September 11, 2001 as planes crashed into the twin towers and the pentagon, I discovered just how much I had placed faith in the United States of America. After a year of searching I found my heart resting with more security than ever in the sovereignty of God, as it should.
At the same time, this newfound knowledge allowed my heart to rest enough to marry and pursue a family, without guilt at not being able to solve the economic struggles of the former Soviet Union (as I had once hoped to do).
The sovereignty of God is a true, sweet, and necessary doctrine if one is to live a life without anxiety, for which I will forever be grateful. It has brought me through many difficulties and upholds me in the darkest days.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and the Lord began placing on me a desire to pray that I would love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and my neighbor as myself. I couldn’t get past this being the summary of what God desires for our lives, and so I began praying this daily.
Let me warn you, that praying this prayer may not look like what you expect. As I prayed this, I found God confronting me with my deepest fears and leading me to face them, because as it says in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casts out fear.” Repeatedly I found myself crying out that God would help me love and forgive when I wanted desperately to run and not look back.
During this time, a friend invited me on a mission trip to Ethiopia. God immediately began making this seemingly impossible trip happen. He provided over half the funds and childcare before I even agreed to go. Inside I wrestled with what we could do in a short-term mission trip, and God reminded us regularly that it was not about what we could do, but what He wanted to accomplish.
I confess to having been “on-the-fence” about short-term mission trips sometimes. I know there is a desperate need for missions, and yet I struggle with small questions like, “Is this the best way to do it?” I confess at times those questions have kept me from doing all that I should. This is but one area where my fear of not doing something well enough could keep me from doing anything. I must come to grips with the truth that I will never do anything well enough, but God does call me to do what I can.
As I prepared for this trip, I read about Ethiopia, and my heart opened as I read about the plight of orphans in that country. My former concerns about poverty in other countries resurfaced. I am ashamed to say, I had stuffed a lot of those concerns and numbed them with the “Sovereignty of God.” I had used a true doctrine in a wrong way to numb my heart rather than fuel God’s work.
As I wrote earlier, I fully believe in the sovereignty of God. He certainly doesn’t need me to help orphans in Ethiopia or to bring the gospel to all nations. And yet, God’s call on our lives is to love him first and others next. As I have sought to do that, I have noticed him reawakening long dormant desires in me.
I admit, that as an immature believer, I probably could not have handled seeing the things I did in Ethiopia. The overwhelming need would have been crushing, and I would not have been strong enough to share hope without being crippled by despair.
Instead, I have been blessed to see God shine a light in many ways while we were there, and since. I have been blessed to see what the Lord can do, and through the process my belief in God’s sovereignty has deepened.
At a church in Ethiopia, the pastor providentially shared a sermon on the parable of the talents. Amid great poverty, I was given a powerful reminder that I was a steward of all that I have. My time, my money, my intellect, my entire life is not my own to do with what I please.
Why did the man bury his talent in the sand?
The God who reigns and pursued me with his love also asks me to love Him and others, not to live in fear doing nothing. God pressed me with another area of fear in my life and planted a seed in my heart that would birth this blog. Why should I not use the gift of writing the Lord has given me to encourage others?
I may not have time to blog as much as I would like, but one thing I know, is that I cannot let fear be the cause of dissuading me. If I don’t blog, let it be because I am too busy loving my husband, my children, my dorm girls, my church family, orphans…. Don’t let it be because I am burying any talent the Lord has given me in the sand.
Please understand that I am not advocating neglecting the responsibilities God has already given you. When you pursue loving God with everything, you will find priorities matter. In this journey, I have failed time and again at getting this balance right. In those moments, I thank God anew for his sovereignty. His plans will not be thwarted by my imperfections. I don’t want to encourage you to neglect your family or other God-given priorities to pursue something else. Sometimes in our efforts our call is to step back.
I think of David’s desire to build the temple.
“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’”
1 Kings 8:17-19
If you have a desire to do something that is outside of your realm to pursue at this time, be comforted by this passage. God saw David’s heart to build him a temple and commended him for it even though his sovereign plan entailed Solomon building it instead.
God’s sovereignty is a comfort to us at times when we cannot do what God has placed in our hearts. At those times, we can pray and entrust those desires to the God who sees our hearts.
At the same time, sometimes we have more than enough and fail to see it. Sometimes we have more that we can give. Sometimes we hold back rather than offer all. Our children, our churches, our ministries are blessed to a degree by pouring out our lives further as we do see just how greatly God has already provided for us. This is an intricate balance, and one that we must constantly bring before God.
Where are you in the balance today? Are you failing to trust God’s sovereignty by holding back out of fear? Are you failing to trust God’s sovereignty by not resting in an area that is outside your control? This is a tension to be wrestled with as we seek God’s heart. Sometimes we need to lay a situation at his feet, but sometimes He shows us ways He can use us. There will always be people using their talents for his glory, and his glory will always be displayed. But, which servant will you be?