Are You Giving UP?

 

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I was talking with a friend lately about how it feels like for the past 5+ years God has asked me to give up A LOT!

Sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is giving up people, things, hopes, and dreams…

Sometimes it has felt unbearable and sometimes it has been relatively easy.

Sometimes the outcome has been good right from the start and other times…well, I’m still waiting to see the good.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I don’t doubt it will come…eventually.  I understand that sometimes the good isn’t something I’ll be able to see, feel, touch, or even understand.  The good is going to have to be something I trust will happen because I trust God.

But I have to be honest and say that on one hand I’m tired of giving up things and on the other hand I kinda just wanna give up.

Even as I write that…I don’t think I really mean it.  I definitely have those “Good grief!  I give up!” or “Lord, I just can’t take this anymore, please please make it better…I feel like giving up.” Or “God, I trust you.  I’m giving this up to you.”  The last one would be the best one to utter most definitely.

So when I feel like giving up, how do I give my stuff UP to God?

How do I actively trust God enough to not only give up something, but give UP the resulting pain and sorrow and disappointment?

Do you know what I mean?

What does giving Up my stuff to God look like?

I tend to give my things to God and then asking for them back.

God I trust you with my kids, but…

God you can have my finances, but…

God I understand your commands, but…

God I know you’re there to listen, but…

God, I need your grace, but…

God I believe you have a plan, but…

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Am I the only one who takes everything back and heaps it onto my own back again and again and again?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Honest to goodness, I have no idea why I take stuff back.  It doesn’t make sense…really.  I know that God’s plan is best.  I know that His way is best.  I know that His timing is best.  I know that His care is best.

I know that He is the best at carrying my burden…and yet, I take it back.  As if…

As if, I have all the answers.

As if, I have all the power and strength.

As if, I have all the energy.

As If, I can do all things.

As if, I know what the heck I’m doing.

It really is a matter of trust.  Do I trust God to handle my life?  My emotions?  My future?  My children?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Has God called me to do the impossible?  To continue to give up and give UP when not much makes sense…to continue to trust Him when I can’t see the good…yet?

No, He has not.

God says I can do all things…all the things He has called me to do (and not to do).

So if God has called me to give up some things and to give some things UP…then He is going to enable me to do it.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Reading that verse made me ask, “Why does Christ give me strength?”

That’s one of those questions that seems easy at first and then as I consider it, definitely not.

Maybe it is a simple answer.  Because we need it.

Because He knows we need it.

Because we are weak.

Because we are burdened.

Because we carry grief and sorrow and pain.

Because He understands the giving up and the giving UP…because He gave up an awful lot for me…for us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form Of God,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

but made himself nothing, taking the

Form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

 

In comparison, I have not given up much.  It feels like very much…very, very much…but I cannot forget that I have also been given very, very much.

God might ask for things, but He is exceedingly generous in things too.

And some of that generosity is that He is willing to show us His love and care by taking things…things we more than willingly would give Him.

All this sorrow, grief, pain, suffering, frustration, fear, and just plain aggravation…all that yuck, God says He’ll take it.  He’ll handle it.  I don’t have to.

I don’t exactly know how to get rid of it…I mean really.  I keep giving it to God but grief has a funny way of coming back into my life uninvited.

God, how do I make grief go away?

Can I?

Is this grief, this sorrow, my cross to bear?  And, if so, how do I do it without letting it define me.  How do I carry it, without it becoming unbearable?  How do I even begin to have new adventures when the pain

of the past and even the present lies so heavily on me?

I don’t exactly have the answer, I mean I know the answer, but it isn’t an easy ten step plan.

I believe it is in Christ’s strength.  I believe it is in a constant recognition that I need Him. Desperately.

He is everything.  He will help me.  He says He will.  He says He will carry the burden with me.  I don’t have to do this alone.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.  Psalm 119:50

The yoke He speaks of in Matthew 11 – His yoke…how does that work?  How is it easier and lighter?  And how do I give up my stuff and take His yoke?  I can barely lift my stuff off my shoulders.

God brought me to these verses – I just know it – to remind me of the gospel.  I believe those verses are about the gospel.  Honestly, I’m seeing that all of God’s word is about the gospel.

The rest Christ promises is from all the things we do to make things better…to make us better.

John MacArthur says it like this, “Rest speaks of a permanent respite in the grace of God completely apart from works.”

I think what I’m seeing is God’s answer is the gospel.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,

it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 

which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10

God has done it all and He is doing it all.  I’m just blessed to be part of the plan.

The gospel is all about what Christ has done…not what I’ve done or do or will do.  Thank goodness!

I can’t fix things here.  I’ve tried.  No luck.

I can’t even “fix” me.

And I certainly can’t “fix” anyone else.

So what can I do?  I can rest in God’s grace.

I can know without a doubt that I’m saved…that I’m loved…that I’m cherished, precious, chosen, beloved, strengthened, protected, secure, never alone, and never forsaken by the One who knows me best.

Whatever the sorrow or pain you bear, He will bear it with you.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.  Psalm 91:14-16

 When you just feel like giving up, remember the great love God has for you.  Immerse yourself in His word.

 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!  Psalm 119:28

When you just can’t bear the thought of giving up anything or anyone else, know that He is enough to fill the void…He will take the empty place and make it full again.  He will.  It might not look like you thought or even like you want it to, but He knows best.  Trust.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth

of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:8

Can I be brave and give you an example from my life?  Well, it’s not like I don’t blather it all to y’all anyway…but here goes…

I would love to get married again…to be a helpmate to a godly man.  I would love to have the opportunity to love again within the covenant of marriage…deeply, richly, passionately.

And it seems like God keeps asking me to give that hope up to Him…lately, it has been painful to think about and I want to “fix” my situation…

and at the same time I’m afraid of feeling all the pain of betrayal again.  I can’t bear the thought of it.

But I’m willing to be brave if God opens the door.  If God allows it.  I trust Him.

So one night I decided that I would do what I used to…spend my time with Jesus.  Instead being poor pitiful Sue, I’m putting my face in His word as often as I need to in order to adjust my attitude, comfort my

heart, bring peace to my thoughts, or remind myself of His love for me.    (And He’s even blessing me with the groundwork for a 2nd book that I’m prayerfully starting!)

And it’s working!  It is helping me so very much.  I’m remembering how God got me through 5 years ago…how He comforted and quieted my heart with His word.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 131

He’s doing that again.  He’s reminding me that He is worthy of my praise – He is worthy of my trust.

I can have hope because God is my hope.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…  Psalm 130:5

God has indeed asked me to give up much.  He has asked me to trust Him with the giving up.  And He has asked me to give UP some things to Him – to entrust Him with some things I hold very dear.

It isn’t easy, but I’m willing.  I’m willing because I know that His ways are ALWAYS best.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

God allows difficult things to happen in our lives because He knows that through those things we will know and we will show that He is trustworthy.  He knows beforehand that He is going to equip us to walk

through whatever path He lays before us.  He knows beforehand that He is going to give us the strength we need to do what He has called me to do…to fulfill His purpose for us.

His purpose for me right now is to walk a path that is a bit rocky…but He hasn’t asked me to do something that He hasn’t prepared me to do.  He’s prepared me and is equipping me to live where He has me.

And He has done the same for you.

And we can certainly thank God , no matter how sad and sorrowful, no matter how angry and frustrated, no matter how disappointed and grumpy we are, He will NEVER give up on us.

What does God have for us?

photo (6)I’m trying to get papers filed.  Trying being the optimum word.  One of my best friends says, “The difference between trying and doing is actually getting something done.”  I don’t think I quoted that exactly, but you get the idea.

I’ve gotten a lot done, but sometimes I feel like I just shuffle things around.  Usually when I’m organizing I feel like I’m just moving things from one floor or room of my house to another.  I’m working on it though.  I really am.

So, I decided I was going to go through a bunch of boxes and get some order back.  And I found a plastic box full of pages I’d ripped out of magazines – mostly Country Living.  Pictures of rooms, furniture, arrangements, and anything else I loved.  I think I’d planned on making a binder of my favorite things because I found page protectors in the box as well.  Sounds like a good project for one of my creative kids :)!

Looking at all the pictures brought a smile to my face.  I enjoy dreaming about, looking forward to and planning for the future.  Imagining wonderful things.

Recently I was sharing with a friend how when I found out about my husband’s affair and knew the potential of him leaving, I imagined what our life would be like if we reconciled.  I thought about how our relationship could be better than ever, how our love could be stronger, and how we could have a vital ministry to others who were struggling. When reconciliation didn’t happen, God refined my vision.

Now I look forward to what God is going to do in my life in a different way.  I look forward to what God is going to do in the lives of my children.  I have great hopes and dreams for us all!

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”  – William Carey

I think it is part of the forgetting what lies behind and straining towards what is ahead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:12-14

Catching the vision of what God has for us.

What does God have for us?

Whatever it is, God uses some interesting words to describe our journey to get it.

Pressing and straining.

Pressing.  During my brief running career a few years ago, I recall at the beginning of my “training” (it is in quotes because I didn’t really train well – hence the brevity of my running career) I would run increasingly longer distances but always the first mile or so was absolute torture and the final ½ mile would seem like slogging through mud.  During both of those times I’d have to keep my focus ahead and press with my whole body to move forward.  It was a pressing of feet on pavement, a pressing of body into the momentum forward, a pressing of breath in and out…pressing onward…

Straining.  That one isn’t difficult to imagine – especially with my running analogy.  There was always an element of straining…and panting, plodding, trudging, and wooziness…I’m not a good runner (especially with the broken foot!)

In thinking about pressing and straining in my walking (or running) out my faith, I believe having a vision is helpful.

When I have something to strive for, I do better.  Although with running I don’t need a stop sign or a set tree to run to – in fact, I’d prefer not to have a visual because sometimes I just feel like I’ll NEVER get there.  But if I have a vision of the end, then I enjoy running more.  I imagine how I’ll feel at the end, the sense of accomplishment, the joy of being done!

I think I might be a little bit like that in my spiritual life as well.

I don’t need to actually see where I’m going…

Hey! That sounds a little like faith!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

I think what I need is a very clear vision of what I have to look forward to…and that gets me back to the question, “What does God have for us?”

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…”  Hebrews 9:15

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.   John 14:1-3

And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life.  1 John 2:25

Thinking about eternal life is all well in good.  But does eternal life necessarily mean good life?

I say, “YES!”  A whole-hearted yes!

I believe eternal life is all things wonderful!  John describes it like this:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:3-4

 I don’t imagine heaven is a place of clouds, harps, and wings.  I believe heaven is very much like what we are familiar with in terms of earth – He does refer to it as the new heaven and the new earth.  I tell my kids we will get to enjoy all the wonderful things this earth has to offer but it will be perfect! No fear, no worries, no violence, no pain.  What’s not to like about that!?

Recognizing what I have to look forward to helps me press on through sorrow, pain, trouble, challenges, and even things that are pretty good by this world’s standards to strive to live a life of peace, joy and service here.

“When the Bible speaks of the new heaven and the new earth, it is not speaking of an alternative to this world; it is speaking of the healing and restoration of this world. This gives Christians a reason to participate in restoring this fallen world. Furthermore, because Christians know that there is a perfect world coming, they don’t put all their hope in the current world. Christians can sacrificially serve others because they value the things of the coming world more than the things of this world.”  – Tim Keller

And the most important part of heaven is Jesus.

Oh my goodness!  Epiphany!  The vision – the goal, the hope, the joy, the thing to look forward to is JESUS!

 “There will be little else we shall want of heaven besides Jesus Christ.  He will be our bread, our food, our beauty, and our glorious dress.  The atmosphere of heaven will be Christ; everything in heaven will be Christ-like: yes, Christ is the heaven of His people.  – C.H. Spurgeon

 I guess there is something…I mean Someone I want to keep as my focus, my focal point as I run this faith race.

“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.” 

– C.S. Lewis

I pray as we all run this race we will keep our eyes on the prize, on Jesus.

So the answer to the question, “What does God have for us?” is JESUS.

What’s Your Choice?

basketball

This past weekend my youngest daughters started playing basketball with a local Christian program.  It’s such fun to see them playing.  They’ve never played before and at times it looked like a cross between football, soccer, rugby, and wrestling.  I was laughing a lot.  But another feeling crept in as I sat in that gymnasium. I was overcome with feelings of sorrow for what I have lost…what my children have lost.

Families came in together.  Fathers and mothers with little lines of children walked through the doors one after the other. I saw interaction I’ve missed.  I saw affection, unity, and love between parents.  I saw married couples coaching together and parents parenting together.

It brought back feelings of disbelief again.

How in the world did my life happen?

I never imagined when I walked down the aisle to my husband that life would be anything but love for a lifetime, raising our children to love the Lord, and serving Him together.  Together.

Sitting together watching the rugby match…I mean basketball practice…enjoying our children’s activities together.

How is our family not together?

There are still days when I can’t believe this is the life my God has allowed for my children.  When those thoughts land heavily on my mind and heart, I, over and over again, endeavor to take them captive.  (I wish I could think of a good basketball analogy for this…but alas, I cannot…just…too…tired…)

Today I’m working on it.  I’m taking them captive again…and again and again.

God brought me to Psalm 145 and showed me some things:

  • I will not get the answers here…at least not all of them, but my God is greater than the answers I seek and I know I can trust Him.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.  (v. 3)

  • There are always wonderful things about God’s faithfulness I can share with my children and others (like you!).  I’m paying attention to the blessings.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. (v. 4-5)

  •  This verse seems rather self-explanatory

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The LORD is good to all and his mercy is over all that he has made. (vs. 8-9)

  • My Lord is faithful.

The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. (v.13b)

  • My Father will hold me through this trial.

The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. (v. 14)

  • My God will provide all I need.

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (v.16)

  • My Lord is with me and He is good!

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.  The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:17-18

  • My Savior will do this life with me…there is togetherness with God.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (v. 18)

  • My Lord will save and preserve me.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. (vs. 19-20)

Throughout my life, I’ve had to continually remind myself of my God and His great love for me.

Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by this world…it is NOT my home.  (Thankfully!!!!)

So much is not how I imagined it would be when I was little and looking forward to being a wife and mother.  It’s not how I imagined it would be when I said “yes” to my kneeling husband.  It’s not how I imagined it would be when I held each of my dear children for the 1st time.  At no point did I imagine this life for me or my children…or my ex-husband for that matter.

This life is just unimaginable.

But it is my life…so I don’t have to imagine it anyway.  I just have to live it.  Just get on the court and play ball.  (There it is…I knew I had one basketball reference in me!)

How do I do that?

How do I live this life in a way that doesn’t ache constantly?  I haven’t quite figured that out yet.  God is showing me.

I will say that when I’m in the Word and praying…the ache is barely noticeable.

It’s the same lesson I learn over and over and over and over (how many overs can I write to convey how often I “learn” this lesson…oh that I would actually learn it).

That lesson…focus on Christ not my circumstances.

Choose to be overwhelmed by life or by Christ.

Well…today right now…I’m making a choice.  Things might still hurt at times.  Sorrow might surprise me with a visit at the most inopportune times.  Disappointment might descend when I’m trying to find the good in this life.  Challenges might chase me down each and every day…BUT…

Today…today…I’m choosing Christ.