the ties that bind.

I’m not joking when I tell you that it has rained literally every day since I’ve been home from New York City.  On the day we all flew out, the weather was terrible and most of our flights got delayed — we decided to take it as a sign that New York was just as sad as we were to see us go.  Maybe North Carolina is just as sad to see me return?  I’m not sure, but while it should all be seemingly funny, the reality is that this past week has not been an easy one.

When the end of project was approaching, I would constantly go back and forth between these two stages of “I’m going to miss these people so much” and “I can’t wait to get back home.”  And I guess now that I’m back, I just keep asking myself why I was so anxious to return because this week has been more anti-climactic and more frustrating than I would even care to explain.  I keep experiencing these moments where I thought I knew what God was doing and I thought I knew where He was going with all of these different pieces of my life… only to come back and realize that I actually have no idea what He’s doing in these various situations — and whatever it is, it’s not a quick fix.

All I know is that God has captivated my heart so much that the idea of trying to handle anything apart from His counsel is completely out of the question.  Sometimes I just want to say to God, “You are capable of ALL things; why can’t you just make this one thing work in my favor?”  From my perspective, it all seems so simple.  But what I often tend to forget, and what I’m so grateful that my church’s current series has reminded me of, is that the God of the Bible has always been strong-willed — and He has never been willing to let His children settle for less than His best for them.

This current series studies the book of 1 Kings, which tells the story of the prophet Elijah.  In studying chapters 17-19, J.D. Greear continues to point out that God is working through Elijah both in the big-picture view and within Elijah’s own heart.  At the beginning of chapter 17, God puts Elijah in a position where he literally has no other choice but to depend on the Lord for everything he needs; Elijah is in hiding, and he can’t do anything for himself — the Lord provides everything he needs.  God had to do this because He had to make Elijah fully dependent on Him; He was preparing Elijah for a battle that he was to face later in the book of 1 Kings, and He used this opportunity to teach Elijah to depend on Him so that when the time of battle came, Elijah would already know that his strength would come from the Lord and not from any of his own abilities.

While on project, I would meet with one of my leaders each week to talk about how things were going as well as to have bible study on a more personal level.  One day we were talking about the things that I feel are hardest to hand over to God, and as we continued to discuss the things that I struggled with the most, my leader said, “Do you feel like the responsibility rests solely on you for things to work out?”  Even though I had never thought of it that way before, she was absolutely right.  If I were to be completely honest, I often do believe that I can control a lot of what happens to me by the way I handle things with other people — and I never thought of that as something that gets in the way of my relationship with God, but it does.

Just like Elijah, God may be teaching me to depend on Him now so that when greater storms come, I’ll be prepared.  But maybe more than any of that, God is trying to show me that He is better than anything that He will ever give me.  When I said in my last post that I knew I wanted the weight of my life to be in God’s plan, I meant it.  But in order for me to truly live by that principle, I have to remember that my God is the same God that prepared Elijah for battle by breaking him and forcing him to be dependent.  He’s the same God that, later in 1 Kings (17:17), when a widow’s son dies and she asks if it’s because of her sins, God knows that’s not the case — because what God knew that the woman didn’t is that His Son would come and die for her sins.  He’s the same God that forsook Jesus so that the entire world would be saved.  And none of those things in their present moments seemed beneficial or happy or even worthwhile, but God had extraordinary purpose in all of them — in both the big-picture view and within people’s hearts.

Obviously I’m not the only person who has ever looked at the situation God has put me in and said, “Seriously? Why, if You can do anything I ask of you, do I have to be here?”  And the more I pray about this, I’m starting to realize that yes, God could give me what I’m asking for — but if that’s less than His best for me, if it falls short of His plan, if it entails a battle that He hasn’t yet prepared me for — why would He do that?  Ever since the time that I’ve truly began to understand the gospel, I’ve seen God continue to test my faith and then bless me.  A lot of times, it feels like the tests get harder… but the blessings become greater.  It’s hard to be used as a vessel, especially when it requires things like dependency and weakness, but if we want to see the unlimited power of God’s work in our lives then it’s what we have to do.  So in weeks like this one, there are a lot of things that I don’t know about my life or what’s going to happen.  But I believe that God is who He says He is — and if that is true, then there are surely far greater things ahead.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

-Romans 12:12

 

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