I have a friend who’s been pretty miserable lately. This is someone I care a lot about, and I’ve been praying for her daily. As sometimes happens when we pray for someone, I’ve gained some insight into her situation. Perhaps the Spirit told me directly, perhaps I simply recognized a situation that’s all too familiar. Either way, it’s clear to me that she’s running from God.
Mind you, my friend is a Bible-believing Christian. That’s not the issue. Rather, God has asked her for something that she’s unwilling to give Him. Never mind that it would greatly benefit her to do so. Never mind that God will take better care of it than she ever could. Giving up something that is a deep part of ourselves is never easy.
Sometimes, in his divine wisdom, God knows that the only way to help us let go is to make hanging on even worse. He loves us enough to let us endure some pain, knowing the end result is more than worth all our struggles.
The year after I became a Christian was the worst year of my life. I was nineteen, a sophomore in college. I had only accepted Jesus as Savior at the very end of my freshman year. I didn’t yet know Him as Lord.
Life had been pretty good up to this point. I somehow thought that including God would make it even better. I was ready to accept God into my life. What He wanted was to usher me into His.
It took an entire horrid year for me to finally get the point. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I broke down and offered my whole self to His will. I started to learn what submission meant (and I’m still learning, 36 years later). I won’t say everything was suddenly better, but I quickly learned that God knew how to run my life a lot better than I did.
Several years later, I had to learn that lesson all over again. Once more, God was asking me to turn a situation over to His authority, but I refused. In this case, it was a romantic relationship that was doing neither partner any good. In fact, we were both pretty wretched. Even while my analytical brain recognized the dead end, my emotions were so overwhelming, I couldn’t let go. It wasn’t until I told God, “I’m willing—help me!” that He gave me the strength to obey Him.
Holding out on God is nothing new. The Bible is full of examples. Perhaps the most famous God-avoider is Jonah, who ended up in a really messy situation when he refused to obey God’s directions. In fact, the children of Israel spent most of their history going their own way, only returning to God when things were totally hopeless. I’m currently reading Jeremiah, and the entire book is about God begging the nation to return to Him, while warning them of the dire consequences of their apostasy. Finally, He gave them over to slavery in a foreign land. Talk about feeling miserable!
While I never enjoy God’s discipline, I’m glad that He pursues us. Left to my own devices, I’d have abandoned the faith years ago. But God doesn’t let us go. He wants us with Him, and is willing to do anything to demonstrate His love for us.
My friend doesn’t want to hear my advice right now. She’s too intently focused on how God has failed her—how He hasn’t met her expectations. She thinks she can do better on her own. And every day she is more unhappy than she was the day before. It hurts me just to watch her depression grow. But God hasn’t given up on her—and neither will I.
What have you withheld from God’s authority? How has He taught you to submit to His loving will?