Ebenezers. Stones of remembrance. Catalyst moments. We all have them, right? Significant lessons we learned or seasons that imprint us deeply or Holy-Spirit-change. One of these major shifts for me came when I encountered the reality of my delight in God being a means of glorifying Him. In college I read John Piper’s Desiring God, took a deeper step into life with God, and became armed with a better way to combat sin.
He writes, “Knowledge about Him will not do. Work for Him will not do. We must have personal, vital fellowship with Him; otherwise, Christianity becomes a joyless burden.”
I lean toward rule-following. Obeying, learning about and serving Him, all that I understood well. But enjoying Him? Honestly, at first it felt irreverent. As I continued on, I was genuinely surprised to see how much considering Him this way altered our relationship.
And how much it continues to alter my life as a wife and mom.
To enjoy God most is a fruit of knowing Him, yes? The more we know of God, the more we want to know. The more we know of Him, the more we are changed. The more we know, the more we’re stirred to love and humility and worship.
I didn’t realize until recently that in me is this subtle, deep, dark temptation to use God to get something else. The opposite? To consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. (Philippians 3:8-9)
I noticed it after John and I got married. I operated with a hope for zero pain and sacrificial love feeling easy. I was faced with what I wanted most, and what I wanted most was for marriage to make me uphold my happiness and be a source of satisfaction.
Also, in the almost 12 months I’ve been a mom, the temptation to control and worry is fierce. What I do when that temptation comes reveals a lot about my heart. There are two choices: depend on my own resources and work really hard to avoid or reverse situations that might cause stress or pain OR come humbly, trusting His nature, knowing that every situation can be a pathway to encountering God. What I want most in an uncomfortable moment isn’t to know God better but to get back to a happy feeling. I want to use Him to make hard things easier or make an anxious situation go away.
My admission today is that I often want a manageable life more than I want God.
Dr. Larry Crabb writes, “The abundant life of following Jesus means abundant opportunities to draw near to Him in hard times, not an abundance of pleasant circumstances and good feelings.”
I am pleading with God to let me see and savor Christ in a new way, because being driven by a desire to know and encounter God over having life go the way I want could bring SO. MUCH. FREEDOM. Life can do and be what it’s going to do and be. And yes, I’ll seek wisdom and follow the Holy Spirit, but I can leave behind the heavy burden of arranging and demanding life be what I need to feel okay. Dr. Crabb goes on to say it’s a radical invitation, “to take a risk, to come to God in the hope that knowing Him will make you whole, but only when you stop demanding wholeness and revel only in His glory.”
Are you weary? Struggling to get it right all the time to feel good about life? Having trouble making circumstances work the way you want them to? Fighting for control of outcomes? Do you find yourself anxiously anticipating the future?
There is a different way, and that way is seeing Christ in a way that makes you want Him more than anything else in the world. You can be free from the pressure of your people being happy 24/7, of making the right choice every time, of pretending to have it all together. You can courageously follow wherever He leads. You can be free from all-consuming anxiety over the future. No matter what’s happening, inside or out, if He is what you want, He is what you’ll receive. Then you and He can problem-solve or dream or work together.
I close with Psalm 16, becoming a foundation of sorts and prayer for me lately:
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (5-11)