I’m popping back on the blog today to share a guest post from my friend, Leigh. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a season lately that you didn’t expect and you don’t understand. Me too.
Leigh’s words reminded me to hang on for whatever it is God has planned ahead. We can’t rush it and we can’t win our own victories.
Someone told me the other day, “Leigh, unless you have a victory soon, people will stop following you.”
For me, I’ve been in a season of doubt, darkness and disappointment. Maybe you’ve been there too. Hearing that statement burdened me for a few days, as if it was somehow in my power to gain a victory. But those words ended up being a gift, because they finally brought a breakthrough.
Not only did that statement begin prayers for God to send a quick victory, I felt shame that something was wrong with me that I couldn’t get a victory quick enough.
I was praying that God would snap his fingers and end this season, or snap his fingers and do magic in me to give me a victory – because I didn’t want those words spoken to me to be truth and for the ministry I lead to suffer.
A few days later I was digging holes in our yard to plant gardenia bushes while the sun was blazing on my sweaty head, inhaling the sweet aroma of the blooms. It was then I was reminded through a forceful hit of my shovel into the broken earth, if people are following Leigh Anderson, they are following the wrong person.
This ministry, Be Still Mama, is not about me. It’s about the Lord. That’s why we have so many guest speakers, and that’s why we are led by a team. Anyone who steps foot in the room of any ministry event should be looking to Jesus, not me, because I promise I will let people down. God gave me this ministry to steward, not to rule.
My mission has always been to lead moms to the well (John 4) because I am not Jesus, but I can tell you where to find him! I am a sinful human who makes a lot of mistakes, and the seasons God ushers me into to refine that sin won’t end when myself or others prefer it to end. The expectations others have of me or that I have for myself will not be met in human timelines, or at all. It’s a promise I can make to you. My relationship with Jesus is submitted (although not gracefully some days) to His timeline, not my own.
He is Sovereign Over Our Season
That statement invoked a thought process that would serve as a reminder that our salvation and the grace of God is not works based. There’s no action, sacrifice, or service I can do for God that would make Him decide to swoop in for a quick victory. That would mean we have the power to snap our fingers and save ourselves, that we have the power to earn God’s grace, or even the power to control God. It doesn’t work that way.
Jesus blatantly said the words, “You can do nothing apart from me.” And He was pretty clear, so I believe He meant the word “nothing” in totality.
John Piper says, “I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need.” I have been looking within to see what’s wrong with me and why this trial has drawn out this long, when in reality, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the work of Christ in me.
How often do we do this? We enter a trial and start working as hard as we can to get out of it. We think if we do the right thing, pray the right prayer, posture ourselves the way God wants us, that he will spare us, but He won’t.
Maybe that’s the entire part of the trial, to stop white-knuckling our lives and let go.
1. God allows the season (read the book of Job).
2. God defines the beginning and the end of a season (Ecclesiastes 3).
3. God is sovereign over the season (Romans 11).
The victory is His, not mine. Until He gets all the glory from my trial, in His timing, it’s not done. He’s not going to give me the power to thwart that – He loves me too much.
Lauren Chandler, one of my favs, says this about the current season I’m finding myself:
“Here’s what he’s doing. He is burning away the fluff. He is pulling out every false prop on which you’ve built your trust. He is frustrating your plans so that you turn your eyes from those around you and the lack you find inside you to see and love him for who he is and not merely what he can do for you. There is no more vital work than that. He loves you too much to give you what you want too soon. The pressing and breaking of steadfastness doing its work is worth it.”
After reading this truth, my desire to rush the victory was diminished. I buried the expectations of others for a victory into the ground and threw a gardenia bush over it and covered it with the very earth God created. Ironically, I felt a sense of victory doing just that.
I’m choosing God and His timeline, not mine or anyone else’s. My former pastor used to say, “Don’t waste the struggle.” This season has definitely been an extremely difficult season of struggle, but I don’t want to waste it by rushing out of it just because people want me to. I can sense there is still more growth, more work God wants to do, and I’m game. Ed Welch says, “When people are big, God will be small.” We have to keep God bigger.
Peer Pressure Can Lead to Disobedience
Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The approval we seek, the influence we intake, should only be that of Jesus Christ, not of a fellow broken and sinful human.
I can’t help but think of Sarah and Abraham. Not only did God tell Abraham that Sarah would bear a child, but he went even further. He said “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That’s quite a promise. But what happened after that? Nothing.
Do you know how long it took that promise to be fulfilled? 25 years. It would be 25 years until Sarah would bear Isaac. In the meantime, I imagine Sarah was embarrassed in front of her girl tribe. I imagine she felt the pressure to have a “victory” or people would doubt and reject her. And you know what happened? She succumbed to that desire and took matters into her own hands. She had her husband sleep with another woman to bear her a son.
If God has brought you into a season of pruning, He is in charge of the people around you as well. He knows the situation you’re in and He promises to be faithful in that part too. Do you know why? Because the pressure of others on you to obtain a victory quicker that God’s timing can be a catalyst to sinful choices to get it no matter what the cost (like having your husband sleep with another woman!!!).
If you’re sensing pressure to let go of God and take the reins yourself to appease others then it’s time for a pit stop with God. There’s something to be said about the amount of people the day of the funeral and the amount of people a month later. Struggle is hard, and it’s hard to witness and to walk through. It’s hard to wait on people to heal, because we want the best FOR them and OF them and it can frustrate us because we want to get back to normal and their lack of progress seems to be the roadblock. I’ve been on this side of it too, it’s challenging.
There’s Hope, Even When It Doesn’t FEEL Like It
Listen to me precious daughter of Jesus, you are not alone. There are 9 billion people on the planet. I can promise you that millions of others are walking a similar road as you, they just don’t talk about it (I haven’t yet, but I plan to). I want to remind you that God’s glory is everything, His glory is the point, His glory is the priority over our suffering or our timelines. God’s glory is for OUR GOOD.
So what do you do? You read and re-read Lauren’s quote above. Write it down and put it above your kitchen sink (I did that). And take action when you don’t feel like it, and do it as an act of faith.
John Piper says:
“Do your duty. We say ‘As you are able to do some of your duty, ask God that the joy be restored. That is, don’t sit and wait for the joy, saying, “I will be a hypocrite if I do an act of mercy today, since I do not feel the joy of mercy.” No, you will not be a hypocrite, if you know that joy is your duty, and repent that you don’t have it, and ask God earnestly to restore the joy even as you do the deed. That is not the way a hypocrite thinks. That is the way a true Christian thinks in the fight for joy.”
We live in a generation obsessed with feelings, when God’s word says “The heart is deceitful above all else.” Get up, do your duty. Serve the church, sweep the floor, play Legos with your babies, write a card to your friend even when you feel numb or your bones feel weak – the joy will slowly be restored one act at a time.
My Pastor told me, “We have to act our way into a new way of feeling, not feel our way into a new way of acting.” That’s our duty – and it can take a long time. The timeline of the victory depends on how much work God is doing in you and all of the moving parts He’s doing that you can’t see that HAS to be in His time to work it for your good. It will all make sense soon, but don’t rush yourself or Him to get a victory before He’s ready to give it.
It’s ok to ache, it’s ok to be discouraged. David was a man after God’s own heart and he rode the struggle bus all throughout the Psalms. Talk to God candidly like David did. Did you make a mistake because you’re hurting? That doesn’t define you. Repent and move on. The choice to continue doing the duty is the act of obedience even when our hearts ache, and God will honor it if you do it like John says above, asking for forgiveness along the way. Baby steps, even when you aren’t at your best. His power is made perfect in your weakness (and mine).
And a sweet reminder for you from God: John 10:28 says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Emphasis mine) No one, sweet, beloved sister in Christ, will snatch you out of God’s hand. You’re still in His hand, in His sovereign will and He hasn’t forsaken you or forgotten about you. He wants you to lean in and trust His hand.
In seasons like this I don’t think we “choose” joy, I think we have to suit up to BATTLE for it. Seasons like this naturally bring out the worst in ourselves – anger, bitterness, pessimism, and hardened hearts. Ephesians 4 specifically instructs us to “get rid of” those things. We have to FIGHT against those things (our flesh, our pride, our desires), and it’s not easy. You aren’t an alien from outer space if you’ve walked this road, but we can’t stay there. We have to repent and move forward. We have to fight for joy.
In my particular season, I sense God asking if I believe everything I teach. He’s been asking:
– Do you love me? Or do you love me for what I can do for you?
– Do you truly, deeply understand that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make me stop loving you? No mistakes in the past, present, or future can alter who I say you are or how passionately I love you.
– Do you understand you don’t have to be lovable or made up for my love to remain consistent and reliable? My love doesn’t waver.
– I want your eyes to be on me, and me only. Don’t look around you, I want you to rely on me and only me. I want you to experience my sufficiency, I am enough for you, Leigh.
The God of the universe may be calling you to one of the most intimate struggles with Him that you’ve ever known. But we can easily allow the pressure of others to cause us to miss out on that incredible and eternal gift through fear of rejection or what they may think about us.
Not today, Satan.
He is enough, y’all. He is everything. His timing is the perfect timing. Join me as we honor that in each other’s hard seasons. Wrestle well my sister, I can’t wait to hear how faithful He was while your heart felt like it would shatter into a million pieces.