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SURRENDER

Living Life With Open Hands

By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer

CBN.comAs I type these words, I am trying to get the swirl of my thoughts together. So much has happened in my life recently that I am still at a loss as to how to express it all. I guess the best I can do to summarize my state of being is to say it is about letting go of the past and embracing the new.

It sounds like some grand thing to charge forth toward fresh, new beginnings, but honestly I can’t say I have completely welcomed this transition. I have often feared it and dug my heels in several times, unwilling to open my hands of what I once knew. I have found it much harder to part with the familiar, even with that small hope for better that I sense God is trying to whisper to my failing spirit.

I suppose it is a lack of faith in God – not about everything, just about one particular, very dear area of my life. I am asked to believe that God is good – yes, good and full of promise in that very area of lack – at the same time that I am being tasked with laying down desperate dreams, desperate desires. I am, in essence, laying down my Isaac one final time.

So many wonderful saints have encouraged me lately that my new season will be one of blessing and promises fulfilled. I do believe that, but fully walking in that truth is a different matter when the delay persists. There are times when I am discouraged. I guess I had hoped circumstances would change sooner. I look around and all I see in the natural is the same as it was before: hope deferred.

Trumpeting Truth

But isn’t it funny how sometimes God uses those very trials to teach us some godly principle? This is often true of me when I write: I find myself speaking out truths to others that were really meant for me. Maybe God knows I am more likely to hear Him when it’s coming out of my own lips. (Sometimes I think it’s the only way He can get the attention of this busy soul who likes to talk!)

While I was encouraging a brother in Christ to be confident about his desire for a dating relationship, he asked me if there was something specific for which he could encourage me. Feeling safe enough to express my heart, I replied, “Yes, actually. I really need to regain my balance point. I feel like God is telling me not to look to people for my security.” I said a couple of other things, but I was surprised at how my lips went straight to the essence of where I was spiritually. I had been looking to others to fill the vacuum in my heart. And I knew my true fulcrum was supposed to be Christ.

I had another encounter with spoken truths only several weeks later while chatting with a fellow employee outside the movie theatre. We were swapping comments about the film we had just seen and we got to philosophizing a bit. I shocked myself once again by jumping on my soapbox and confessing, “God’s been teaching me to hold onto life loosely.” And then I quickly added in full preacher mode, “And the second thing that God is showing me is I can’t be like Lott’s wife and look back on where I came from.”

For those of you who need a refresher on Lott’s wife, she looked back on the burning city of Sodom and Gomorrah – from which God graciously let her and her family escape – and that one act of longing for what she knew caused her her life. She turned into a pillar of salt. (See Genesis 19:12-26.)

So often during that transition period between our personal wilderness and that pre-ordained Promised Land, we long for the comfort of what we once knew, even though God has slammed the door on that chapter in our lives. We forget how God released us from the slimy pit and we want to crawl back in. We are simply too tired and weary and disillusioned to push that boulder out of our path one last time. We want to go back to Egypt because we sense God is calling us to do things we just don’t have the fortitude to endure. Oh, if only we had the patience to keep on keeping on! We are such short-sighted creatures, are we not? I speak from personal experience.

Seeing the Big Picture

This is when I want so much to have that long-term mindset that God has. He sees the big picture and He knows the beginning from the end. He isn’t worried. He knows that sadness might last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

But, in my narrow-minded view, I want to ask, But, God, which morning? Is it tomorrow? Is that morning six months from now? And is my night even over?

Yes, life is coming again – but when? And will I be able to hang on long enough to see the blessing when it does come?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, NIV, emphasis mine).

I can hardly imagine enduring the most painful, humiliating death that Jesus did and willingly going through that form of misery because He saw the light of day beyond. But that is what the above Scripture tells us. Behind that very present pain was everlasting joy. Jesus was able to endure that most radical of transitions because He was fully trusting that beyond that shadow of death would be the most glorious life anyone could ever know!

On a less dramatic scale, we humans understand this process of life coming after death. The new cannot come until the old has died away. Just look at our seasons in nature. We glory over spring and the beauty it brings. But first comes winter. We wonder if any life can erupt from those bone-dry branches. All we see is what appears to be still and lifeless. The life we don’t see is still there; it is just dormant. It’s waiting patiently for the right time to burst forth once again. There is activity stirring, though the eye does not see it. But it is not any less real.

When God Seems to Be Hiding

Now, I can get excited about new things when I feel God’s gentle nudge, and I can hear Him clearly say to me, “Here is the way. Walk in it.” With the chorus of angels singing and those tingly Holy Spirit goose bumps, I know I just had an awesome encounter with God. Full steam ahead!

But what happens when God seems to be missing in action, when He is a no-show? Though He says He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and you are trying to keep that truth in your mind, there are times when you sense God has suddenly left the building and He isn’t coming anytime soon. Your life might be spinning out of control. You might lack clarity in a major decision. You want to cry out, “God, where are You?” Doubt sinks in quickly when the heavens feel as though they are brass.

I have to say, I have been banging on those brass heavens a lot this year. I have felt unloved, abandoned, and despairing. I couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t communing with me, especially after He gave just a hint of the direction He had for me and I was following it. I figured, OK, I was obedient to that small bit of direction, so where is God's approving nod? After being in a place of confusion over God’s will for so long, I fully expected that the Lord Most High would flip the lighted sign in some heavenly game of Jeopardy and announce, “Survey says… you are on the right path!”

Yet I have watched God seemingly stand silently by while my prayers remain unanswered. At the same time, I have witnessed Him bless many close to me with the very things that I had thought He wanted to give me. I have wavered between feeling mocked, feeling punished for some unforgivable sin, or feeling like He is simply keeping me in the dark.

But you know what? One of my coworkers brought me a book called Character Makeover recently. It’s not in print yet, but because I recognized the name of the author, I picked it up and started flipping through. And then I took it home to read some more.

And while reading that book, I realized something about God’s silent moments, those wilderness seasons. I realized God was still there on the sidelines, waiting and watching me and my reactions. Would I trust Him if He pulled away? Would I still run toward the goal line, though I couldn’t see His cheering face in the crowd? Would I trust that I knew the rule book enough to make the best play, even if Coach had to step out and take care of something else temporarily?

God sometimes seems miles away – not to make you and me feel unloved or even wrong for what we have done. Yes, there are times when our sin does separate us, but when we are seeking Him with all our hearts, He does show up. He just doesn’t show up the way we think He should. We want bells and whistles. He comes quietly.

Look at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. No white steed. Rather, He came on a humble donkey. And those sisters of Lazarus expected a mighty miracle for their sick brother; they certainly didn’t expect that miracle to come after his death.

Expectations can truly kill our Christian faith. But God is outside our categorizations. And if He doesn’t appear right when we desire it, maybe He is trying to get us to relate to Him on a deeper level. It’s really all about trust and something I know I chafe at: timing.

Timing Is Everything

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3, NKJV).

This passage is both inspiring to me and frustrating. Because I am so often impatient, I want to disagree by saying, “Yeah? Well, it sure seems like the vision tarries.”

But then Jesus didn’t really start His ministry until the age of 30. All those years before, He remained in the shadows. He had to wait until the appointed time – and He was the Son of God! If God can wait until the right hour, then we should be able to as well.

It also helps me wait when I realize that in order for God to fulfill my destiny, He must deal with not just me, but others around me. Key elements must come together. Other people are often involved. And, most of all, my destiny has to do with God getting the glory.

And that, I think, is truly the main reason for delay in our lives: God doesn’t want us taking credit for those things He does. He knows that kind of pride would destroy us. So, He must wait until our character is formed enough to handle what He has to bless us with. Are you feeling a bit humbled?

Here’s the thing. Spiritually, God may be getting you ready. He is aligning things for you, though you aren’t aware. This isn’t some platitude or feel-good statement. No, I get this straight from the Bible.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).

I can’t tell you what that means for you, anymore than I can figure that out for myself. Will it mean an awesome career, a wonderful spouse, an unexpected financial blessing, that child you have been praying for all those years? I cannot say. But God knows. And as it says, He has it all prepared for you.

Several times in the past couple of months, God has been reminding me of that familiar Bible passage about faith:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV).

You can’t have faith and simultaneously walk by sight. You will fail miserably because you will be focused on what you see and what you don’t see – i.e., the blessings others have and the lack you continue to experience.

Instead, and most especially during trials, you must refocus your eyes to what is unseen – to the promises yet to be fulfilled. You can only echo this verse when you choose to look at your life through the eyes of faith. Faith-filled eyes are in tune with the Spirit. They hope and they dream and they believe in the God who can and will do mighty works on our behalf.

My prayer for you and for me as we await that appointed time, that appointed blessing, that new season that will not tarry, is that we keep our faith ignited, our hearts full of hope, our spirits humbled before His presence, and our minds expectant for what is to come.

Comments for Laura? E-mail her.


How to Give Your Life to Christ:

1. Admit you are a sinner and need forgiveness.

2. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross and rose from the grave.

3. Through prayer, confess that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and commit to live for Him for the rest of your life.

What to Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please send us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our CBN Prayer Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk with you and send you some resources to help you begin your walk with the Lord.


Laura J. BagbyLaura J. Bagby produces the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles.

 

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