What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?

“What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do?”

I sat at my grey kitchen table, pink-rimmed tulips wilting in their vase. The sunlight seared the pages of the book of James spread out before me. A friend on the other end of the phone shared she was afraid to submit to God and say, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do” because it would most likely result in her working some place she hated, or moving to a dangerous foreign country, or abandoning a relationship she valued.

Many church members consider full obedience to be certain punishment.

It can feel like that, but – blessedly — this isn’t true.

Know His Heart

Are you afraid to surrender to Him completely?

First of all, we have to clear our head from the me-approach to Scripture. Realize “the Bible is a book about God” as Jen Wilkens reminds us. Too often we’re searching our Bibles to find out how we can feel better. “Where am I in this?” we ask of Isaiah’s poetic chapters.

Good news! As we stare intently at His Word to simply know Him, we’ll be granted more knowledge of Who we left all to follow. Just from the first chapter of James we learn He is wise, righteous, generous, a promiser of the crown of life, can’t be tempted, giver of good and perfect gifts, Father of lights, never changes, speaks words of truth, wrote a law of liberty, and blesses doers of the Word.

Sounds like a God who is trustworthy of our utmost submission. Do you believe the intentions of His will toward you are always kind? Ask Him for the faith to believe His capability to grant wisdom and to weave together His goodness into your story.

As we notice who is He is, we see His heart for us and for His world. And the more time we spend with Him, the more He starts to peel away our fleshly desires and replace them with His set apart ones.

Stare intently at His Word to be unified to His heart.

Know His Will

But what if you can’t figure out the thing He wants you to do?

Thankfully, God doesn’t hide His will from us in a big divine guessing game.

“Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. And how would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation.”
― John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will

Need to know God’s will? See the Bible. Need to know how to plan for the future? Acknowledge Him in your plans and He’ll direct Your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

Of course, knowing me and you, we just would resort to worrying about the few decisions not lined out in Scripture, like who we’re going to marry or where we’ll live.

You’ve heard the missionary stories like: “I told God I would go anywhere except Asia, and then He sent me to Asia!” I used to worry that God would make me marry someone I didn’t like.  

Ah, dear younger me, God doesn’t work like that. His ways are not a forceful, grit-your-teeth burden – they’re a joy. He’s a friend and father who guides us gently, who knows us intimately. He doesn’t plan devastation for His children. Joyless, fruitless futures are not ours.  

But what about the scary country He could call us to?

What’s important to know is that if God asks us to sacrifice, He equips us with the giftings, passions, help, support, and any other provision we need. We’re never left and high and dry without His strength. He leads us beside still waters for His own name’s sake. There is always plenty of grace for tomorrow’s problems. As Hudson Taylor put it, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.”

He gets the glory that way.

“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

Stare intently as His Word to know His written will, and don’t worry about where He’ll lead you or if you’ll miss out on His direction. He’ll provide.

Know His Hatred for Sin (What the Flesh Hates, The Spirit Loves)

God gently aligns us to His straight and narrow way when we acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6). Is it uncomfortable? Sometimes. But is it worth it?

I had braces as a teenager. As I parted the orthodontist’s office for the last time, they instructed me to wear my retainers at night. I did faithfully for a while. Then the habit loosened. Now whenever I get convicted about how my teeth could move back into their original jagged state, I pop the retainers back in. But it hurts! I have to take them off in the middle of the night just so I can sleep. But the next night it’s better. Then…well, if I would just keep wearing them periodically, I wouldn’t have to repeat the pain, and my teeth would stay aligned!

Alignment of the heart is something beautiful, though, it can also be difficult. The end result is far better than staying on crooked paths.   

When we first start following Christ, we don’t hate all of our sin as much as we should. But as we gaze at His holiness longer and longer, we start to view disobedience to Him as He does — undesirably. We begin to see the goodness of walking with Him, and the wickedness of our own ways.

We certainly get the better end of the bargain. Sure, God will lead us to do things our flesh despises. Alignment is uncomfortable, like barely-used retainers. But holding onto our sin patterns won’t bring anything remotely good. If you think your will and way is fun and worth it, be aware it’s a lie from the world and the devil.

Our flesh would NEVER choose suffering or denying itself. But submitting to Him is freedom and joy. Reward and fulfillment.

The spirit is WILLING. The flesh is what’s weak (Mark 14:38).

Know His Correction

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

Correction might conjure up images of traditional teacher blackboards and humiliation. But James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote this:

“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Who looks at a mirror and doesn’t correct the messy hair and the mascara smudge or the crooked tie? Mirrors lead to something better than before.

Jesus also states the blessedness of correction:

But He said, “On the Contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” 

Luke 11:28

Being a doer of the word brings blessing! The world’s burdens will enslave us to our own passions reaping the punishment of death, but His law is a law of liberty.

What to Do

First, know the One who asks for your obedience, how He is trustworthy and kind. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing the Person He is.

Second, He won’t lead you anywhere without His abundant provision. If you’re afraid to obey Him, Your missing the point of His will.

Third, God will absolutely ask You to do things that your flesh will hate (like denying yourself). Take courage, however, God’s spirit in you is willing. If you don’t want to obey Him, you’re missing a place in your life for His spirit.

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Philippians 2:13

Further study:

Read Psalm 119 until you begin to agree with God about how good His commandments are.

Take Courage, Graduate

PC: Photo by Joshua Earle, Yellowstone

Parking Lot Prelude

I’ve been uniquely positioned to see a new angle of behind-the-scenes church since I’ve become a mom. Whether it’s catching most of the sermon from the foyer speakers, inhaling the shared meal before the baby wakes up, or catching conversations over the diaper changing table in the nursery, church looks a bit different in this season. I’ve appreciated the new observations I’ve made. 

Sunday morning I sat in our car, fitting in a baby feeding before the service started. My husband was greeting at the door, but I had a chance to observe the happening parking lot.

There’s something special about seeing car after car turn into this holy slab of cement. The day washed in sunshine, smiles appeared bright.

I noticed a newlywed couple, dressed in Sunday best, but returning a post hole digger to someone else’s vehicle before heading into the building. 

There also was a darling collection of six young siblings tumbling out of the van, waving to their friends as they patiently waited for their parents. Their pink dresses, blue plaids, and grins melted my heart. “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord.” What a testimony their smiles were to the joy of the Lord! 

A few spaces down, my sister and her husband emerged from their car, with laughter and coffees. They whipped out baby and baby stroller in practiced teamwork style, also eager to worship.

As more people filed toward the front doors, I also noted a new haircut, a young believer in the faith, and a proud, new grandma. The high school seniors had arrived early to pass out their grad party invitations.

Each sister and brother in Christ — young and old — spoke some aspect of God’s truth to me. I need them all.

They are individuals carrying unique spiritual gifts into the church foyer. Members of Christ’s body, and if they are suffering, we all are; if they are rejoicing, we all are, and somehow we can visit both places at once in our Oneness with Christ. The Man of Sorrows and yet, the Dayspring from on High.

What a gift to be physically together. The sun and spring blossoms beckoned praise. I reached for my Bible to read a little, and my eyes fell on this passage:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

For He is our God,

    and we are the people of His pasture,

    and the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you hear His voice,

 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.”

Psalm 95:6-8

Since I was peering through my vehicle’s tinted windows, and not through rose-colored glasses, I knew this was as an imperfect sheep gathering as any. We desperately need God to soften our prone-to-be-hard hearts to worship Him and genuinely care for one another. We also need each other to call one another to worship and bow down.

My heart swelled as I prepared to set up my own little sheep’s stroller and enter the gates with thanksgiving. I determined to encourage anyone I could and also be encouraged.

The behind-the-scenes of the parking lot gave me a small prelude of thankfulness as I prepared to worship with this gift of grace we call the local church.

Low Battery

I love my phone.

It gives me the chance to access audio books while I do housework. I also track several health things, including my nursing schedule for my baby.

A quick click gives me the weather, the time, the date, and the loops I love to be in (aka group chats).

My handheld device connects me with friends and family in instant, unimaginable ways. It makes me feel like a photographer as I capture moments and share them in real time, unless I want to finesse with filters first.

I write down quotes in the digital notes and screenshot tidbits of info for later. I even do all my grocery shopping from an app and the couch.

Lately my phone’s been busy arranging slideshows of highlights from one, two, and three years ago. So sweet and sentimental to have flashbacks without even asking.

A brief text can coordinate hospitality. A tap and I’m sailing my way through the book of Numbers as I tidy up the living room.

Thanks to my phone, I can video call my brother. Store my recipes. Search Bible commentaries. Cash checks. Soak up curated music. Even talk to people occasionally.

I check emails in moments waiting for my dentist appointment … an appointment I wouldn’t have remembered without my calendar app. Or would have found without my map app. Goodness, I’d still be lost somewhere without maps or the ability to call home for directions (thanks, Dad!).

I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent listening on my phone to people talk about health and current events or home decor advice. It’s all aesthetic and addicting.

NO WONDER I feel uncomfortable when the battery goes in the red zone.

I mean, I’m waiting for a birth announcement from a friend, surgery updates from a dear sister in Christ, and a chance to hear the next chapter in the novel I’m listening to. My phone makes all of this easy and convenient.

Tonight my phone battery stooped dangerously low. I charged it on the counter while I made dinner…or so I thought. Instead of regaining power, it was dying. Marco Polo and Pinterest were fading out of reach thanks to a finicky charger.

My phone who faithfully serves me needed me to serve it.

I jostled the charger and managed to get a few more percentages. We ate supper. My husband left for Bible study.

With just one hand available thanks to my son, I wanted to read articles and view stories.

Then my charger truly broke. Part of it was still in my phone. Now I was minutes away from losing all my — my data, and this bothered me. I formed a plan to order a charger online…or should I make my day busier tomorrow and go somewhere to get one? Shoot an SOS text to my husband to pick one up? All the panic in the name of restoring communication.

But it was a problem for tomorrow.

So I rocked my baby to sleep without anything shiny in hand.

In the solitude of the dim nursery, I prayed aloud for our family. I prayed for my priorities.

And I thought about the verses I had read this morning:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

All the wonderful, good ways I use my phone and all the wasteful, useless times I spend on there are all loss and rubbish in comparison to the paramount glory of knowing — just simply knowing — Christ Jesus my LORD.

I can do without the purposes of my digital assistant when I examine them in the light of the Savior’s face.

He is all I need. Lord, spare me from idolizing anything — convenience of online groceries, glamour of Instagram house tours, power of knowing things instantly — above You.

Tonight I’m thankful for a battery that plunged the black hole to remind me of Who matters and Who deserves my first-fruit time and attention.

I love my Savior.

Stories of March

Since I procrastinate like the best when it comes to documenting (both privately and publicly) my life milestones, it’s high time for a personal update. Maybe I delay because certain events feel too sacred to lock onto a page . . . like when you snap a picture but you know your smudgy smart phone can’t capture the justice the landscape deserves.

But, lately, I’ve noticed how much I relish reading a blog post, prayer letter or post with pieces of the author’s heart tangled up in it. When it’s their story, it draws me in as I relate, imagine, rejoice, and empathize.

We love stories.

So I don’t want to withhold my stories from this very special month of March.

March 1st marked three years from when my husband first messaged me and a long-distance romance was birthed. Neither of us knew where a simple message would lead, but with so much in common, our conversation exploded and one thing led to another. After four months of writing and skyping, we met in person, and the rest is history.

March 16th signified our engagement just two years ago. I’ll never forget the roller coaster day that ended with a ring and cheesecake. God is good.

One year ago March makes me think of empty offices, Frozen 2, Greek food, virtual meetings, remote church, and Psalm 34. It reminds me of long springtime strolls, rehearsing the sovereignty and goodness of God.

And now this March is the month where we’re experiencing many sweet firsts with our firstborn son. His name is Judah Charles, and he turned one month today. God answered so many prayers relating to our pregnancy and birth, and we’re smitten with the precious little man! The journey of being a stay-at-home mom has truly been a gift.

It’s stunning how much we love him. While falling in love with a spouse leading up to marriage is gradual (with some uncertainty), love for a child is unconditional and instant. It mirrors how our Heavenly Father loves us even when we are helpless and unreasonable.

Welcome to our family, Judah! We can’t wait to see the story He writes for you.

What are your stories of March?

The Blues of January

“Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on,” sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over, the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked.

“I wish it was Christmas or New Year’s all the time. Wouldn’t it be fun?” answered Jo, yawning dismally.

Little Women, Louisia May Alcott

Here’s to the foggy Mondays after break. In the case of Little Women, Amy searches for her homework, and Meg bemoans her shabby dress but, next, points out the little munchkins she takes care of won’t notice what she wears anyways. Jo must go back to the fearsome Aunt March. Beth has a headache.

Sound familiar?

Longing for luxury, the four sisters wish life could always be parties, bouquets, resting, and reading.

I don’t blame them. I would add coffee and writing, then we’re set.

I remember last January. I carried the plight of my busy schedule, daydreaming about all I would do if only I just had more time at home. It was easy to compare myself with others who had better success with, what I chalked up to be, more flexibility. If I had the same schedule, then surely my creativity could fully unleash. My house would be clean. Scores of books would be ingested, parties could be planned down to details, such as the colors of the straws.

Then, what do you know? I kind of got my wish! For the first time ever, in an event completely unforeseen, I had the chance to set up a home office, with ample time in the spring evenings to do whatsoever I pleased.

It was much like the March sisters’ experiment in chapter eleven. Faced with another vacation, the girls resolved to give into their thirst for a complete break from work of any kind.

Sounds delightful. Wouldn’t not working be the antidote to their January blues described above, plagued by headaches and homework?

As the story goes, Jo read so much she grew fidgety and quarreled with her best friend. Amy found “when her sisters left her to amuse and care for herself, she soon found accomplished and important little self a great burden.” Meg’s sewing projects go awry, and Beth’s bird dies.

They admit their experiment was a failed one, and Marmee replied with her advice, “Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.”

What strikes me about the two scenes (the morning after Christmas vacation and the first few days of complete vacation) is that neither one makes anyone happy. I know the whiplash of this, too. Take my work-from-home experiment for example. While I’m tempted to complain when I have to rush out the door on a Monday morning, I’m just as likely to waste an opportunity for productivity on a free day, longing for the structure I recently loathed.

Contentment is not sourced in our moment’s activity or schedule, is it?

Let’s aim to be like Paul when he penned:

Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-12

I’m about to shift lifestyles in a big way, leaving the office for stay-at-home mom life. I hope I can soak in all the good and the discipline of my current office life, but also know that all the answers to my wishlist won’t be found in more time at home. I desire to be like Paul, to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in. Whether it’s headaches like Beth’s, or shabby dresses like Meg’s, in abundance of a sunny afternoon, or suffering from lack of sleep, packed work sessions or too much leisure time, I hope I will do all things through Him who strengthens me.

PC: Kevin Fitzgerald, Bogus Basin, Boise, Idaho