It sounds like a ridiculous idea on paper, perfectly preposterous. A six foot tall marginally overweight man against the creator of the universe isn’t very good odds is it?
But I seem to be doing it a lot more lately. I have spoken about how we need to acknowledge the battle in order to grow in intimacy with God, and deal with the issues behind the battle. This post is more about going the process of beyond the battle into the reasons for it. You see this battle is not a one-off that happens and then it’s done. It’s an ongoing battle. But occasionally you have significant ones – and I’ve had one recently.
One habit I have developed over the years – and I’m not sure disclosing this is going to make me come across so well – is when I’m waiting for a train or bus, and away from the majority of people, I tend to pray under my breath. Not quite loud enough for anyone to hear clearly, but not quite enough that no one will hear. I have a conversation with God.
I’m pretty sure if I did it loud enough and often enough in front of the same people I’d soon be moved off to the local mental asylum, but I’m smart enough to keep it quiet so that people don’t hear too much – and of course often I play the new trick crazy people use, by sticking an earpiece in my ear so it looks like I’m talking on the phone to someone.
Which actually isn’t too far away from the truth, in all truth. I’m talking to God. Occasionally I give Him some space to reply, and open my mind up to hear what His response might be.
I might be the only person that does this, I don’t know. I’ve done this since I was a teenager. I’ve always been a bit of loner to be honest, very shy and content in my own company. (My good friends are laughing right now, wondering where that person has been all these years…).
In all seriousness though, when I was a teenager getting bullied at school and unable to talk to my parents about my problems, as they were too busy with theirs, God was actually the only person I could talk to.
It’s the way my relationship & prayer life with God has always been.
Down to earth.
Taking place in the everyday.
I much prefer that kind of prayer life and relationship with God, it’s much more authentic and true. I don’t feel I have to hide anything from God – and as far as I’m aware, I haven’t. (Though of course, that’s not really true. Often I say things I think are true, but in reality they are total lies or falsehoods, which I only discover as such later).
Anyhow, I was having one of these times with God recently, at Wimbledon station near London. And I was mad. I was at the end of my tether with God, I’d had enough of everything.
I think we all have those moments with God. Where we get to the end of ourselves and have nothing left, and finally get to our most honest. I’ve talked about them here before and how important and healthy it is to have them – and that’s exactly what I was doing.
Looking back, it was totally childish. I was frustrated at having to wait for my deepest and long-held desires to be met by God, when less deserving people – in my eyes – or people no more deserving than me – in my eyes – were just getting all these blessings easily and openly, without having to do any work or earn it at all. In my eyes any way. I’d been patient for years and done all the right religious things – even though in my head I knew that it was by grace I was saved and that blessings are gifts, not prizes or rewards – but something inside me felt a sense of entitlement.
I knew this wasn’t even about those things though.
This was really about me trusting – or, in this case, not trusting – God. Having this deeply felt paranoia which I brush over most of the time, that God was out to get me and was leading me into trusting Him by taking me so far, before finally, when it came down to it, letting me down. I realised that this is how I perceived people and God, and my gut instinctive opinion. I realised the scars of the bullying ran very deep, that I’d got into my soul that anyone doing any good to you has to have some ulterior motive – and no matter how good they are to me or how good my life was, one day I know they are going to prove me right and let me down, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and proves my heart right that I’m not really worth anything but being the butt of people’s jokes. Including God’s.
Of course, this isn’t right at all. I know the truth of God in my mind. His infinite grace and love for me, the incredible blessings I have in so many ways, the fact that I have been chosen and predestined, and adopted by God and He has value for me which has no link whatsoever to my achievements, status or success.
But I’ve been battling myself for a long time – and this was another battle in this war between my heart/soul and mind, and I finally got to a breaking point and laid it all down.
What I really wanted, how I felt, what I was really like, all the habits and sins I’m ashamed of and tell no one, what I was feeling toward God at that moment – and asked God to respond (goodness knows what others in the station were thinking at this point – though I was way down the platform so there was no one nearby).
God did respond. He just asked me a very simple question.
“What would you do if I gave you everything you wanted?”
As if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, then there was the question, which pierced me like a sharp arrow:
“Would you trust me then? If not, when will you trust me?”
I stopped and thought.
I knew instantly what God was getting at.
God could give me all the things I desired, all the desires of my heart – and trust me, they weren’t largely sinful desires – and maybe I would trust Him for a while.
Until of course I desired the next thing.
The next success.
The next achievement.
The next major ‘life fulfillment’.
Then I would stop trusting God again until He gave me that.
I realised immediately what was going on. God wanted me to trust Him whatever the circumstances of my life, not just if He gave me the desires of my heart.
Trusting God, I began to see, isn’t about our desires. It’s about giving up our desires, being crucified with Christ.
Jesus ultimate act of faith was allowing Himself to be executed, giving up His life and trusting that God had a plan. And He was totally honest, totally naked totally raw before God on the cross, crying out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus questions God, is honest with God, but at the same time is being totally submissive toward God, before finally dying with the words of total surrender
“Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit”
This is what I realised I needed to do. In order to have total honesty with God, in order to live a life of full submission, in order to fulfill the call of Paul to be “crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me”, I need to let my desires be totally surrendered to God – even the good ones. I need to literally die to myself – and I need to surrender the outcome.
That’s what Jesus does on the cross. He surrenders Himself to God – and the outcome of His circumstances. He doesn’t know God is going to raise Him, He can’t see into the future. He’s fully human as well as fully God, and in order to enter fully into that He needs to trust God fully and surrender His circumstances.
This is exactly what God was calling out of me. To surrender my desires and the outcome of my life, my future. To give up control completely.
That what He’s calling out of all us.
That’s what it means to truly follow Jesus. To die to ourselves, to our circumstances, to our gifts and our future and give them all back to God to do as He pleases.
I don’t claim to have this all sorted. I am still wrestling with this with God, receiving prayer and getting accountability with friends for it. I am still in the process of dying to myself and letting these things go.
It’s a lifetime process. God doesn’t expect us to get it perfectly right all the time, and if and when we do muck it up, His grace is enough to forgive us and set us back, and if we’re humble enough we will learn the lessons and move forward. The wrestling match with God will go on for the rest of our lives, our lives will go through seasons of good, bad, joy, peace, wrestling, knowing & unknowing.
But in my experience the more we are willing to let go and surrender literally everything, including the outcome of our lives, the more we are able to encounter the divine.
You may have surrendered your life to Christ, but have your surrendered the outcome of your life?
Have you surrendered your entire future, all your desires and plans?
Are you able and willing to give back what God gave you?
Do you struggle being totally honest with God in your prayer times?
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