A Series by Jill Holler – Part 3
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
If you read my last post, “What to Lose: My List of Failures,” you know that one way Satan tries to gain victory over me is by tempting me to focus on all of the mistakes I have made–instead of focusing on God.
Similarly, the issue I address this week relates to my self-focused view. It has been one of the biggest challenges of my Christian life. I pray that Christ will free me from its grip, so that I can gain abundant life in him. And I am praying the same for you.
Plans and Perceptions
My mind loves to form perceptions about how things will go in life. I plan things out so concretely in my mind that I can actually start to believe they are reality.
Understanding that God has called me for a purpose, I set out to create my own perfect outline of how I will achieve those things–complete with time table, calendar of events, and milestones to achieve. It is all so organized and logical!
I have work to do for God, and He can count on me to do it!
With great enthusiasm, I work to do all the right things, trying my very best to accomplish God’s plans for my life. I set out to make things happen just as I have envisioned them in my mind. I believe that if I put in the hard work, things will go as I have planned, and every expectation will come to fruition.
From my mathematical perception, I form this equation:
Plans + Action = Results I Want
To me, I love the simplicity of it. If I just do certain things, then I will certainly get the expected results. And when it all works out as planned, it will validate my calling and leave me feeling satisfied and accomplished.
God Breaks Through
But it is at this point–when my own confidence is soaring and I think I have it all figured out–that God steps in and shatters all of my expectations. He comes breaking through the boundaries of my mind, where I hold all of my self-created plans, and shows me there is Someone Else in charge.
And there is no two-step equation.
Yet somehow, in the midst of trying to work out my calling on my own terms, I have forgotten that I am not the one in control. I do not call the shots.
The crucified life has become a mirage to me, one in which I cannot see myself clearly. Instead of dying to myself, I have raised up my life through my own self-centered plans, and I have lost sight of what it means to no longer live, but [let] Christ live in me (Galatians 2:20).
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20
I build up a wall around my own desires, so that no one can shatter them.
But God has a way of breaking those things down, leaving me face to face with this reality: God cannot be contained by my plans and outlines.
My human nature may crave the tangible, the expected, the predictable.
But God rarely works that way, for He is supernatural, unfathomable, and beyond predictable.
As Oswald Chambers states, “Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections.”
When God rocks our world with the reality of our own misperceptions, it can be devastating.
It is right for God to awaken us to these truths and draw us out of our self-centeredness. But it can also fill us with despair.
Our hearts can become bitter, like the Israelites who suffered under Pharaoh (Exodus 5). When Moses informed the people that God would be rescuing them, the Israelites expected their deliverance to come at that instance.
However, Pharaoh made things much worse for them before it got better. The harshness of their labor increased, and they suffered even more intensely. Because of their great discouragement, they shut their ears to Moses, feeling betrayed (Exodus 6).
They did not listen to him because of their discouragement. Exodus 6:9
Even though God had miraculous plans for the Israelites’ deliverance–ones that would astound them and bolster their faith–they were temporarily devastated by their circumstances and unmet expectations.
Just as with the Israelites, God is drawing us deeper into a life of faith. But we can be filled with resentment when things don’t go our way. Stubbornly, we can put our fingers in our ears, sit down in defiance, and refuse to listen to what He has to say.
In my own experience, there have been times when I have shrunk to the floor in stunned disappointment. I wondered what God could possibly be thinking.
I could see how far my life seemed from everything I had imagined. And it made me want to shut my ears to His voice and quit.
Never again did I want to feel such hurt and disappointment.
A Crucial Moment
However, in those crucial moments when I have been filled with despair, I have felt the truth rising up in my heart.
I have realized that what hurts most is the reality of my own self-centered approach toward my relationship with God. I hadn’t embraced a crucified life to Christ, only a life surrendered to myself.
In those moments, I knew I had some decisions to make. Ones that would have lasting impacts on my life. They would either lead me in the right direction or the wrong one.
So What Would I Choose?
Would I let my shattered expectations drive me away from God and silence His voice? Or would I choose to trust in Him, even when I felt betrayed?
Would I choose to submit to my own authority? Or would I submit to the authority of the One who loves me and by His power holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17)?
Simply put: Who would be the ruler of my life?
At that moment, God reminded me with such clarity that if I were truly to live the crucified life, I must surrender my whole life to Him–even the deepest parts of my heart, mind, and soul. I needed to let Him move in my life in supernatural ways, ones which I could never imagine.
Instead of clinging to my own wishes, I needed to open myself completely and without reservation to the will of the One who called me.
Instead of counting on my own abilities, I needed to allow the supernatural power of God abound in my life in the most unexpected times and ways.
This is where I would find true life, even if it weren’t on my terms.
I realized I could trust my Savior. He is the One who knew me before the foundation of the earth. The One who loves me with an unfailing love.
His ways are far beyond mine, and He always knows what is best.
Through every stage of life, God is always drawing me closer to Him. Even when all of my expectations are shattered, God is good. And each step we take together, He is leading me deeper into the crucified life.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Enjoy other posts in this series
What to Lose: