Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be careful what you pray for?” Until recently, it was something I always took for granted. You see, a few months ago, I was at a really amazing spot with God… in fact, I might even say I had never felt closer to Him. Life had settled down a bit, I had established a routine of spending quality time in the Word, I was immersed in community, and my prayer life was on fire. Of course, instead of resting in that season, I challenged it. I didn’t feel okay with being comfortable. I remember praying over and over again, “Lord, shake me. Reveal my brokenness. Point out my sin. Do whatever you have to do for me to see your goodness and faithfulness in the areas of my life I’ve built walls around. Make my heart more like yours even if that means wrecking parts of me in the process.” God did just that. He flipped me upside down and shook me, and He shook me good.
A few days later during a relationship series my church was doing, the pastor was talking about how we sometimes unintentionally idolize relationships or the idea of a relationship. I realized then that I am a dreamer. I am the girl who has dreamt of her wedding since she was 5 years old and started planning it the moment she discovered Pinterest. I am the girl that dreams of what it would be like to be married to a godly man and live in the perfect house, with children she is undeserving of. I am the girl that easily lives in the past and the future, but struggles with the present. It was right there, during that message, I realized I spend so much time dreaming, desiring, and idolizing the life I’ve always longed for, that somewhere along the way I started placing the dream of that life above my relationship with Christ. I was devastated. How could my longing for a husband have become greater than my longing for the Father? As I continued to look within, I came to a crossroad: if God doesn’t give me the life I’ve always dreamt of, will He still be enough for me? I asked myself this question over and over again. I knew what I wanted the answer to be and I knew what the answer should be, but the truth is in that moment, I didn’t know if God was enough for me.
In the coming months, my heart pleaded, “Of course, God is enough,” and my mind questioned, “Is He really?” I felt like there was a war raging within me. There was a part of me that longed for more of God and was so thirsty for Him, but there was also this part that wasn’t satisfied. I was angry that as I neared my 27th year of life, these passionate desires of my heart were still left unfulfilled. I soon became depressed and grief stricken, convincing myself that God didn’t love me or had abandoned me. I was angry with myself even more than I was angry with God. I was angry with myself for doubting Him, His goodness and faithfulness. I was angry that the thought of not having these desires met created such emotional pain and despair in my heart. No matter how much I pleaded with God, sought after Him, or read His word, nothing changed. I simply could not see how I could find satisfaction in a God who hung me out to dry in misery and emotional suffering, when with a snap of His fingers He could make everything better.
One day, I stumbled upon Matthew 16:24-27. I read it–more like skimmed it. Cool, Jesus wants me to follow Him. But it was so much more than that; I was resistant to hearing God’s voice and allowing Him to move in my heart. Later that same day, I was talking to a friend about God not being enough and they not only sent me that very same verse but challenged me to really read it, think about it, and let God speak to me through it. And so, I did.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
As I read these verses over and over again, I began to wonder if anything similar appeared in the other gospels. Almost the exact same verses are in Luke 9:23-26 and Mark 8:34-38. And John 12:25 reads similarly, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”. Since it is repeated in every one of the gospels, it’s probably something God doesn’t want us to miss or overlook.
In reading these verses over and over again, it was time for me to examine my life and allow God to speak to me. It was time for me to listen no matter how hard the truth would be to swallow. And the truth was that I wasn’t denying myself and I definitely wasn’t taking up my cross. I more or less was dragging it behind me while throwing a temper tantrum like a 2 year old who didn’t get what she wanted. I was living my life like I was entitled to something and acting as if this were true. How dare God allow me to suffer! Hadn’t I suffered enough for one life time? How dare He not grant me my every wish! How dare He think that this path of emotional suffering, depression, and loneliness is the best path for me. I felt like I deserved something from God, but the truth is that I didn’t deserve a thing.
God didn’t owe me anything.
Whatever He gives to me, He gives freely out of His great love for me. Nailed to a cross, Jesus laid His life down for me. He suffered unbearable suffering for me, the selfish 2 year old dragging her cross because “Dad” didn’t wave His magic wand. I’m not exactly sure when it clicked, but suddenly I realized I needed to decrease and He needed to increase (John 3:30). I realized I needed to lay my plans and desires for my life down at the feet of Jesus and surrender it all to Him. I needed to take the back seat and turn my life fully over to Him, the one that bore my sin and shame, so I may find it again eternally. He reminded me that He calls us to commit our whole lives to Him. Regardless of what trials and sufferings we may endure, He is with us and for us. He reminded me that a life lived out for Him is better than any kind of life I could achieve on my own. He reminded me of the ways He has transformed and redeemed me in the past 8 years I’ve known Him; how he pulled me out of the waters when I hit rock bottom, how he redeemed my relationship with my Dad, how he put life back into my eyes when I was going to give up, how he healed me from my past sufferings and traumas, how he gave me the purpose, meaning, and self worth that had been missing from my life for so long. He reminded me that though I will have trouble, trials, and sufferings in this world, He and He alone is capable of overcoming them all (John 16:33). He reminded me that despite what the world and my flesh tells me, He is absolutely everything I need. He reminded me that He is enough for me today, tomorrow, and forever; that every day I have to make the conscious decision to lay my life down, pick up my cross, and surrender it all to Him.
Friends, I pray that you would pick up your cross and allow Him to be enough for you. That you would allow Him to be the King of your heart and the Ruler of your life. That He would be your everything. That he would change your hearts to desire the truly good things that He has in store for you.