Last night I was at a Bible study surrounded by a group of women who I am so privileged to call my friends and mentors. It is such a joy for me that I am privileged enough to experience this every few weeks.
At one particular point in one of our discussions, one of the women looked at me and she said "you know you really should lay that whole situation on the altar."
The specific topic of the conversation is irrelevant, but I will provide insight into the situation by stating that the topic that we had been discussing was one that I had been praying about and had honestly felt that I HAD been laying it on the altar. After much reflection and thought I would soon realize that that wasn’t completely accurate.
This particular phrase that my friend had said to me, “laying it on the altar,” really resonated with me throughout the remainder of the night. The situation I had been expressing to her was one I had been praying about for weeks, maybe even months. I felt somewhat discouraged after hearing these words because I felt that I HAD been laying it on the altar. I HAD been praying about it with the faith that God would work things out in his timing. I HAD persistently specified exactly what the situation was and that I needed God’s hand in the matter. I was doing everything that I was supposed to be doing, wasn’t I?
As the night of fellowship came to an end I hugged my friends and we parted ways. That one comment still swishing through my mind as I made my way home. It wasn’t until I had climbed into bed and was reflecting on the entire evening that these thoughts finally started to make sense. I finally realized that maybe I wasn’t being fully faithful in my desire for God’s outcome with this current situation I had been praying about.
You see, up to this point I thought I had been praying about this situation perfectly. I was waiting for God's timing (see Ecclesiastes 8:6, Lamentations 3:25-26) and I was praying directly and specifically (Matthew 7:7). But, what I realized that I had failed to do, without even realizing it, was being willing to accept God's outcome. I had already made up my mind of what the outcome would be.
The problem, and the refreshing news, which I realized as I was reflecting later that night was that God's outcome for my situation is not always the same one that I envision for myself. Scripture does state that we must wait on his timing (Isaiah 40:31), it states to pray confidently (Hebrews 4:16). Scripture encourages you to pray openly and transparently (Philippians 4:6), and it also states that we must be willing to accept his terms and outcomes (Proverbs 19:21).
What I had been praying for was God to show me what his desire was for a particular situation. I would pray that he would open my eyes, give me patience to wait on his timing and occasionally I would pray that when it was time he would smack me upside the head so that I wouldn’t miss any signs! I would go into my prayer time confidently and transparently, aware and safe in the knowledge that our Lord works for the good of us and that he has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29: 11-14). But, I realized though that the one thing I had been unfaithful about in my prayers was the outcome component. The most important piece! I hadn’t thought to open my heart to him and let him know that I would be willing to follow his plans for this situation even if they weren’t the plans I had envisioned. I was praying with the idea that my planned outcome must be the same as his. I was praying, but I wasn’t trusting in his works.
In (Genesis 22:1-4) Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his most beloved possession, his son, Isaac. We are blessed and extremely grateful that these sacrifices are not required of us in order to show obedience to our Lord today. However, we must remember and acknowledge Abraham’s undeniable dedication to following his Lord, even when the outcome was unbearably heartbreaking for him. He knew that God’s plan was greater. This is the truest form of obedience.
When my friend told me to lay it on the altar what she meant was that I needed to lay it ALL on the altar. Not just pieces of the situation that I felt comfortable letting go of. I needed to be willing to step away from my current, as well as my future plans and lay it all down if that is what God was calling me to do.
This is NOT always an easy thing to do, especially if you’re like me and have a rough outline for what the rest of your life is supposed to look like and an exhaustingly detailed itinerary for everyday in between. I am utterly terrified of the unknown. Josh always has to be the first to try new foods at restaurants because I will stick with the same selection simply because I am comfortable in knowing what to expect if I order the same thing I have ordered 20 times before. It’s scary stepping away from feeling confidently safe. But, I realized that as a Christian and as a woman who desperately wants to please God that not only do I need to accept those uncertainties, I need to be excited for them.
God will test us often to see if we are willing to follow him. Are we willing to step outside of our plans and our comfort zones to follow what he is directing of us? Sometimes he will push us BACK into the situations that we are most familiar and most comfortable with and sometimes he will guide us down a path we had never even thought of. The reward, however, will be worth it all because in following his path for us we gain entrance into his eternal Kingdom. This is GOOD news!
So, last night as I laid down to go to sleep I prayed for the situation that I had been praying for. I prayed for patience in his timing and I prayed for guidance in that I wouldn’t miss any of his signs. I prayed whole-heartedly and with confidence that God works for my good because he already has plans for my life. But, I also prayed that he would give me courage and peace to step away from my own expectations and plans if he does decide to guide me in a different direction that I have planned.
I challenge you today, if you’re struggling with something that you are uncertain of. Lay it on the altar! Be willing to trust God with it and know, with full confidence, that HIS plan is SO much greater than any we could plan for ourselves.
James 1:2-4 ~ “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”