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Sweet Surrender?
Space to Breathe

Are You Crowding God Out?

By Laura J. Bagby Sr. Producer

CBN.comIt hit me one Saturday night. I was about to burst out into tears after an absolutely perfect day. And that made no sense to me.

I had spent the morning with a girlfriend at the oceanfront in sunny 70-degree weather strolling down the boardwalk and looking at the art show exhibits. We were both dreaming about our futures and the exciting things that God might bring to us in our new seasons of blessing.

I was inspired by our conversation and the creativity I saw, so wanting to capture that moment, I purchased a memento: ocean shells, starfish, and sand encased in a triangular glass box. I wanted to hold onto the dreams that I was trying to allow myself to envision. The ocean seemed to whisper to my soul “fresh start”.

Each time I turned the object in my hand, I could see a different picture of the beauty in the box as the seascape continually shifted to reveal another previously hidden view. Wow, that’s what I needed: a new perspective on my life.

Later on that evening, I joined another girlfriend for a shopping excursion and a late dinner. I was greatly encouraged by my friend’s words of wisdom, her laughter, and the camaraderie we shared, not to mention the fashion therapy.

I had spent practically the whole day out with friends, laughing, dreaming, feeling God’s joy. Then why did I feel despondent home alone later that night. Why were my eyes welling up with tears?

Granted, I had just had one of the busiest months of the year. I had traveled to South Carolina for a mini-vacation with my parents and my aunt, I had spent a couple of days visiting with my sister and family who came to the beach for a vacation—only to head out to Hollywood for a whirlwind weekend film junket, and now I was trying to reorient myself and my life for the start up of the holiday season. I was exhausted and completely undone.

I had been so busy planning and traveling that my quiet times with the Lord were often shallow and sparse, if at all. Many times during the month, I had given God the drive-by “Hello, how are You?” in the morning, followed by “Gotta run, catch You later” as I headed to my next event in the evening. I might have thrown in a quick read of a Psalm or Proverb while half focused at the breakfast table or a brief nod in prayer before succumbing to the warmth of my bed.

But, to be honest, it wasn’t really my crazy schedule that had me giving passing notice to the One who I profess to be my All in All. We can always find time for those things we deem important. It was fear—Fear that God would tell me I was wrong for the recent decisions I had made, fear that I was wrong for wanting something different or for wanting something more in my life, fear I had made a terrible mess of things and somehow God was going to shame me.

And then there was that call to change and a call to intimacy with Daddy…

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

To an insecure and troubled daughter, that sounded scary and way too hard. Good times beckoned, so I threw myself into them with vigor. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to come before my Lord, because I feared I would just melt into a thousand teardrops. And I determined I was too exhausted to get that emotional. I just simply didn’t want to hurt anymore.

So, while on the outside, I was laughter and smiles, internally, my heart was crying out, Does God really care about me still? Is He disappointed in me? Does He really want to give me the desires of my heart as I delight in Him? Does He truly have big plans for me? Can I begin again and find a new level of grace and peace?

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine that my Heavenly Father would still want to overwhelm me with His love and His blessing. After all, I am quite aware of my shortcomings, and so is He.

I have to admit that I have struggled lately in putting my trust in Christ alone. I have gotten my self-esteem and security from fun, friends, my prayer partners, my own abilities, my paycheck, and my material possessions.

It is so much easier to fill in those uncomfortable spaces, those pauses in your day, with noise and activity. But today, I chose to get real, to let down my guard, to give up my strivings.

After another weekend of harried activity, I sensed God saying to me, I want to spend time with you, Laura. Can’t you just trust me on this? Plus, I just felt tired of living a shallow existence. I realized that I needed to find my center of balance again: Obviously, that meant my relationship with God.

In chapel Gordon Robertson led us in a prayer asking God to show us through a picture, a word, or a Bible verse some aspect of His character. I obediently prayed along with Gordon, not really expecting to hear anything. I figured I had crowded God out so much lately, why would He speak to me—and could I even hear Him when He answered?

I immediately got a reference to Isaiah 51:7, which I promptly looked up online when I got back to my desk on my lunch hour. The Amplified Version says it this way: Listen to Me, you who know righteousness and justice and right standing with God, the people in whose heart is My law and My instruction: fear not the reproach of men, neither be afraid nor dismayed at their revilings.

This Scripture really amazed me. I suddenly realized partly why I was so tired and frustrated this weekend. I was afraid of what everyone else thought or would think of me! I was worried about looking good and being popular and being approved of. And, man, that can be a burden, let me tell you.

I carried that verse with me in my mind as I ate my lunch quietly outside at the picnic tables overlooking the lake. I determined to spend more time listening to the Lord instead of verbalizing my usual laundry list of issues.

And you know what happened? God spoke again! He said, Do you see how calm and peaceful that lake is? That’s what I want you to be like.

I gulped back some tears. First, God was speaking to me, which was incredibly encouraging after being so unsure of myself and unsure of His leading. Second, He said it so gently, I didn’t feel the condemnation that I kept thinking was coming my way. I didn’t wince at His words; I took them graciously, as He had intended. Third, He was absolutely right. When had I given myself rest in His presence lately?

My good friend Marshall told me the same thing recently: “Laura, you need to rest.”

My response to him was a really pathetic excuse. I whined, “I can’t. I have to meet another friend of mine for dinner in another hour or so.” I completely lost the significance of what he was trying to tell me.

I told God I really wanted to make space for Him again. I wanted white space in my day. And maybe I needed to approach those times with Him differently. Instead of thinking of what I should be doing for God, I just needed to be with Him. I needed to breathe. I needed to dance and sing and enjoy Him. When had I done that? I was too busy performing for Him. I was too busy trying to accomplish things before the opportunities escaped. I was too busy trying to be my own savior instead of thanking Him for being the Savior so I didn’t have to be.

Resting in His promises, resting in His future for me, resting in His knowledge and understanding, resting in His healing and transforming power—This is what I needed.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33, NIV).

How often lately I have heard this verse in my spirit. I realized at that picnic table that I had been doing the opposite. I had been seeking first all those things, thinking once I had established some stable pattern there, then I would get God.

But that’s not how it works. You can’t dash frenetically through life with your eyes on everything around you and gain spiritual steadiness. That path leads to insecurity, weariness, and spiritual deadness.

Yes, it takes faith and discipline to redirect your focus. It might seem extreme to seek Him first. Well, it is. You might say to yourself, is this really necessary? The answer is yes. In the end, it is the only way to true peace and happiness.

Do you need God to show up in your life? Do you need a reminder that He knows your heart and your situation? Why not make a bit of space in your schedule and ask Him to speak into your life?

And then listen. That one word from God might just be the one thing you absolutely needed.

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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