You try to make sense of this new way and the expectations that are evident. There is no going back. You can’t be the same once you’ve crossed over into new territory. To go back would be impossible. All has changed around you, but the struggle becomes rooted in the fact that you have not changed. You still have your same expectations, thoughts, coping strategies, and written out plan.

Your financial plan….

Your marriage expectations….

Dreams and hopes for your future….

Prayers for your children….

Job satisfaction, or career goals…

Long-term relationships….

Your health…

This time of year, we reflect on the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In her day-to-day travels–the mundane–an angel appeared, and her life changed dramatically. She no longer was solely the bride to be, but she was also the mother of the Savior. Her womb became the birth place of God in the flesh who would eventually travel the way of suffering and conquer death. God did not give her a plan, or a glance into the future, so when hard times hit she could feel confident in the outcome.  Although she rejoiced and proclaimed to be God’s servant, God also knew how difficult this change would be and gave her a time of mentoring and rest with her elder, family member, Elizabeth, the mother of John. God is so good to us.

Give yourself time, and in that time trust that God’s sovereign hand can be trusted even when it all seems impossible and painful.

God speaks to us over and over again.  He is so patient with us. The simplicity of a glowing light on your Christmas tree, the sun peeking through the window, and the cold morning breeze that fills your lungs and brings energy to your step are all reminders that He is there, and He is in control.

I know you want to be in control. I want to show up and be guaranteed that when I leave this place no one is hurt and healing took place. No tears, no grudges, no shame, no sorrow, no indifference…. In our efforts and anxiety to control outcomes, we glorify self.

Have you come to the end of yourself,
do you thirst for a drink from the well,
Jesus is calling.

Elevation “Come to the Altar”

I listened to this worship song in my car, and the line “have you come to the end of yourself” was a neon sign. As I was singing, I felt impressed to ask myself, “Anna, have you come to the end of yourself in this situation?”  “Are you done, Anna?” Then I began to think of those outside myself who are wrestling with new territory, a new way of life that was not expected. The miracle came in the moment. “Yes, Lord, I am your servant. May your will be done.”

What does it mean to come to the end of yourself? Jesus taught his disciples not only through teaching of the Word, but also through His very life.  Matthew Chapter 16

You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat

21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”

23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

I can’t imagine hearing Jesus say to me that he was choosing to leave and submit to suffering and death. Peter was so shocked that he missed the part of Jesus being raised from the dead–ALIVE! The dreadful overshadowed the promise. Jesus reminds Peter and us, that we have no idea how God works.  We must allow God to lead and embrace suffering.

Embrace suffering?

Yes.

Therapists work with clients to acknowledge feelings and thoughts, to reframe, and to discover healthy strategies to move forward in the new reality of God’s plan. When we numb with addiction, embrace revenge or bitterness, excessively blame ourselves and others, or live years in denial, we are saying, “I’m in control!”

Jesus is saying to follow him, and he will show you how to live. Self-sacrifice is asking God to give you the strength to come to the end of yourself and relinquish control.

Jesus asked, “What could you trade your soul for?”

You would be surprised. In our controlled state, we over compensate to the point of health issues, dance around issues versus asking God to provide a way through the pain, we drink, eat, shop, stay busy to numb and forget, we develop unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves, and we apathetically go through the motions and long for relief that never seems to come.

God will always prioritize your spiritual life. In the waiting, you work.  He works.  If you feel stuck, you are probably right in the middle of a God work. Stop and take notice.  He never lets us go. You can’t control your children’s lives, your spouse’s behaviors, your job, other people…..I know I’m stating the obvious, but this is hard stuff. How do you live in this new territory?

You come to the end of yourself.

  • Instead of expecting and controlling, you pray and trust.
  • Instead of demanding, you set healthy boundaries (without guilt) and trust the process (God’s plan that has not been revealed).
  • Instead of lamenting, you take notice of the blessings and beauty with a grateful heart.
  • Instead of avoiding, you ask God to walk you through the event and provide direction.
  • Instead of blaming yourself and others, you ask for God’s grace to be sufficient.
  • Instead of silence, you hug, speak kindness, and be the first to apologize.
  • Instead of rehearsing events, you read God’s Word and acknowledge the frailty in those you’ve trusted most–they are human with their God journey.
  • Instead of comparing, you look straight in the eyes of Your Savior and say, “God, you are enough. Thank you.”
  • Instead of believing that suffering is bad, embrace the change and ask God. What will I gain spiritually from this, Lord?  I am listening.”
  • Instead of waiting for the next foot to fall, live in power and promise of His Resurrection.

This sacred space is found in the pause between event and reaction. It’s in the aftermath of an event when you are confused. I find God to hang out here.  It’s like He was waiting for me to show up so we could have a little chat and try something different–His way.  He is so kind, inviting, and right on time. He understands this is a life long journey.  I’ll never totally understand this side of heaven, but it’s the food that sustains me and guides me home.

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