The Christian life is not a smooth journey. While we have the perfect Spirit living in us and the infallible Word to guide us, we are still fallible beings, living in a fallen world, susceptible to constant attacks by one who wants us to fail and bring shame to the One we serve.
That’s a long sentence to say life is messy. We don’t always get it right.
I was twenty-five years old, had overseas experience under my belt, and was studying in seminary. To most, I was the ideal young adult Christ follower. To me, I was a mess. I drove home for summer break unable to reconcile all I was feeling and thinking. I was desperately in love with a man who was everything I’d ever dreamed of: he was godly, served the Lord with his whole heart, wanted to serve among Muslims, had very high standards, and was even handsome and charming.
Why could he not see that I was God’s match for him?
At this point, he wasn’t seeing it, and I was hurting. What did God’s will for me mean, if I couldn’t reconcile what was happening in this relationship? I knew I was called to serve overseas, but this turmoil of soul was making me doubt my return to seminary.
Then I realized it. God had some lessons I needed to learn, before I could move forward in following His call. It wasn’t just about my relationship with Raouf; there was more.
- My parents were selling my childhood home. I was returning to help them pack and move to a place that meant nothing to me. There were no memories there. I was losing my past with a sold sign.
- Giving up that home symbolized to me the sacrifice of past relationships. To move forward would be to leave behind relationships, good and bad, submitting to God alone.
- That forced separation of time also taught me that I had to be willing to give up my relationship with Raouf, even if I knew he was the one for me. My first commitment was to God’s will, but I had allowed my emotions and feelings for a man cause me to doubt God’s call. That could not be.
I attended a Bible study at my home church that next week led by Dr. Robert Carlton. He was talking about characteristics of one who is justified, with faith and obedience being the main ones. Then he read Romans 5:3-5, which says:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
God allows suffering in our lives to develop further attributes that lead to hope. I realized that I needed to be willing to give up everything that provided security (home, relationships, marriage) in order to rest secure in Christ alone.
Elisabeth Elliott wrote, remembering the words of Ruth Stull of Peru:
If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.*
In those weeks away, I gave up these things, but mostly giving up pride. Self was and always will be my greatest hindrance to full obedience to God’s will. It’s a daily surrender, yet it’s the one which helps all other things to be surrendered so much more willingly.
What is God asking you to give up today in order to allow him to work his will in and through you? Give up. Allow suffering to refine your heart, soul and mind, and then watch hope bloom — to His glory.
Grace and Peace
Elliott, Elisabeth. Passion and Purity. USA: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984. p. 39.
Photo credit: David J Brown, 2014. https://moretocome.net/2014/12/07/a-revolting-development/. Our house is the grey one on the right.
P.S. It’s funny that I couldn’t find a good picture of our family home, so I had to search for one. Even funnier that I found one my brother had taken for his blog five years ago. We were too busy living in that house to take picture of it!
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