I’ve mentioned how I’ve been struggling lately. Many things going on in my head, yet too unprocessed to speak or write—obviously a very difficult state for a writer (and talker) to be in. But tonight I was able to talk to a lovely friend who is oh-so-good at drawing me out and making me talk, in a healthy way, about what’s going on so I can sort it out and process it.
And as we talked, our conversation grew a little philosophical, as it tends to be, and we began discussing how hard it was to know what the right thing to do.
(I should like to disclaim, before I go on further—I am not very old, I am not very wise, I am not very good at expressing my inmost thoughts, and I am not extremely versed in the Scriptures. These thoughts are my own imperfect, halting thoughts that I found encouraging, and I felt led to share them in case they could encourage another, but I do not claim them to be faultless or perfectly true. Go to the Word of God for the Truth and weigh these words against them.)
Now perhaps you’re like me, and obsess over whether or not you’re doing the right thing. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spend 90% of my time worrying about whether or not I should have done almost everything I do—even insignificant things like forgetting to open a door for someone. I’m really a pro at remembering my mistakes and feeling extreme guilt. But I digress. The point in question was, how much young Christians tend to obsess over whether or not they should feel or act a certain way. For instance, should or should you not pray for your future spouse (act)? There are so many sound opinions on both sides. Or, should you indulge in a certain dream, or should you stifle it in case it becomes an idol (feeling)? Again, there are worthy voices on each side.
And as we discussed the matter, I began to think how maybe there was such a thing as actually obsessing over one’s goodness—where you were so worried about doing the right thing that you lost many opportunities to do what you were actually supposed to do because you were too scared to mess up, or too busy trying to figure out if you did wrong ten minutes ago. It becomes a point where you serve out of fear of missing out because of messing up, instead of serving out of love.
I began to wonder if maybe it were wiser instead to simply surrender the situation to the Lord—a quick prayer: I don’t know how to act or feel here. Show me what to do—help me do the right thing. After all, it can’t hurt; it can only help.
(Of course, that—and the following—isn’t exactly what either of us said, but it’s close enough to what we meant.)
So I mentioned to my friend, “After all, we know God knows how we can’t figure it out, and He’s got it all figured out, and I don’t think He expects us to figure it all out ourselves. I think He understands when we don’t know quite the right thing to do but simply conscientiously try to do what seems best.”
And my friend answered, “I think we tend to forget how big God is. Our vision is so narrow and we tend to think so small, that we forget there’s the bigger picture, and we don’t grasp His magnitude.”
And presently, together, we said something like this.
“I think that we as Christians tend to forget how much it’s not about us and how much it’s about Him. We feel like He saves us and then we have to live good lives in gratitude or in repayment. When, really, it’s not about us and what we do for Him; it’s about what He can do in us. It’s not about what we give Him, it’s about how much He can fill us and use us. By which we mean, it’s not about us in our own flesh—trying to figure it out, to be strong enough, to be good enough, wise enough, loving enough. It’s about how much we surrender to Him and let Him be the strong One, the wise One, the good One, the One who’s worked it all out.”
And she quoted a sermon she’d heard about John 13, when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet—how it’s so often seen as a passage on humility, which it is, but how it’s also a picture of how God serves us—an idea we are uncomfortable with, for are we not the ones who are supposed to serve Him? Yes! But how can we serve Him if we are not wholly empty of pride and full of love?—and it is when you are truly humble and loving that you accept to be served.
And it reminded me of a paragraph I had just read in Jane Eyre—a paragraph so small and insignificant I had never noticed it before:
“Never did I weary of reading to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he wished to go: of doing for him what he wished to be done. And there was a pleasure in my services, most full, most exquisite, even though sad—because he claimed these services without painful shame or damping humiliation. He loved me so truly, that he knew no reluctance in profiting by my attendance: he felt I loved him so fondly, that to yield that attendance was to indulge my sweetest wishes.”Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, chapter XXXVIII, emphasis mine
It reminded me of the passages that one reads in the Prophets—Jeremiah, Isaiah, and a host of other books—where God pleads with the Israelites to let Him bring them to rest. Over and over He reminds them how earnestly He longed to bless and help them, and how they had rejected Him and leaned on their own strength, and how that had turned so disastrous for them.
“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.”Isaiah 30:15-16 KJV, emphasis mine
In the New Testament we are frequently warned not to trust to ourselves, but to retreat into God’s strength to fight the battles.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds).”2 Corinthians 10:3-4 KJV, emphasis mine
In the Book of Hebrews, it is discussed at length how God wanted to bring His people to rest and peace, and how He still desires to do so, but so many of us baulk. And then the chapter is concluded with this sublime passage:
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:15-16 KJV, emphasis mine
Our God expects us to go to Him. He wants us to claim His strength. He desires us to admit our shortcoming so His fullness can flow through us. It’s all about His sufficiency, not our prowess. It’s about true humility, true love, and true surrender. We don’t have to break our heads over how well we are measuring up—all we have to do is be perfectly desirous to serve Him and willing to be used as He sees fit.
I don’t know. I’m only a girl struggling to understand better, a girl who fails to explain exactly what she means. But I wonder…