“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
This is a pretty sweet promise that has been coming back to my mind every time it goes from being at rest one moment, and in the next begins to think “But, God…”
Until now I don’t know that I have ever repeatedly given something back to God so many times before in my life. So, until now I guess I never really knew what full surrender feels like. And it feels like a lot when one of the things I want the most is the very thing God asks me to place at His feet. At a certain point, holding onto my own desires stopped being an option because I realized that gets me nowhere. The key part of this journey is that God has not only given me the strength to surrender what I want for myself, but also the desire to do so in the first place. And He truly has kept me at perfect peace in the process.
“Make a map of my desires; all roads lead to You.” -Jillian Edwards
As I’ve become more aware of the desires of my own heart, finding the balance between wanting fulfillment of those desires and wanting Christ has been a struggle and a constant prayer request. For awhile I wrestled with understanding that it’s okay to want things in life that aren’t God Himself.. a degree, a stable job, a relationship, a family, a home (preferably by the beach). For awhile I shoved them away and denied myself the ability to want them because I was unsure of the extent to which I was “allowed” to want them. I figured that if I didn’t already have them, clearly I shouldn’t want them because God gives us everything we need, right? I thought it was “automatic idolatry” or something because I didn’t know how to not want any of those things more than I want Jesus. I was afraid to even let myself go there and find out because I thought that they would immediately consume me. I quickly learned, however, that ignoring them is not the remedy. I learned to instead invite Jesus to be part of them, acknowledging that He knows they’re there, that they’re from Him, and that there is a time and a place for each one.
So, then my most fervent prayer became “God, help me to want you more than I want anything else.” And in my naivety I forgot that when God answers prayers like this, it’s not a quick fix; He leads us through the valley; He walks with us through the process. And it is definitely a process involving obedience on our part. He brought just the right circumstances to teach me exactly what I wanted to learn (and then maybe temporarily forgot that I wanted to learn during the process because it was so frustrating).
This isn’t the first time God’s teaching method was to keep me in a constant state of not knowing. And not only not knowing, but also not knowing how long I won’t know. That was the part that bothered me the most. If that makes any sense. It’s kind of comical. There came a point when I realized I’m helpless; that there’s not a single thing I can do except WAIT on the Lord to reveal what He wants when He wants. And I realize I’m being pretty vague here, but the details around all of this don’t matter as much as the lesson itself, and that is the part I want to highlight. By the way, I think this theme of “the unknown” has been a reoccurring one in my posts. It’s just a constant theme in life in general, and always will be. It amazes me how creative God gets with it, too, because I feel like I’ve learned how He wants me to deal with and approach different aspects of an unknown future in so many ways. There’s always a different lesson and always something new to learn, but all of it ends up pointing back to the same command to not worry about the future.
Anyway, I prayed and prayed for specific answers that I thought would benefit me at this point in my life, but the only one I got was the very one I didn’t want: “not yet”. While I kept asking Him for the answers that I wanted, I also continued to ask that He would make Himself my greatest desire in the midst of it, and that’s exactly what He did.
It took me awhile to realize that in denying me one of the things I was asking for, He was also giving me the other: more of Him. He taught my heart to be content with Him as my answer.
He taught me to be obedient and to actually want to do what He was asking of me: to repeatedly give back to Him the desires of my heart, not knowing what will come of them.
He gave me the ability to make surrender a habit during this particular waiting season, something which I seriously doubted would ever be possible for me. And it wouldn’t have, had He not helped.
He let me taste the fruit of obedience as well because I found myself being strangely at peace with my circumstances, to the point where I was thinking “I should be upset right now.” And I would have been, but He was gracious.
Every time God teaches me something new I am reminded that 1) there still is (and always will be) much work to be done in my heart, and 2) that I serve a God who is worth giving everything to. That’s another thing He wants me to believe with my whole heart. I want to stop doubting. In my selfishness I so easily forget that He is worth literally everything I am and have. I’m nothing without Him, and I want to believe that. Even saying that right now I know it to be true in my head, but I’m honestly not sure if I believe it in my heart. If I did I feel like learning to surrender wouldn’t be such a difficult (and not to mention frequent) lesson! But God is gracious and relentless and patient. He continues to pursue me and teach me, even if He is teaching me the same thing over and over again.
On that note, here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs ever by one of my favorite bands ever:
Shepherd of My Soul by Rivers & Robots
“Lord of the mountains and sea
You are treading a path set for me
God of the seasons and sky
You have always been holding my life
And Lord, You are the shepherd of my soul
So I lay down my plans, I give up my rights
And let You take control of this surrendered life
So I put my trust in the one
Who created the stars and the sun
You are eternally kind
Always faithful and endlessly wise
You comfort, You sustain
In shaking You remain
Unmoved and unafraid
Forever and always
You lead me by still waters
Lead me through the valleys
Lead me in Your wisdom
Shepherd of my soul
Through valleys of shadow and death I am not afraid
By my Father’s breath every star in the sky was made
And who can I fear when You’re standing right here by my side?
Always leading, protecting and guarding my left and my right
Father You make all things new
Great God of creation
Father You will always be my rock and salvation”