Category Archives: want

Lay it down…

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suffering

 

When Joseph was thrown into the pit by his own brothers, I’m sure there was some clawing and scraping at the sides of it to try to get out… but there was no escape.

 

When he was sold to the traders on their way to Egypt, I’m sure there was some begging and pleading and serious efforts to wrest himself from the chains… but no one’s heart stirred to relent, and he was hauled away.

 

And when he was unjustly thrown into prison, I’m guessing there were some pleas and cries for justice… but bars and locks only mocked his appeals.

 

When Job learned that all of his possessions and ten children were gone in a succession of calamities that would make anyone’s heart faint – his did.

 

The raw reality of human suffering is not meant to be sugar coated with platitudes and “sticker-verses” that make the speaker feel better but not the sufferer.  But it is meant for something.

 

Suffering is agonizing.  It is life-stealing.  Suffering is loss of the most intimate kind and produces groans too deep to understand.

 

But it is also good.

 

We may suffer evil, but the suffering itself is good.

 

We may fight and claw at it.  We may plead with God for it to stop.  We may cry and rail against the injustice inherent in much of it.  And almost always, our hearts grow faint under the weight of it.  But in the end, those of us who are called by King Jesus, must greet it as the good gift it is intended to be – that it actually must be – because of the One who has placed it in our lives.

 

The struggle is real, and it is part of the process we all need to go through to learn what we need to learn from the suffering.  But eventually, if we are to gain anything at all from pain and sorrow and loss, the struggle against it needs to stop.  We must all – every one of us – come to the place where we can hold that burden of struggling against the trial, look at it with full-frontal, honest scrutiny and lay it down.

 

If we believe what we say we believe – that for those who love God all things work together for  good for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28) – then this, too – this suffering, was meant for our good. If we believe that 1 Cor 4:17 is true – that our sufferings are producing an eternal glory that far outweighs them all – then we can begin to see that God is giving us something better than we would have even imagined to ask for.  If we believe what Eph 3 says – that this is the very way that we are strengthened to be able to comprehend the love of God – then we can see this as a gift from our Father who says, “I want you to know me this deeply, and widely, and broadly, and for this long.”  And that none of these things can separate you from that love (Rom 8:35).

 

If all of these things are true – really, actually, undeniably true – then we can begin to loosen our grips on the hair roots that promise to lift us out of the pit but never deliver, and the shackles that delight to keep our minds and bodies enslaved, the prison walls that mock our broken hearts, and even the soul-rending cries that long for good to be restored… and cling instead to these promises of God for our deliverance.

 

We can lay down the struggle against it all.  We must.  Or we miss the good that is inherent in it and we miss the good that only comes from believing and trusting Him through it.

 

This isn’t a decision that someone else gets to make for you, beloved sufferer. No one can tell you when it is time to cast your burden aside.  The only words that can help you are the ones that help you get to the end of your struggle – not avoid it.   You and I, each in our time, must struggle through the suffering.  We may feel alone, but our Savior, who is able to sympathize with our grief because he has borne the same, has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He is patient, though and will wait for you to lay down the burden of struggling against his good gift on your own.

We are not wrong to rail against the evil in this world.  We are not silly to want love to prevail. We are not idealistic fools to long for peace and joy and goodness to be reality. God agrees.  But God’s path for us to see and know and live those things is not the path that we would choose.  There are no shortcuts for mercy.  There are no detours that bring peace.  

If we are to experience the full measure of God’s ultimate gift for us – Himself – we must do things his way.  We must accept that he knows what we do not and that his hard path is better than going the wrong way, no matter how tempting it may be.  

We learn how strong God is through the struggle, but we learn how good he is when we lay it down.

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What do you want?

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I asked my two-week old baby that question once.  I know – it’s a dumb question to ask of a two-week old.  But even as I knew the absurdity of asking her, I also knew I had run out of ideas.  I was desperate.  I was exhausted.  I was grasping at straws.  I held all 9 pounds of her up and looked at her eye-to-eye,  and with all the restraint I could muster pleaded, “what do you WANT?!?!”

She kept crying.

I’m not really sure how, but we got through it.  She’s 30 now – and no worse for the question.  At least she doesn’t remember it.

It’s not an entirely bad question, though – really.   (OK, I don’t recommend asking someone who’s only means of communication is crying…)

But we ask it all the time.  What do you want for dinner?  What do you want to do?  What do you want to be?  What do you want to accomplish?  and on it goes…

“What do you want?” can elicit a myriad of responses.  Deep things.  Shallow things.  Immediate things.  Long-range things.  Proper things…

We think about what we want all the time.  From the moment our consciousness transitions from being asleep to being awake what we want drives us.  I want to sleep more so I hit snooze.  I want to get out of the door on time so I get up.  I want to eat something because I’m hungry – or don’t want to be at an inconvenient time.  I want to not eat because it’s “nasty” first thing in the morning (at least that’s what my teens say).  I want to wear this.  I want to go here.  I want to remember that.  I want to finish what’s on my list.  (I want to start what’s on my list!)

All of these wants can race through our minds before our eyelids open, but it continues all through each of our days.

“I want” is almost as much a part of being human as “I think.”  We neither consider nor act without some ‘want’ prompting us.

And yet, when we seriously ask each other the question, “What do you want?” we are often met with the same crazed look my two-week old infant gave me so many years ago.

Aside from wants of the immediacy of the next 10 minutes – or day – what do you really want?  Inherent in the question is, “what is it that you want in your life more than anything?”

What are your goals?  What are your longings?  What are you passionate enough to base your decisions on?  What is so important to you that you would sacrifice other good things for?

What do you really want???

This is a question I’ve been pondering recently as a result of our women’s Bible study.  When I’m thinking through the wants that motivate me, the range of answers is vast:

I want my house clean – and I’d really like it to stay that way for a stretch of time.

I want someone else to make dinner.

I want time to read all the books on my list.

I want to learn French fluently.

I want to lose weight and be in better shape.

I want to have deep friendships.

I want to be appreciated.

I want to love well – and I want to know that I am well-loved.

I want to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength – and I want to know what that really looks like.

I want my kids to love God the same way.

I want to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Master.”

What ends up bubbling up to the top of our lists reveals where our hearts are.   The beautiful thing is that God knows we are frail and made of dust – as he was with Abraham, he is patient as we learn to want for our own lives what God wants for them.

I’ve already made some decisions based on the priorities of these things in my life.  I wouldn’t die on the hill of desire to keep my house clean (which, I suppose is why it’s still on the list…), but I would on the one that demands an answer for how to learn how to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.   I’m pretty hopeful about learning French better – but I’m dogged about teaching my children to love God.  These things motivate me to be sure.

But when I’m really honest about my wants during the course of an ordinary day, lesser wants tend to have a bigger voice amidst all those wants clamoring for first priority.  I want to be lazy sometimes more than I want to be industrious.  I want to be crabby sometimes more than I want to have a joyful heart.  I want to criticize sometimes more than I want to encourage.  I fall short… a lot… of what I really want.

Thankfully, we serve a Great High Priest who intercedes to God the Father on our behalf – who can change our prayers of “I want what I want” into “teach me to want what You have planned for me” by changing our hearts.

Lord, teach me to want what you want.  Teach me to want You.