One of the most amazing, annoying and often painful things about being a follower of Jesus is that: if you truly seek him, he will reveal things in your life that need to change.
I’m currently reading a book The Emotionally Healthy Church* by Peter Scazzerro (which is totally annoying and I don’t recommend it, because it isn’t all about how great I am… )
In chapter 5 of this book, Pete gets way too into my business! The chapter is about “looking beneath the surface”. He is talking about how we need to address all of the underlying issues in our lives, (or start chipping away at them anyway…)
My first thoughts about this chapter were, “I don’t really need to read this. I’m very self-aware. I reluctantly let God change me on a semi-regular basis (every time there is a crisis!)”
On page 82, Pete lists some annoying and difficult questions to ask ourselves if we want to deal with our emotional health.
Why am I always in a hurry? Why am I so impatient?
Why am I so anxious? (Grrr! Oh no he didn’t!)
Why am I overly concerned that others tell me I’m okay…?
Why am I so flooded with fear?
Why am I so over-concerned that I succeed?
Why do I avoid confronting difficult people?
Why do I have a need to immediately respond to all phone calls and emails? Or why do I avoid returning certain emails, phone calls or text messages?
My hubby and I were on a long car trip and I was reading the book to him. As I read the list, I had an uneasy nagging feeling that I needed to deal with some of my “issues” but I honestly couldn’t think of anything. (I imagine God must find this quite amusing what with him actually being perfect and all!!!!)
So, I half-heartedly prayed with my husband for God to reveal to us things in our lives that are hidden beneath the surface of our outward behaviors, things we need him to help us overcome and change.
That night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I had a big “duh moment”. I remembered the Bible verse Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.”
I sighed deeply “OK God. I believe that. I want that. I just don’t know how I’m not trusting you.” It’s not like I want to stay awake all night fretting over stupid stuff. Where’s my perfect peace? What am I missing?
I didn’t get my immediate Mufasa voice answering from the sky telling me a simple quick fix. And eventually I drifted off to sleep…
Then this morning, I got out my Bible, ready to write an absolutely amazing, life-changing devotion on Luke 2!
Only, Luke 1:80 caught my eye
“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.”
This is one of those verses that is easy to overlook. It seems like such an aside.
Earlier, in verse 66, we see all of the community gathered around at John’s birth. Everyone is amazed at what has just happened with Zechariah and the whole not speaking thing and Elizabeth having a baby in her very old age. They all recognize that John is going to be somebody.
Then, Zechariah heightens the expectations by prophesying. All of the Old Testament was pointing to this moment in history when the Messiah would be born and save Israel. Every Jew had been waiting for this time for hundreds of years. All of their hope was placed in this promise that was being fulfilled in their presence. John would prepare the way!
Hundreds of years had all been building up to this point when John would lead the way to usher in the Messiah so… he went and lived in the woods for 20 some years…
John had this amazing prophecy about him and then he didn’t really do anything significant for 30 years. Then he got beheaded within 3 years of starting his ministry!
When I saw this verse, it brought up all of my “beneath the surface” issues!
That sounds like a horrible story! He only had a few years of significance. I’d go crazy. How could God’s plan be for him to only preach for a few years? If he’s supposed to be so important, why don’t we have more information about him? Why did it take so long? Couldn’t he have been doing something else important like building a nice career and then take a three-year break to preach?
Uggh! I have been constantly frustrated by my recent move and not for the normal reasons that moving is frustrating. I lost my purpose as I moved. And since we moved into our new house, it has been a struggle to relax because I feel like I need to get everything organized immediately so I can get back out among people and find my purpose again.
It’s only been a few months, but I feel compelled to be out there doing something. The idea of John taking 30 years to prepare for ministry sounds horrific to me!
Why am I so afraid of being alone?! Why do I feel compelled to do something?
I struggle with a few hours of solitude! I hardly allow myself 15 minutes of quiet. I feel an insane need at the end of the day to justify what I accomplished. When I talk to people, I have no good answer for what I “do” and it bothers me more than I’m willing to admit.
I have a lot of holy sounding answers for why I’m like this. I generally think, “I’m just trying so hard to please God!” (eyeroll!)
But as I prayed, listened, and sorted through this in my writing, I realized my mind is not in perfect peace, because of how much I want to be accepted by people. I fear rejection and the fear is stealing my peace.
I really want people to know God and how wonderful he is, but I also fear being alone. I need to be needed and I’m afraid that if I calm down, the church and world is going to go on without me and I will fade away unnoticed.
As hard as this weakness is to admit, it is also incredibly freeing. It feels like a weight was lifted from me. Like I finally said, “OK God, I trust you with this.”
He is helping me actually trust that:
Solitude is necessary for hearing his voice.
His acceptance of me is not contingent on what I do.
He will keep helping me be better.
He will never leave me!
He will uphold me even when I’m alone.
The most important thing in my life is knowing him.
So, for today, I’m going to be content with waiting and using my time to get to know him better. I will remember the example of John and know that solitude and struggles are times when God is preparing us not abandoning us!
I’m learning! 😉
Click below to order the life-changing annoying book I mentioned.