Perceived control. What a comfort it is. We clutch it with both hands, afraid to let anything come between it and us. Indeed, what we believe we understand about our circumstances, our relatives/friends, and ourselves becomes our home; the place that protects us and that we, in turn, must protect.
The only problem is that God is not on the same page about protecting our sense of sovereignty. He knows that our “home” is a fabrication of self-protecting illusions and God-restricting doubts. To remain in this habitation is to eclipse the joys of being wholly kept for and by Him.
So what does He do? Bit by bit, He painstakingly sets us free. Yes, it is painful. Of course, we are often screaming, “No!” But, in those moments in between, may we let our hearts be held and possessed by the prevailing reality that God will not rest until His child is sheltered properly–in no place other than the shadow of His roof.
You’re the life I need in every stage of life…
You’re the Master whom every season
which claims me
How can I fear what my life
when You are the One giving
the final word
on what’s allowed
within the borders of my days,
when You are He who’s
holding back the destruction
in every pain
You’re using to expose
a new place that needs
You are freeing me, Lord–
gently insisting that I trust You
enough to break this seal of fear
that’s held my heart down
in this paralyzed position for so long.
You’re calling me to open my fear-locked eyes
even when everything in me tells me
that I will die from what I have to see,
what I finally have to acknowledge is real.
I’ve always thought my real was just too wrong
to treat as anything more than a nightmare
You were planning to wake me up from any minute.
But, instead, You’re teaching me to face my life
in the conviction that You are holding both my hand
and my feeble heart.
I don’t want to do it, Lord;
but it’s what You have for me today.
Where do I have to run to
if I can’t be comfortable in Your arms?
“What am I to do with the people I’ve got around Me, Lord?” I wonder, feeling drained. “I feel like I haven’t been firm enough with them about what I’m interested in hearing from them and what I’m not. I need a boundary here–they can’t be constantly bringing me suggestions that I can’t use. If I wish they wouldn’t give them to me, I should do a little more to make that clear.
“The more clear I get about what You want for me, the more that has to translate into my demeanor in conversation. But, right now, Lord, I’m not doing that. I need so much help from You!”
You have a deep seated fear of arrogance and closing yourself off from people. You’re afraid of making a mistake you can’t undo. But you can’t live in service to that fear. I didn’t die to give you away to that fear. I intended to have you all to Myself.
So this is what you’re going to do: Let Me handle the consequences of you going all out in regard to what I have put on your heart. You don’t have to be apologetic–I do not need to be apologized for. And you’re moving based on what I’ve said, right?
That makes it quite simple. Whatever I’ve laid upon your heart is reliable. It’s from Me–so lean into it. “Sorry, I don’t believe that is something God has for me to pursue right now”–say this when the words of others would lead you in ways you can’t follow.
Yes, some of your listeners won’t live up to their name; their unbelief will shake your confidence in being belief-directed and not research-driven. That is okay. I’ve put you where you are and I’m not trying to find ways to get you out of where you are. You don’t have to move until I say so.
“Can you draw me into Your hideaway again, Lord?” I plead. “I don’t feel brave enough to meet the challenges that lie in wait for me today. I just want to enjoy the pleasure of being with You. I don’t think I’m cut out for anything besides resting at Your feet, hearing Your voice and knowing that You–and not I–am mighty and true.”
But, My Child, that is not all I want for you. I want you to be mighty in Me. I do not pour Myself into you merely to let you sit and be still. There are seasons and moments when you do, but this is only so that you can rise and stand and walk and run in all of the missions that I give you.
You can get up and go forward because the God who has always ministered to you while you waited in stillness before Him is the same One who has already gone before you, securing a victory for you that you need only trust Him enough to walk into. Is that so hard?
I have a dream…fearlessness. I know, it’s not one you hear of that often. But, recently it’s becoming something of a life-goal. I’m realizing that not taking ground in this area effectively makes me impotent in many other areas where I seek to experience growth.
Picture, with me for a moment, that you and I are trees. There are two types of tree we can be: The first is a well-tended tree that is full of thick sap (Faith) which nourishes its entire structure, making it able to boast a straight trunk, sinewy branches and healthy green leaves. The second tree is a sad sight. What good could have been done by faith has been negated by the outcropping of weeds (Worry) and vines (Fear) left uncontested.
I don’t know about you, but I’m determined to be that first tree. And I don’t need superhuman strength to do it, all that I’m going to lean on is that supernatural strength that raised Christ from the dead. Are you with me?
I don’t know about you, but hell is not one of my favorite things to discuss. There are far more appealing things that I would like to concentrate my head and heart on. Hell is sobering, at the very least, and absolutely terrifying, at the worst. I have spent considerable time in residence on either side of the spectrum. The one is definitely more pleasant than the other. That’s why I’m curious to know where you might be on that spectrum.
Hell is something that easily haunts us in our quieter moments–when this world and all its feverish activities are suddenly eclipsed by thoughts that revolve around a reality beyond what we know or can test. This wears down our confidence in what we think we know and makes us feel insecure in a world that does not offer us permanent residence.
Though it is not natural to have peace about hell, we do not need to forever be cowed by its implications for us. Hell does not have to be our destiny. We are truly all born with this as the default setting for our ultimate destination, but it is possible for this to be changed. Even though hell is not waiting for us to say “yes” to it, we can be free of this looming prospect if we will say “yes” to heaven.
You may think this sounds too simple for a solution to such a momentous predicament. But, though it is simple on our side, there is another side on which it was not so simple. You see, God is the One who has secured this solution for us. To do so, He put Himself at the mercy of what is our destiny apart from Him. He faced hell so we no longer have to. And He welcomes us to become a part of the victory that came from His suffering.
This involves recognizing God (Christ) as our all-important Savior. We admit that all our hopes and dreams are nothing if they are not fastened upon Him. We begin to see our hearts as tethers that must be tightly affixed to Him. When He is the One to whom we are secured, we need have no fear of ending up in any place but where He is. Because He rests in heaven, He will one day raise us to be with Him when our time on the earth is over.
Now, I have a question for you: When you think about life after earth, what is the primary thing you think about? Is it fear of hell or peace about heaven?
I’m going to go somewhere with you today that I don’t want to go. As much as I want to stall–avoiding a meaningful confrontation with my me-based fears–it is clear that I’ve used that option long enough. At this point, my fear is being quickly eclipsed by weighty frustration. I’m taunted by the question, “What are you doing?” Followed by, “And when will you get going with what you’re really supposed to be doing?”
God is ushering my heart into a confrontation of my tolerance of personal mediocrity. I’m not giving all of me to the life and calling God has given me. I’m holding something back; namely, the parts of me that I think aren’t good enough for persistent cultivation or public exposure. I have no problem giving my best when I feel my best–that I find very enjoyable.
What I don’t find so pleasant are days like this one when God urges me to give more than my feeling-driven best. He asks me to give what is my best in this moment, whether or not it happens to be on par with what I was able to offer yesterday or last week.
God compels me to adopt a new brand of thinking about achievement, one where faith is the ultimate thing that determines what I surrender to His use. I don’t have to be obsessed with giving from the fruit of my heart and mind only those things that I think will make for instant-successes. By God’s grace, it’s so much simpler: My obsession is to be trained on the One I give to rather than obsessing miserably over what He might be able to use.
It’s not my job to decide what God can use and what He can’t. My task is to give Him everything and let Him sort through it, adapting each of my strengths and weaknesses to the purposes He already has for me. If you have this same struggle, please join me in letting go of the control we want over what God does with us. Let us learn to humbly accept His rule over what we become regardless of what we presently are.
If you feel tension at the suggestion of approaching God on your own, you should know that your fears are legitimate, though not in the way you might think. The fears you have about something are closely tied to the perceptions you have of that thing or person. It is important to not ignore fear, even if it is for the sake of being more full of faith.
Fear, like any other emotion, is an important indicator of your heart. You must explore your heart to be set free from your fears and become fertile soil for the faith God wants to implant there.
Searching out the beliefs that motivate your fears can be very helpful in revealing what level agreement your heart has with the authority of Scripture. Because what you feel is legitimate does not mean that God is to be feared–does not mean you are reading Him accurately–it simply means that your beliefs have great weight.
You should take this as a reminder that you need to ensure that your beliefs are based upon unflinching truth. Your own experiences and your inclinations cannot solely dictate your concept of God’s character. If you want to know the real God and be sure you’re relating to Him appropriately, invite Him to teach you about Himself in His Word.
When what He says and proves to you about Himself begins to take over your heart and your beliefs, fear will become less and less a factor of your associations with God. You will want to be with Him and to let nothing hold you back from being more immersed in His love. You will recognize fear as the fruit of disingenuous knowledge and you will run to the One who can set your heart straight.
When is the last time you were able to say “no” with a clear conscience? If you’re like me, my question strikes you as ridiculous: Who can possibly say “no” and feel no guilt? Surely it is only natural that doubts about ourselves and our decision will always go along with declining a request or choosing to not serve the community in some way. Saying “no” has an almost insurmountable stigma to it. We don’t say it unless we absolutely have to and then, only with a properly-prepared excuse we hope will soften the blow.
Some of us, who feel we have to say “no” often, become very good at making comforting, acceptable excuses. We never let the people to whom we must deliver the dreaded word think we do not utter it without palpable pain and utter recourse. We believe it is an honor to never let anyone down. What we don’t realize is that we make people our god when we do this. We let them indirectly determine the type of lives we live. We are at the mercy of whatever need or event which should come up for all our days.
As difficult as it is, I have been learning to say “no.” But not just “no” when it’s squeezed out of me by circumstances I can’t control. I’m going so far as to choose “no” as my answer when I deem responsibly handling the matter before me to warrant such action. I still struggle with the idea of what people will think of me–how they might even doubt my godliness if I am too forward in how I stewardship the life God’s given me–but I am disposed to move forward anyway. I have been caged by the fear of others for far too long. It may take me a long time to win a complete victory over these false concerns of my heart, but God is calling me to obedience in this area and is giving me the grace to give it to Him.
If you can identify with my confession and the calling I feel to no longer let fear of men undermine my fear of God, let me encourage you to take a moment right now to celebrate. Neither one of us would choose this transformation for ourselves. If God did not intervene, questioning so kindly the way we live our lives, we would not change. But He has chosen liberty on our behalf; He has offered to be our burden-bearer and the One to teach us how to cast our every burden onto Him. He’s got this whole process in His hands. We just get to submit and watch Him work. What a joy! Because of His grace, we will learn to say “no” as liberally as necessary so that we can say “Yes!” most wholeheartedly to the things He has specifically called us to invest our lives in.