t have anything specific, but rather just a vague sense of waiting for your life to be what you’ve always dreamed?

I’ve become convinced that our periods of waiting aren’t something that we need to balk at, and just like those people around me in the waiting room at my local drivers’ service center, we have choices about how we react to periods of waiting.

We can distract ourselves.  We can stare blankly at the ceiling and lose our vivacity.  We can grumble and complain.  We can look at others whose numbers are called and get jealous or angry.  We can strive and stress and storm right out of the center of God’s will for our lives.

OR we can use the waiting period to connect with those the Lord brings to our waiting room.  We can use the waiting times wisely, squeezing every last ounce of purpose from them.  We can radiate peace and trust and joy.

Recently, I awoke with this verse* on my lips:  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness.”  It was such a gentle and sweet reminder to me that My Abba Daddy had heard my prayers about my specific situation, and he was reassuring me of His faithful care of my desires and urging me to trust in His timing.

You see, God is working while we’re waiting.  He’s working for us and in us.  And sometimes, He’s working in others, too.  So the next time I’m tempted to ask God if I can “Skip the Wait,” I’m going to remember that these detours and delays aren’t the death of my dreams.

The waiting is NEVER wasted.  Instead, God is doing something amazing in us and for us.  And this is His best plan.

*1 Peter 3:9a