My reading opened with, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way through the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
This Scripture made my spirit leap – I was in the middle of a wilderness experience. The Bible describes various wilderness experiences and I thought of Abraham: first being called to leave his wealth and security and become a nomad, then the story of his precious Isaac, who was a miracle in the flesh, utterly adored by his parents. My
mind quickly turned to my own children. Definitely miracles in my eyes!
But Abraham was prepared to give Isaac up. Could I give mine up and lay them on an altar? To be perfectly honest, everything inside me screamed, “No!”
So how did Abraham ever find the courage to surrender this precious son, for whom he had waited so long, and place him on the altar of obedience, trust and faith? It was to do with self – or rather the lack of self. Self was totally out of the picture. Abraham was completely submitted, to the point of being willing to return to God what he loved more than life itself. And as a result, God gave Isaac back to him.
Did the all-knowing God need to see what Abraham would do when tested? Of course not! He knew exactly what was going to happen, but Abraham needed to pass the test in order to reach the new heights God had planned for him. And what a test it was. God wants our all, everything there is to give from our hearts. Abraham could give because he trusted, completely. He was prepared to sacrifice his treasured son if God asked him to, knowing that this good, all loving Father had a reason.
Giving out of duty, or in order to gain a pay back from God will never equip us to fight the real battles of this life. Secret agendas or hidden hopes of gain will only cause us to fail as in our humanness we pull away from God’s hand and trust in self.
True surrender springs from trust. How difficult is complete, unquestioning trust? It is impossible without Jesus. But as we surrender to Him, it becomes easier and easier, until it’s a way of life – putting others first and seeking the Kingdom first. I’m a long way off, but I praise God because He will complete the work He has begun in me.
Scripture says we are to be ready to lay down our lives for God. Yet He knows us so well, even the very sincerity we feel when making that promise, can be trodden down by our hidden motives. We praise Him with all our hearts, we run to Him sincerely saying, “Here I am. Use me!”
I’ve been there so many times, then suddenly when the wilderness test comes along I realise just how much I need Jesus to help me. Without Him, life is full of adversity but with Him adversities become adventures.
When God takes us through a difficult test, our reaction is often distress or frustration. “Why?” is the first word to slide off our lips. Or when we rush out to complete a plan, and it doesn’t come together, we’re crestfallen. Often when I reflect back upon my failures, I’ve realised that there were hidden agendas and I wasn’t actually kingdom seeking. It is the tests that have brought this to the surface. God already knows our shortcomings, but we need to recognise them and it is difficult circumstances that will often reveal what’s hiding inside our hearts.
Have you ever heard the saying, “when life dishes out lemons, make lemonade”? Yet when the lemons come, instead of rolling up our sleeves and starting to squeeze our lemons, we shrink back, begging and pleading for relief, or we go into fix-it mode and decide we will sort it out ourselves. However, all the while God is working,
allowing, watching and teaching. He will never give us more than we can handle, although at the time it seems doubtful.
Retrospectively, as I remember the difficulties of life, the failure of plans, the exhaustion of funds, I can definitely see the wilderness experiences, but I can also see how much I’ve learned through them. I didn’t surrender easily to God, even when I thought I had. I’d only surrendered that which I was willing to do. Deep, deep down inside there were things I was holding back, there was a line I was unwilling to cross.
Yet God loves me too much to leave me the way I am, so He persists, gently. All the “stuff” which used to be so important now means very little. And in the freedom of that I’m gaining a different perspective which is more others-orientated. I know I still have a long way to go – a lifetime in fact. But thank goodness the lemonade is
getting sweeter along the way!