obedience through discouragement

Ahhh, this journey to truly know God. The climb to understand His will.

Sometimes our stories feel like a little bit of the good with a heaping dose of the bad and the ugly. Or maybe it’s just that sometimes we whine too much.

Either way, I recently shared a post on my Facebook page explaining the situation with our house. Rather than retell those details here, I’ll just copy and paste it in. It’s kind of long but when do I ever succeed at not being overly wordy?

And then sometimes the bottom drops out.

Two weeks ago today, our house went under contract. Everything aligned perfectly. Every detail associated with the buyer and the offer seemed to be precisely orchestrated by the God who has been leading us overseas.
The first inspection went great and things were proceeding without a hitch. We were making our final plans and growing more and more excited about this journey becoming a reality.

Until the phone rang yesterday.

It’s never good news when your realtor begins a conversation by saying, “Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news for you.” Our buyer had pulled out.
My frame is dust. I’m weak, vulnerable, and fearful. I’m filled with doubt and I’m tossed by every shifting wind.

I’m also, apparently, something of a narcissist.

Because it didn’t take long for me to realize I’d made this whole experience about me. At the beginning it was being called to do something I didn’t want to do and how scared and unsettled that made me feel.
Time has a way of changing us, though, and months of planning for that which I didn’t initially want had brought me to the place where I wanted nothing more.

Yesterday, I found myself focused on myself.

What about our plans? What about these new dreams that have taken root? What about our testimony?

And right there at the core, blinking in neon lights, was the real question: What will people think?

Because I’ve spent 9 months worrying about exactly that. When someone expresses doubt about our decision, I worry they think we’re irresponsible. When someone questions our motive, I cringe and retreat into myself a little more. When someone clearly believes we’re misled, it’s as if I’m a 5 year old being chastised and my feeling take a shattering.

Me. Me. Me.

This morning I woke at 3:30am to the large, round moon beaming it’s light right in through by bedroom window. And as I sat in that light, I heard God call to me.

He called me out a little and showed me myself. But He also asked me a question I never expected to be asked. This is what I sensed Him saying …
“I called you to Thailand and walked with you through months of emotions. I helped you fight for something you didn’t even want until it became what you wanted most. But it can’t be the going to Thailand or the being in Thailand that has you captivated. It has to be only about walking in obedience, fully surrendered to my plan even when it doesn’t make sense.”

And then, in the silence of the night I heard Him whisper to my heart …
“Are you willing NOT to go?”

What??? If God isn’t the author of confusion, how was this even a question? I initially felt irritated. Thankfully, He’s “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”

My irritation didn’t anger Him and my petulance didn’t distance Him. He stayed right by my side and pressed just a little deeper into the root of the issue.

He directed me to Isaiah chapter 59. It’s interesting how this often overlooked book has been a theme in my life the past few months. I’ve lost count of the number of times God has directed me to it. This morning, as I listened while I read, I heard exactly what He was saying to me.

My offering was acceptable but it wasn’t without blemish. It also wasn’t complete.

I’d surrendered my life as I know it into His hands. I’d intentionally placed myself at His feet, desperately wanting to do what He was asking. But I was still clinging to control.

I still wanted the path ahead to be brightly lit and clearly marked. I don’t like surprises. I never have and I also don’t like suspense. I’m the person that flips to the end of a book to see if I’m going to be happy with it.

My surrender has been sincere but it hasn’t been without condition.

My prayers have been genuine but not void of expectation.

My heart has been settled but not without reservation.

This process of spiritual growth isn’t without discomfort. It requires stretching and shaping and molding and refining. It involves plans being made and plans being changed. It involves sometimes literally only being able to see the step you’re on and not even the one right ahead.

And it ultimately brings you to a place where you realize you’re shortsighted, hot tempered, manipulative, demanding, and childish. Who trusts their life plans to a person like that?

Which is exactly why we shouldn’t entrust ours to ourselves.
I have no idea what’s ahead. Our plan has been to leave in mid-August and we’re rapidly approaching late June. Our conviction regarding that calling hasn’t changed nor has the belief that we’re to continue to prepare to leave in that time frame.

But the acceptance of His will over our plans must remain paramount.
We’ll prepare to step through the door the moment He opens it. But if He doesn’t open it when we expect Him to, we’ll serve Him right where we are until He does.

If I’m being honest, though, I’m getting kind of excited to see how this is going to unfold. I have a hunch it’s going to be big.
“Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning, for in thee do I trust. Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto thee.” Psalm 143:8

And let me just tell you, Satan has had a hayday with this latest development. Because not only has he discouraged us with the loss of a contract that felt so directly like an answer to prayer, he’s launched an all-out attack against our faith in this calling.

I keep praying for God to help me get over myself and then somehow I manage to prevent Him from answering. Because our pride took a beating over this thing, which isn’t bad even if it feels like it is. It’s just so ingrained in me to be a people-pleaser. It’s who I conditioned myself to be as a child and it’s what I’ve carried with me through adulthood.

I absolutely detest the feeling of knowing someone thinks poorly of me. I hear people all the time say, “I don’t care what people think. I’m gonna do me!” And I just can’t even. Do they mean it? How does one learn to not care?

Should we learn to not care?

I think it’s definitely one of those gray areas because our influence, our presence, our behavior certainly impacts people and so our witness before them absolutely matters. But my struggle is caring so much what people think that I allow it to crowd out caring enough about what God thinks.

That’s the danger zone.

I hear the doubt in people’s voices. I see it in their eyes. They’ve warned us from the beginning that this may or may not be the path God is leading us toward. Even when we prayed for, and received confirmation, it hasn’t been good enough for human reasoning.

And those voices of doubt, even when they’re often the minority as far as what’s being spoken aloud to us, have taken their toll. They’ve effectively done the work the enemy intended them to.

Because especially since the contract on the house fell through, I’ve been dealing with the constant barrage of accusations from satan regarding how unfit we are. If I start to lose my grip on the faith that we’ve been called as missionaries, he’s right there to beat me over the head with how weak and easily shaken that faith is. If I start to be frustrated over not knowing how to help our kids plan since we don’t know when we’re leaving, he’s on standby to assure me there’s nothing to plan for because we aren’t the kind of family that’s any use to God.

I’m working to take every thought captive but they’re coming in such rapid succession that my resolve is slipping.

On Monday evening I shared a part of my testimony during our week of prayer at church. I shared about how God had so clearly healed our 7 year old son from asthma. I told those gathered in that room that we hadn’t even been needing breathing treatments as Levi had shown no sign of struggle.

And the very next day I found myself needing to administer at least 3 breathing treatments.

I’ve been soooo slow to boldly claim him healed. I’ve watched closely for signs and symptoms and seen nothing. I’ve murmered here and there about it, but had feared saying it aloud for all to hear in case we were wrong.

And as soon as I did, satan was there to prove me a fool.

That’s what it’s felt like lately. One step forward and a giant leap back. The enemy is determined to shake our faith, destroy our resolve, and kill our witness. But here’s a hard truth he may not have known:

We’re weak but God isn’t. And we aren’t letting go of that strength no matter what gets thrown at us.

We might limp a little. We might even struggle to catch our breath sometimes. But God has promised to be a very present help in times of trouble and we’re banking on the fact that He meant it when He said it.

We’re moving forward.

We have no contract on our house but we have a yard sale scheduled to sell our belongings in just over a week.

We have no contract on our house but my husband’s work has been notified that he’s leaving.

We have no contract on our house but we’re proceeding just as if we do, with the exception of a few hiccups where we let our humanity get the best of us.

If God chooses to keep the door closed longer than we expect He will, we will serve Him right where we are until it opens. We’ll bask in the gift of friends who speak words of life over us, who pray for us, and who invest in the building up of our courage.

But most of all, we plan to capitalize on this time by investing right back.

By praying more, helping better, loving with greater intention. That’s the essense of the gospel anyway. Here or there. More of Him and less of me means our focus is outward not inward. With our eyes off ourselves and firmly planted on Him, our doubt will once again fade and we’ll get our hand back on that plow.

There’s planting to be done so the harvest can increase.

And, as my husband keeps saying, it’s time to prepare for rain.

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