This morning I found myself in church. I was completely exhausted. During some of the songs I just stood there; I couldn’t even sing I was so tired. I was super emotional too. All I wanted to do during the whole service was cry. I hung out afterwards with a few friends and pretended like I was a part of the conversation but really I just wanted to be around people. Coming off a difficult week, I was doing good just to make it to church this morning. My participation was fairly minimal.
I’ve been under so much stress, and today I have felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Work was super challenging this week, and I am behind in my schoolwork for my masters program. I have some work for my internship I need to do as well. I feel like I am struggling to do each of them to the best of what I perceive to be my ability and I realized this morning that no matter how hard I try, I can never be strong enough.
Probably the thing that hit me the strongest today was my struggle with direction in life. I have been pursuing a big dream of leadership in the abolitionist movement. Things like that take a lot of work, and I have really felt like that was the direction that God was leading me. Every dream carries times of doubt, and lately I have been wondering as to the veracity of the level of leadership I felt called into. There is a big part of me that simply wants to be a wife and mom. I wonder if I could ever be that if I were to pursue the calling I thought I heard God give me. And I wondered if this dream I have been pursuing is what I really wanted.
So today I heard a message that I didn’t want to hear. Our pastor said in his sermon, “This is not your life; your life is God’s life.” It hit me pretty hard, especially being super exhausted from pursuing what I believe God wants from me. Leaving all of that at His feet to change as He sees fit is a challenge as well, because if there is one thing I have learned over the years of this journey is that I can never been too sure about what God is doing. There have been so many times when He has only shown me a vision of the next step in the journey. Callings are like a double-edged sword. When we don’t know enough, we complain to Him. When we know too much, we complain to Him. There’s just really no way to make us happy.
I think all I needed today was for someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me that things are going to be ok. Our pastor said, “We like to think that we are all sane, but the truth is in my life there have been times when I have felt that I may be bordering insanity.” That is exactly how I feel today. I feel like I am falling apart. I feel that I might be losing it soon. It’s a scary place to be. However, the truth of the message still rang over and over in my head: “This is not your life; your life is God’s life.”
I sure haven’t felt passionate for a while about trafficking. If I had my choice, I would go in a different direction. That is honest, from my heart. However, God told me today that how I feel about my calling doesn’t change the reality of what the calling is. Obedience means listening to God’s voice and doing what He says. How I feel is irrelevant, and that’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around, especially in American culture where we describe God’s leading so often in the terms of, “I feel that God is leading me here or there.” Really, that’s not a good way to describe it. There are times when I don’t “feel” like doing anything for Him at all.
I have a tendency to take my life into my own hands, especially when I’m tired or feel completely out of control. I guess it’s human nature to think of ourselves first and to make things about us and what we want. When that is the norm all around us, it’s a temptation that sometimes is hard to resist. God showed me this morning that I had once again reverted to this way of thinking about my time and energy and ultimately my calling in life.
Our conversation went a little something like this:
“You are tired and feel thoroughly used up. I understand, but I can give you strength. You have fallen down. I will help you get back up again. You question your calling because you long for something else. I understand your pain and emptiness, and I am sorry that you have to struggle. However, I must tell you about the things that break my heart, and maybe you will understand why I have asked you to walk this road with me.” As pastor was talking about the demon possessed man who had roamed the tombs for years like a madman before Christ came and set Him free, God painted a picture in my mind of all those in the world who are locked in prisons of their own from which they cannot escape. Again I heard Him say, “This is not your life; your life is God’s life.” What have I been saying and believing these past few years? I want to live whatever life that God dreams for me, and I want the things that break His heart to break mine as well. Today in the midst of utter exhaustion and discouragement, heaven came down and touched my heart. There are two things that I am absolutely sure of right now: I cannot do this alone, because I am weaker than I thought I was. However, I know that God is strong enough for the both of us, and is willing and able to accomplish everything that He has planned for me if I will but let Him in.
Every time it comes as a surprise. I never could have imagined the depth of love that God has for every person in the world. Like a father who never gives up on his children, He pursues us to the very end. He knows who I will reach out to in the future in ministry, and He loves them too much to let me have my way today. This is what it means to be chosen by God. This is what it means to follow when times get difficult. This is what it means to choose obedience when everything inside of me wants to give up and settle for less than God’s best for my life. How could I have cared for myself more than those Christ so unselfishly loved to the extent of dying the most horrific death possible so that they might have life forever with Him? How could I give anything less than my all to Him who gave His all for me? That was my punishment He took. That was my cross He died on. Those were my thorns that were placed on His head. He took my beatings, my shame, and my separation from God and forever changed eternity. The fact that I question if I “want” to do what He asked means that I do not understand the greatest act of love that creation has ever known. May God somehow make this real in my life.
I think that we ask God so many times for Him to speak or to reveal Himself. We need consistent confirmation. Sometimes I wonder if we are like dogs who only obey because of the treat they receive afterwards. Could I follow God even when I did not have His constant reassurance every step of the way? What if His silence is a sign of our maturity instead of weakness? Could I serve Him even when I did not feel like it? Could I follow even when I doubt? When all is darkness around me, do I have the faith to trust His heart?
I am learning every day what it means to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. It is easy to say that it’s worth it. It is much harder to live like it is. The truth is, we may not see the blessing on this side of eternity, and to serve Christ as He commands means that we will need to come to terms with that at some point. Joy and happiness are not synonyms. As long as I am living life for myself and trying to follow Christ, there will be great sorrow in my life. I must be one with God’s heart and Spirit before His joy and fulfillment will come. Until I learn to see the world through His eyes, love His children with His heart, and serve with His strength, I will struggle in this battle of wills. Is it possible to truly be one with God and to know Him at this level? Well, that’s what God tells us to do through His Word, so it would only make sense that He would not command us to do something that was impossible, especially considering that nothing is impossible with God. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” So often we see hard times as a test, as if God is waiting for us to fail. The truth is, God is on our side and desires to give us everything we need to succeed in knowing Him and serving Him in every way. What a thought that is!
All in all, I am thankful for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I am thankful that He does not become frustrated with me and move on to an easier subject to deal with. God believes in me much more than I believe in myself, and I hope that somehow I can learn to lean on Him instead of trying to stand on my own two feet. I am thankful that every time I am about to give up, He finds me wherever I am at and encourages my heart. What a God He is, and what a love He has. I am overwhelmed by His goodness and filled once again with His passion. I hope that your heart has been encouraged as well.