Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It may be a slow and painful process...

So don't run away.

Because God's will for our lives is not always the easy road. In fact it's probably almost always a trying path. It's hard to understand in the moment why it has to be that way. But I can hardly think of an example where trials weren't crucial to growth or someone lived without any sorrows ever touching their lives. These things are important. Not because God doesn't love us or wants us to suffer. They're important because they help us understand him and his love for us.

I'm trying to balance two concepts that hold equal ground in my mind.

The first is God's love for us. It's HUGE. God says that he will give us the desires of our hearts. He wants to give us joy and peace in him. He loves us as his children. If you know anything about parental love you know how passionate that love can be...and God's is even bigger. I know God has plans for me and wants me to be happy. I know that God isn't trying to cause me pain. I know that whatever is in store for me, he took my own desires into mind. Some of my desires may even be God given.

But then there's this other concept. My life is not my own. I owe it to Him. All of it. He bought it at a price. Even if that meant giving up something I thought would make me happy, or even if it meant giving up my life...that shouldn't matter. Because I owe him that much and more. It would be selfish of me to give anything less that what he desired for my life.

So how do I balance my desires and His desires?

I've been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.

(First of all I love that we spell our names the same.)

I've been tearing through it, because the theme is just that: putting God's desires over your own.

Ir's encouraging because it's challenging. She talks about this girl who thinks God is going to give her a rich man to marry. She asks the girl 'What if God wants you to marry a poor man?" and the girl insists that God wouldn't do that because he loves her and that's not what she wants. "But what if this poor man wants a beautiful woman and God promised her to him?" Did she want God's choices or her own? She claimed she wanted Gods but this is how it came out:

Jane: "I've prayed for His will and I've prayed for a rich, handsome husband, and that's what I'm going to get, because Jesus loves me and Jesus wants me t be happy."

Elisabeth: "So if you don't get him, will that prove God doesn't love you?

Jane: "Doesn't he want me to be happy???"

Elisabeth writes: The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness then decide, if we don't get exactly that, that God doesn't love us. We slither into a slough of God-hates-me-self-pity.

So in reality this isn't something I fear. The point is that we should not be so convinced that our own desires are right that we miss God or blame him when we don't get what we want.

But I take encouragment when from her whole story.

When she first met her husband Jim Elliot, she knew immediately he was the kind of man she wanted to marry. And she found she had strong desires in her heart. "I was wishing that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there."

That's kind of where I find myself. I have some very strong desires in my heart. And I'm hoping that they're also Gods. And if not I'm not hoping to change his mind, but I am hoping that these desires go away. But they aren't going away...

So does that mean it's me? Or is it God?

It doesn't matter. If I am tuned into Him then I will find peace and trust him.

"....Have no anxiety. but in everything make your requests known to God...." - Philippians 4:6

I remember that it's okay to talk to God and tell him my true feelings. He's not offended by me having them. He knows them anyway, and he can also see my desire to find his desires even at the risk that they are not my own.

"I will teach you, and guide you in the way you should go.
I will keep you under my eye.
Do not behave like horse or mule, unreasoning creatures, whose course must be checked with bit and bridle.
Many are the torments of the ungodly;
but unfailing love enfolds him who trusts in the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad..."

It's an attitude. I refuse to be stubborn. If God tells me to follow him somewhere unexpected...then off I'll go. I trust him to guide my way. I don't fear my own desires. If they are wrong I know I'll accept that because I put my trust in God. And I also know that it is possible they aren't just me. And it's okay for me to think that, because I won't let it blind me.

It seems like everything good, comes at a cost. And maybe that's just because we appreciate it more after all the sweat and tears. So I am very going to expect easy.

After reading all this stuff about giving up my desires for Gods I was finding myself discouraged. But then I read this:

"A settled commitment to the Lord Christ and a longed-for commitment to Jim Elliot seemed to be in conflict. Discipleship usually brings us into the necessity of choice between duty and desire. They are not always mutually exclusive, however. When are hearts are set on obedience, we can be sure of the needed wisdom to tell the difference between a conflict and a harmony. It may be a slow and painful process." - Passion and Purity

I haven't gotten much farther than this point but I already know that her and her husband Jim spend years apart communicating mostly through letters, only to end up together and married in the end. But she had to give him up awhile...or at least put him off to make sure her heart was following Gods desires and not her own.

But I find encouragement in this fact. Yes. I need to put God's desires actively above my own. And that could mean letting go of my desires. Sure. I'll be ready and prepared for that and make sure that I'm not just set on something. Rather I'll be growing and praying and seeking God's will for my life. I'm ready for that and I don't doubt I'll find peace with the outcome.

However, I don't think God wants me to have an attitude of martyrdom. I don't think He wants me to assume everything I desire is bad. Just because I desire it, doesn't make its God's will. But just because I desire it doesn't automatically mean it's wrong and selfish either. The point is to test it. Find out if it conflicts with God's desires or if it is in harmony with His desires for you.

I find myself encouraged and optimistic remembering that my desires at least CAN BE in harmony with Gods. If I remain open to his will and find those desires unchanged...that may be okay. Because being in God's will isn't about sacrifice alone, but also joy and fulfillment of his will and plan. And if I'm in tune with him, I'll find joy and peace in whatever His will is. Desire the same things.


I am encouraged. I am optimistic. Things are difficult right now because my desires are not readily avaliable...right within my grasp. But it's good to know that those desires are not necessarily wrong. But rather submitting them to God is a painful process. It could end in something unexpected, or it could be delayed gratitification.

I insist upon being ready for EITHER. Not giving up on one or the other.

Don't give up.

God's will could be something different than your desires.
God's will might be exactly what you desire.

Both are okay. Don't let go of either.

In the meantime realize that you have to submit those desires to him and wait. It's a painful process. You don't really truly know the outcome. But find joy and optimism in knowing if you submit them to him, you'll be happy with the outcome.


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