The Hard, Beautiful Work of Surrender

In-Gods-economy-ourThe angel of the Lord found Hagar by a well of water in the desert on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, you who serve Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ And she said, ‘I am running away from Sarai, the one I serve.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your boss. Put yourself under her power.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will give you so many people in your family through the years that they will be too many to number.’…So Hagar gave this name to the Lord Who spoke to her, ‘You are a God Who sees.'” (Genesis 16:7-10, 13 NLV)

Did you know: Hagar was the very first person–and the only woman–in the scriptures to “name” God? In the desert, she saw Him for who He really was, and called Him “El Roi” (the God who sees me). In the midst of a dry, barren wilderness, her wounded place became a ministry space.

Experiencing Him gave her the strength to go back to Sarah, who had been mistreating her, even though such a task must have frightened Hagar. From her desperate encounter, she received a sense of God’s provision and protection. And God ultimately blessed her obedience, just as He will bless us when we obey.

However, it’s not easy to trust God when He’s leading us to do something more difficult than we could ever imagine. In order to change our character and heighten our dependence on Him, He may ask us to surrender our long-cherished dreams, ideas, or habits.

Why? Well, God knows when our plans, goals, and rituals have turned into idols. He sees us relying on other things and people for comfort and relief, and He wants to guide us to a place of freedom instead of bondage. So He whispers to us: Trust me. Open your palm and release what you’re grasping tightly. I promise that I will hold onto you, if you will just give me everything.

What difficult thing is God asking you to do:
• Believe Him for the impossible?
• Forgive someone who abused you?
• Turn over your children’s future to Him?
• Persist in your calling, when you see no fruit?

I urge you to trust Him…no matter what. In God’s economy, your wounded place can become a ministry space. You may not understand why He’s asking you to obey, and you may be unsure how long you’ll have to stay in a difficult situation. But whatever you go through, He promises to sustain you. He will never leave you to fend for yourself.

Perhaps your obedience is for someone else’s benefit. He may want to teach your children, friends, co-workers, or spouse about His character.

Unfortunately, if we don’t surrender the first time God asks us to, He changes tactics…using other people, circumstances, and even pain to get our attention. Does that sound harsh? It’s all for our good. Our Maker, who knows the future and created us to find our ultimate fulfillment in His arms, longs to save us from ourselves. He knows that because of our limited view and human frailties, our desires—if left unchecked–will lead us to destruction.

II Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

This transformation takes place not by our own efforts, but by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. As we die to our plans, God changes us to be more like Jesus.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Post adapted from Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts by Dena Dyer and Tina Samples (Kregel, 2013). 

Advertisements

The Emerging Story

In third grade, I won a writing contest with my short story, Monica’s Broken Arm. It was my first indication that I might be good at what I loved most: writing and storytelling.

As I grew as a writer and a young woman, I explored many genres and disciplines. But one thread wove through all my efforts and experiments:

God, please give me a story to tell. I don’t want to write a beach novel, a book that women will take with them for mindless reading on their summer vacations.  I want to write something with meaning, something that matters.  I want to write something that will build community, something that will bring people together to know each other more.

Recently, I found this page from my journal, December 2009. Here is what I wrote:

“Holy Jesus, you reign. I rejoice in your sovereignty and I delight in your grace. O, how you love me. Lord, I know you have given me words. You have given me things to say, read, and write, and the skill to use them carefully, efficiently, and productively. I give all my words to you. Please use them. Whatever you put before me, I promise to do the best that I can. Whatever you put before me or inside me, I will bring glory to you with my words. Thank you for the ministry you have given me, as I write.”

One year later, my husband died, tragically and suddenly, two days before Christmas. Overnight, I became a widowed single mom of two little boys who were not yet in kindergarten.

In this rupture of my world, a story emerged.

Yes, it is a story of grief, loss, single parenting, and deepest heartache, but this is also a story of hope, bonding, laughter, overcoming the worst, and getting up again the next morning.

Certainly this isn’t the story I intended to tell, and I won’t say that God allowed my husband’s life to end so my prayers could be answered. But I do wonder if perhaps it happened the other way around: God planted the desire in my heart, so that when such tragedy struck my family, I would know how to respond: to keep writing. In the horrible days, the easier ones, the loneliest nights, and always in honesty.

Robb used to say, “She’s going to be a successful author, and I’m going to retire early.”

Well, the plan looks different than we thought, but it still happened as he said. He retired early. And now I’m writing books.

In my words, may people find hope, grace, courage, and the tools to walk with someone through the valley of greatest tragedy to the sunshine on the other side.

As I asked him, God has given me a story to tell. How is he using your gifts and answering your prayers in ways you had not expected?
For more of Tricia’s story, please visit her at www.tricialottwilliford.com.

Honoring the Writer’s Call

Remember the Call

As ambassadors of the written word, we’re called to awaken people to truth. Rubbing words together, we set the world on fire!

Above publishers and agents, God’s our number one boss. With pure, submitted hearts, we make it our mission to please him first.

Am I on the right track, Father? What do you want me to share today? These are the questions we ask.

We try not to judge and compare ourselves with other writers because we know God equips each of his instruments for different specific tasks.

When fearful, overwhelmed, and wondering why we chose this career/ministry path in the first place, we remember… God never calls us where his grace won’t sustain us.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9

Persevere in the Call

When tempted to distraction by potentially good things like social media, movies, and chats, we’re privileged to consult our boss: “Please show me what to do and give me the strength to carry it through.”

When tempted to discouragement by trials, we understand they’re God’s method of making us stronger, more Christ-like, and more effective in our writing.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rom. 8:28

Because we clearly know we have been called to write, we persevere when people judge us, and we remind ourselves it only matters what God thinks, and the Lord sees every heart. 1 Chron. 28:9

We persevere when our paychecks are sparse because we know God will supply all our needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

We persevere when the road is rough and slow and we can’t see ahead because we know who leads us each step of the way. (Ps. 37:23)

Balance the Call

Balance starts with rest, and rest starts with prayer. Jesus walked a tight deadline, but rose before dawn to commune with his Father. He snuck away from the crowds to reconnect. Do we sneak away from our characters to bless the Word of words?

Jesus waited on His Father for wisdom and wants us to do the same; but it takes trust.  (James 1:5-6)  When it comes to trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, we often get it backwards, and lean on our own understanding first. Then, when things go awry, we cry “Help me!” and ask him to direct our path. He will, but we must first acknowledge him.  Prov. 3:5-7

Jesus only spent three years in ministry; however, his thirty preparation years were just as important because they defined and nurtured the Father/Son relationship, enabling him, in the right time, to turn the world upside down by submitting to His Father’s peculiar but brilliant plan of reaching the Jews first, then the Gentiles.

God writes a different plan for each one of us. He calls some of us to blog first, others to write books first, and still others to do both at the same time – in balance.

Whether we’re writing, speaking, networking or spending time with the family, God isn’t just interested in what he’s doing through us; He’s interested in what he’s doing in us.  He wants us to joyfully trust him so we can honor him with our calling.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jer. 29:11

Please talk to us about remembering, persevering, and balancing God’s call to write. We’d love to hear your stories, lessons, insights, and experiences.

And what is God reminding you about today?