Tonight I texted a friend as I headed downtown to a young adult worship service, “Please pray for me tonight…I’m tempted to be very discouraged right now and this is not of God.” I was coming off an amazing weekend with my best friend who had come to visit me from Michigan before I leave Nashville and ultimately the country for an extended period of time. Rachel is one of those friends that loves Jesus and wants to know and serve Him just as much as I do. I can’t say that I have known and connected with many people like that. The past few days have been filled with studying the Scriptures, debating spiritual topics, and praying together for those we care about and for each other. I took her to the airport this afternoon and almost immediately following set out once again to work on fundraising and preparations for moving overseas. It was in these moments that Satan once again pounded at my resolve and tried to bring me down.
He has been relentless since God has brought the opportunity to go back into missions. Everything that could possibly go wrong and not possibly have gone wrong has gone wrong, and the Enemy of my soul has thrown everything at me he can. Everyday. All day. What a fantastic encouragement and confirmation it has been to me that I am following Christ and that my life is significant in the Kingdom of God. Through every blow and obstacle, I have felt God calling me onward, commanding me to press through. Already, before I have even come to the point where I can move, God has created such a testimony of His faithfulness through the struggle.
There are times, however, when I get tired and another blow knocks me over for a bit. Tonight I fell down for a while. Discouragement set in, and I was nearly ready to give up the fight. I stepped into church just wanting to sit down and stare at the worship band. The topic of the message tonight was the Villa Dolorosa: the Way of Suffering. We talked about the story behind communion and the importance of taking it seriously. It was this very thing that I had been contemplating just yesterday.
As the pastor started talking about Jesus’ journey to the cross, I began to write in my Bible the things that I felt Him clearly saying to my heart, “Did you expect that this would be easy? Did you expect that it would be painless? Did you expect to keep anything, least of all your pride and your small and childish expectations? Did you expect Me to make sense? I care about what you deeply need and what the world deeply needs more than what you want or what makes you feel comfortable. Trust Me even now.”
The thing about giving everything up that you have to go serve God, forsaking all that you had grown to hold dear is that it hurts…much more than you would expect. It’s not just the stuff, but it’s the time, relationships, and dreams that you had. It’s giving up the security you took comfort in and stepping into the air, hoping that God will put some kind of solid ground there before your foot steps all the way down. Reckless trust doesn’t happen at a pace that we feel we can handle, but rather God asks us to take leaps forward and to the side. Sometimes we don’t even know where we’re going to land. I told Rachel last night as we stood on a bridge overlooking Nashville, “It’s a scary thing to place your life in the hands of God, because you literally have NO IDEA what He is going to do with it. Our God is so big and so much greater than our understanding that even if we were to come up with and be satisfied with 1,000 ways that God could move in our lives, He would find the 1,001st and lead us in. My entire life is upside down right now. Everything that I ever believed about God is open for Him to change. He is rocking my world. I’m not quite sure how to handle it.” I told her, “I feel that God wants me to just take off running toward Him.” She responded, “Well, you kind of are…” Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I stared at the beautiful skyline of buildings lit up against a black sky, “Not fast enough.” I muttered quietly. “Not fast enough.”
I was driving home tonight and I glanced over at the short section of the interstate that runs alongside the city where the skyline is clearly visible to the left. As I drove past the beautiful lit up buildings, I felt God impress upon my heart, “I love the people of this city. I love my children. I love the people of the world much more deeply than you can imagine. I am asking you to walk this road with me, the road to the crucifixion. I want you to feel the pain with me as I lay down everything that I have for my children. I gave my life. Will you give yours? My heart breaks for my children every day. Will you let your heart break as well? I want you to feel the weight. I want you to struggle under the pressure. I want you to know me like this.”
How could I give my Lord anything less than all of me? There are so many petty things that I wrestle with from day to day. I’m not allowed to date for the next several years and should I sell the seasons of my favorite TV show or not? What kind of tangent have I allowed myself to get off on? What do any of these things matter? God has never stopped loving the world with an everlasting love. He has never stopped gazing at the city lights thinking about how much He loves the people standing on the other side of each illuminated window and sleeping on each bed hidden within. He has never stopped crying for the orphan lying on the side of the road on the brink of death because she has no one to care for her. How could I be concerned with such little things like a TV show or my selfish desire for a relationship? How could I let something so small consume any part of my heart? Where did I lose my soul?
I have perhaps said 1,000 times, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.” How many of those times have I really desired that? How many times have I been willing to carry the weight of the cross on my shoulders, the blood of Christ dripping down my face? How many times have I shed tears, sobbing deeply from the soul for the orphan longing for a home and for someone to love her as Jesus does? Maybe I have a few times in the past, but I have not cared often enough. I have not let her pain touch my heart deeply enough. I have not loved as Jesus loves. I have not been broken as He was. I have not died with Him because I so loved the world as He did.
As I took the bread and dipped it into the juice tonight, I prayed that I would hold onto Christ and stand firm in Him to the end, whatever that may be. I prayed that He might take my hands, feet, body, soul, and spirit and make me one with Him. I prayed that I might count everything as loss compared to the privilege of knowing Christ and being found in Him. I prayed that I might love as He loves, laying all that would hold me back at His feet. How could I give my Lord anything less than all of me? How great is His love! Whatever it takes, whatever needs to happen for me to be fully surrendered to Him…I must do for the love I have and desire to have for Him.
My discouragement over simple finances seems so petty in comparison to God’s great love for the world. It is He that has called me to go into the world and love. How could I doubt that He will come through to get me there? It is literally not even worth thinking about. I may have no idea how things will work out. How irrelevant is my struggle for understanding from God’s perspective? His words ring in my head, “Did you expect that this would be easy? This is the road to the crucifixion! Come, follow Me. Leave your small concerns in the dirt as you take up my cross upon your shoulders. Get your footing as you lift the heavy beams into the air. Watch your step, lest you trip on a stone in the way. Let’s climb this hill. Feel your muscles burn as the steep path becomes rugged and perilous. Breathe in deeply as the air becomes thin and they lay you down on the rough planks. Feel the fear as you see them raise the hammer in the air and it starts to come down. Scream into the sky as the searing pain rushes through your body. Feel it again and again. As they lift you up before the people and the physical strain becomes nearly more than you can bear, note the humiliation you feel as you hang naked and bleeding before those who came just to see the show. Hear them laugh and mock you, calling out for you to come off the cross if you really are who you say you are. Feel the sadness of God the Father as He turns His back on You. Experience the alienation of true separation from Him as you carry in your being the sins of the whole world. Breathe in deeply your last breath and let it out with a great cry. This is what it means to know Me. This is what it means to follow Me. This is what it means to truly be found in Me. I so loved the world that I gave my life. Did you expect that this would be easy?”
I came face to face tonight with a reality that was so much bigger than the reality that I had allowed myself to get used to and be concerned with. Such petty and meaningless things consume my days. Where is the love of God in my life? Sometimes I forget that HE SO LOVES THE WORLD. He walked the road to the crucifixion and endured its excruciating suffering because HE SO LOVES THE WORLD. I should so love the world too. I should so love the world that I do not even give a second thought to leaving my petty concerns in the dirt as I take up the cross of suffering and love. Maybe I expected a less treacherous road and a little less pain. However, God incarnate did not skimp out when He gave His everything. Neither then should I.