For the past five years (at least) I have prayerfully picked a word to focus on for the upcoming year. One year, my year of BRAVE, was a year that (unknown to me when I picked the word) would require much courage, and a year in which I learned from Where my heart finds its truest courage.
Another year, TRUST, was a year of experiences that taught my heart a deeper level of trust day by day.
Last year, my year of REST, was a time of learning that it is okay to stop, to rest, to not worry about working or figuring things out every minute. A year where I learned the value of a guilt- free 20 minute nap as well as just sitting and praying. I learned that God doesn’t need me, but that He wants me to sit and enjoy Him.
This year the word that was pressed upon my heart was RECEIVE. I was very doubtful of this word, very skeptical that my heart wasn’t just hearing what I wanted. After all, receive is an atypical word in this context, it was awkward to discuss, it sounded
greedy. But it didn’t go away and so I’ve lived out 2018 with RECEIVE.
And, just as in prior years, a deeper meaning of the word, of the action, has rooted itself in my heart. I began to understand the Biblical form of receive differently. I heard Elisabeth Elliot speaking again recently (she has been in my ears most days and her talk titled “The Gift of Suffering” (part 2, especially) hit me in the middle of my heart.) In her talk she first defines suffering as: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” She discusses how suffering is a part of every person’s life; Christian or not. Next she explains how “Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God. And when God gives us the gift of suffering, He gives with it, without fail, Himself…and, if we have received it, (and God wants us to receive [this cross] with both hands… of course it’s painful, there is no such thing as a cross without pain)…then once we have received it, then we can say “thank you, Lord” and we’re in a position then to offer it back to God.”
Receive Never would I have guessed the things I would be offered to receive this year.
Elisabeth reminds me in this talk how “God instructs us through our sufferings” and she reminds me of the promises found in Isaiah 43 “When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
She reminds me how “these words…don’t fit in today’s culture” and that “the idea that suffering is a gift seems anathema to our natural selves…but only God is an accurate judge as to what is a
When life is torn apart by grief and loss and suffering, it is so natural, so easy, to either dive into religious showmanship or be driven from belief all together. It is in our human-hearts to naturally want to scream to the heavens (and at everyone around us) or to pretend like nothing matters at all, to put up walls of protection that keep everyone and everything from getting too close to our hearts. But God doesn’t ask us to do any of these and He isn’t shocked when we do all of them. He just asks that in the moments of our greatest heartache to lean into Jesus. To trust that, as Elisabeth said , even when “we don’t know what God is up to when we receive that bitter cup of suffering,” we trust the Truth of His Word that “to share in His glory, we must share in His sufferings” (Romans 8:17). She encourages us to trust the Word that reminds us “God says, “I know what to do with it, I know how to transform it, will you give it to Me, will you let go of it?” And so, in my year of RECEIVE, I am learning that (as Elisabeth said) “God is giving me something, in His mercy, I can give back to Him….[I] am provided with an offering called suffering. [I] am not qualified to offer it to God, until [I] have accepted it.” And, as Amy Carmichael said, “In acceptance is peace” When I receive, I not only accept the gift, but I find that there is peace in the acceptance. This is easier to write about than to live out. (And it wasn’t all that easy to write to begin with). I know we are all busy and worn and exhausted. Many of us are broken-hearted and maybe even angry and wondering just what will happen next? (Or at least I know this about my own heart.) But if you can take a minute to listen to Elisabeth or another sermon with Truth such as this, or (better yet!) to pray, I am confident you will not regret it. This perspective is exactly the one I need to be reminded of today (and again tomorrow and the day after). And so I wanted to be sure to share it with you. It is that time of year where I am praying and waiting for a new word to focus on. There is nothing magical about the word, it just keeps my focus in one place instead of jumping all over throughout the year…kind of like picking a college major, I suppose. I am hopeful my word will be something like CHOCOLATE or VACATION, but I am also realistic and I don’t really see that happening. Whatever the word is, I know that God is faithful, and He will use it throughout the year to draw me just that much closer to His heart. My prayer for each of us, each one with our own measure of grief and suffering, is that we can lean into Jesus in this New Year. That our hearts come to know that Jesus is enough and that we will choose to receive from Him, so that we can open our hands in offering for Him to use it all for His glory both now and forever.