Letting Go

I am a dreamer. Or at least, I was a dreamer. This year seems to have had a singular focus of ripping away every last one of my dreams. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic at the moment, but that is how I feel today!

In the past I’ve often been discouraged when the plans I had for my life were derailed or when the great expectations I created for a situation failed to happen. I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this disappointment on a whole new level in 2020. Discouragement isn’t even a valid word for this. Melancholy. Despair. Depression even. Those are much more apt. 

The last few days have been particularly hard. I’m sure it’s partly the coming election, partly the monotony and loneliness of life in a pandemic, and partly the weight of financial stress right now. It’s all collided into a perfect storm of fear, anger, and sadness. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of looking on the bright side until recently (at least, I’ve tried really hard!). Now I’m having a difficult time seeing anything but the gloom. My mind continues to inform me that this too will pass, but my heart is struggling to see past the deluge of sorrow. 

As it so often happens, though, God knew just how to reach me in the midst of this storm. I’ve been reading through I Kings and just recently came upon one of my favorite parts of the Old Testament – the stories of Elijah. Today’s reading brought me to God’s great performance on Mount Carmel (chapter 18). Elijah must have been feeling pretty good after God’s magnificent display and his subsequent victory over the false prophets. The drought ended, the people saw God’s goodness and might, and the wicked King Ahab showed signs of possible spiritual restoration. 

But just as a new day seemed to be dawning in Israel, Ahab’s infamous wife Jezebel issued a death warrant for God’s anointed prophet. Elijah fled into the wilderness where he hoped to meet his end. In I Kings 19:4, he proclaimed: “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” He’s at the end of his rope! He feels he can’t take any more disappointment. This isn’t what he expected after God’s great triumph. He doesn’t understand what else is to be accomplished, and he feels completely and utterly alone. 

Twice during this pessimistic period in the wilderness God asks him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Twice he answers: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

Can you identify with Elijah’s emotions here? Isolated, despondent, feeling entirely doomed. Though I can’t equate my current circumstances to the prophet’s, I can certainly relate to his feelings. And I doubt it’s much of a risk to suppose there are others out there also feeling alone and disheartened today. 

Elijah’s life did not end with this episode in the wilderness. God still had much more planned for him. Think of all Elijah would have missed out on if God had granted his request to take his life. Most notably, he would have missed out on one of the most intriguing departures from this world recorded in scripture! (See II Kings 2 for that amazing story!)

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel…

I Kings 19:18 (NKJV)

Instead of granting his request, God revealed to Elijah what was previously unknown to him: “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18) God also informed Elijah that He had much more work for him to do, including anointing two future kings and his spiritual successor, Elisha. His life was still precious and still important. 

If you are feeling disappointed and discouraged this morning, please know that God views your life as precious. You are and always will be important. We can never see more than what is revealed to us in the moment. Or in other words, we don’t know what we don’t know! I am certain that God has more in store for your life than what you see and know today.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

One last thing stuck out to me as I was reading today. The notes in my study Bible (Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, 1997) include an interesting comment on verse 18: “Although in each generation there are great spiritual leaders who do the work of God, there is a community of God among everyday people whose lives are not spectacular but who live faithfully for God.” I often feel disheartened that my life is not “spectacular” in my own estimation. Today God reminded me that just like those 7,000 mentioned in I Kings 19, I have a role to play in His family and in His will for this earth if I just live faithfully for Him. What a privilege that is to be one among the community of God! 

I know without a doubt that my dreams for my life are nothing compared to the plans God has for me. And I know this is true for every one of His followers. He is the Author of all good things. I don’t believe God causes our pain and suffering in this life – that is all brought on by Satan, our own sin, and chaos that comes with a fallen world. I do believe, however, that when we face the reality of shattered dreams and broken hearts, God will sustain us and will work to bring about His good and perfect will in the end. That is the foundation of my unbreakable joy today and every day.

I leave you with the first few lines of Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You:”

Letting go of every single dream

I lay each one down at Your feet

Every moment of my wandering

Never changes what You see

Songwriters: Lauren Daigle / Paul Marbury / Michael Farren
Trust In You lyrics © DistroKid, Essential Music Publishing

What dream is God asking you to let go today? Letting go is not the same as giving up. It just means we’re trusting Him, believing in His goodness, and that we truly mean it when we say “I want what you want, Lord, and nothing less.”

Refining My Perspective

What words would you use to describe 2020? I’m sure we can all come up with some colorful descriptors for this year. Unusual, unforeseen, unprecedented, unimaginable, uncomfortable. Certainly unforgettable.  

There are lots of articles and posts filling our news feeds these days with truly awful stories and statistics. I have come to realize that my healthiest option is to stay off social media and news sites as much as possible right now. It’s difficult if not impossible to determine truth and keep a positive outlook. Now, granted, we can’t just live in a shell, hiding from the reality of the pain and problems all around us. But I do believe we should be purposeful about how we view those things in order to keep a proper perspective. 

Perspective is a word I have thought about a lot in 2020. This bizarre mashup of a global pandemic, social unrest, and national political turmoil has required that I constantly check my perspective of things. It’s easy to get sucked in to whatever rhetoric is being shouted loudest at the moment. The difficulty is in keeping focused on the things that truly matter and maintaining the right perspective.

As a follower of Christ, my perspective is hopefully primarily shaped by my faith and by what I read in the Bible, and secondarily by my life experiences. Spiritually speaking, none of us here on earth have perfect vision, even those of us who have walked with Christ for decades. We all see the world through different lenses. Some of our lenses are smudged with flawed theology, some are warped with bitterness, some are thick with immaturity. Some are cracked and some are soot-covered. Some of our lenses give us inadequate depth perception so we focus too much on things in the moment or too much in the future or the past. 

With such flaws in my own vision, I often wonder how I can ever hope to have a good perspective in times like this. I know the simple answer is by staying in prayer, keeping focused on Christ, and meditating on His word. What I’ve come to learn – and mostly accept – in this year of 2020, though, is that I will not always have a perfect perspective every moment of every day. There will be times when I lose perspective and the current virtual learning struggle with my child will seem completely overwhelming. There may be times when a news story or post by a close friend makes me question my firm convictions. There may be times when financial stresses leave me worried about the future. And there may be times when sickness or injury cause me to question God’s goodness. 

These moments of skewed perspective, though, do not define me or my faith. On the contrary, they grow my faith. Every one of these moments that I live through and emerge from clarifies my earthly vision a little more. And not a single one of these moments comes to me without Christ allowing it. He is using them to refine me, to focus my vision, to sharpen my perspective. As Malachi writes:

He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.

Malachi 3:3 NASB

So today, in the midst of juggling work at home and virtual learning, while I pray for a job for my husband and a vaccine for this virus, I will be thankful to God for the hard times He allows. I will pray that He continues to teach me to filter my thoughts through the truth of His word. And I will rejoice that through it all He is purifying my vision little by little, day by day, difficult moment by difficult moment.

Have you also struggled with perspective lately? How is Christ sharpening your focus today? How can you actively participate in this process? What will you gain from a truer perspective?

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah 26:3 NLT