Whatever you want, I surrender to You.
Whatever it takes, I am willing to do.
You know I am weak, so I’m leaning on You
To give me the power for yielding to You.
Whatever I’ve gained I now count it as loss.
I want to surrender whatever the cost.
Whatever I’ve cherished can never come close
To knowing you, Jesus, and loving You most.
These are the words I wrote in my journal during the Restore Retreat last October. The retreat was a life-changing experience. In the quiet setting of the retreat center, I was able to be still and really listen with my heart to the deep truths that God had for me. It had been a while since I had such meaningful instruction from the Word of God. The lessons delved deep into the scriptures, shedding light on the cultural context of the passages and on the definitions of the words in the original Greek. The Passover meal that we shared also aroused my interest in the land and customs of Israel. I hungered for more.
A month after the retreat, when I “accidentally” stumbled on information about a tour to Israel, I casually mentioned it to my husband. Tim had frequently expressed a desire to go to the Holy Land, but, my response was usually, “Not me. It’s not on my list. It’s way too dangerous.” But Tim took that little bit of information about the tour and pursued it. Then he announced that he was going---was I coming along? (I don’t think he would have actually left me behind, but sometimes I need a little extra push to make a decision.) We met with the tour leader and discussed the details of the trip. She related something that a Jewish man told her on her previous tour. He said, “No one just comes to Israel. You are invited by God, and you decide to answer the invitation.”
It was as if Jesus was saying to me, “Do you want to know me better? Then come and see where I lived when I was on the earth. Come and visit my old neighborhood.”
The trip was flawless. Not once did I feel fearful or even nervous, for I felt God’s hand of protection on our group the entire time. What a thrill to set foot in the place where it all began….where God began His relationship with man, where the patriarchs and prophets lived and preached and witnessed miracles in their midst. It was such a joy to travel along the rocky paths that Jesus, the rabbi, walked with His disciples, teaching them through parables and object lessons along the way. Seeing the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding landscape helped me to envision what it might have been like to watch Jesus pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and struggle down that road to the cross. Our Jewish guide helped us to understand eastern culture and thinking, giving new meaning to events in the Bible. I gained a deep appreciation of how God has dealt with the nation Israel over the centuries, and how even now prophesies are still being fulfilled, for He is still at work. The trip was an exhilarating “mountaintop” experience that gave me a greater reverence for the awesome God of Israel and for the Son who suffered and died for me.
If the trip to Israel was a mountaintop experience, illness was certainly a dark valley. I clung to God’s word with the belief that there is somehow a purpose in all of this. I wanted to draw closer to the Savior, to experience His presence, and to hear His voice. But I really didn’t feel His presence. Sometimes I wondered if I was just talking to an imaginary friend. If He was speaking to me, I couldn’t hear Him because the pain was screaming so loudly and the enemy was constantly taunting me, saying, “God has abandoned you. He is finished with you. You are useless. Your life is over.”
Then one afternoon while in the waiting room at the clinic, I was reading Beth Moore’s, Jesus the One and Only. In the book, Beth Moore encouraged the reader to try and picture what Jesus might have looked like. The face that immediately came to mind was the face of the young technician who was in charge of calling patients and showing them into the doctor’s office. Ok, the young man has dark hair and a beard, and he does look a bit like he could be Jewish, but the feature that stood out was the kindness on his face. I noticed how he smiled at the patients and asked them how they were feeling. He addressed them by name. It’s how I imagined Jesus must have talked to the sick and the suffering.
Then I began to think of the various manifestations of God’s love for me during my illness:
I have seen Christ in the way my husband shows unconditional love for me even when I am unlovely. He has been a true servant, waiting on me and caring for me when I am too weak to care for myself. This is an example of God’s love. God loved us while we were yet sinners, when we had nothing to offer him in return.
When I cried, family members cried with me. It reminds me of the way Jesus was also “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” when he saw Mary weeping over her brother Lazarus, even though he knew the final outcome, even though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead.
I haven’t seen visions of Jesus, but, come to think of it, I have seen Christ all around me. I see him in the face of my pastor, who knows my name. In shepherding his flock, this pastor is imitating the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep.
I see Christ’s example of a servant’s heart in my principal, who has taken my carpool duty for me and has taken care of my class when I had doctor’s appointments.
I have seen Jesus and experienced His presence because all of these people who have ministered to me are believers. They have Christ’s Holy Spirit indwelling them.
Through the body of Christ, I am getting to know a Savior
who is kind and compassionate,
who knows my name and feels my pain,
whose love is unconditional and sacrificial.
Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In our journey here on earth, our goal is to get to know Him better. Getting to know Him is more than just an academic endeavor. Sometimes it involves those mountaintop experiences, where we get a taste of His awesome power. Sometimes we get to know Him better through the fellowship of His sufferings. And though we aren’t able to see Him, hear His voice, or touch Him the way the disciples did, His Presence is made manifest to us through other believers, the body of Christ.
I don’t know why God has chosen to take me down these particular paths as He teaches me and guides me and as I develop my relationship with Him. Some of the roads are not ones I would have chosen. I do know that He loves me, and that no pain I experience will ever be wasted. I am trusting the words of I Peter 5:10:
“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.
Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned.
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