I have been privileged to be a spectator in this latest chapter of restoration in Esther’s life. I have watched her choose death, not knowing if resurrection would follow – truly embodying her namesake. In my own season of surrendering to the unknown, I have gained great hope and strength from Esther’s example of trust and faith.

– Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator

I don’t like suffering. At all. In fact, I am a skilled avoider of it. It is as natural as breathing to me. So when God called me to step into what felt like death, and would most assuredly involve guaranteed suffering of the exact flavor I dread most, it was counter-intuitive to every bone in my body.

“I’ve got you.”

 Just before his disruptive request came, I found myself at a workshop in a guided exercise of listening prayer. We were to listen for what Jesus wanted to say to the partner sitting next to us. As we lifted our heads from our silence, I turned to my friend, all of a sudden desperate to hear something from Jesus and simultaneously fearing it was too much to hope for. She turned her chair towards me and said, “I’m hesitant to say this because I have no idea what it means, but Jesus just clearly told me to tell you, ‘You don’t have to be so strong. I’ve got you.’” Tears engulfed me as I sat in that room full of people. I had no idea why he was saying that to me either but it felt tremendously kind. I knew I felt weighted by a deep sense of needing to be perpetually strong, but it felt out of the blue. Why was he choosing to tell me that right now? I had not a clue.

Soon after my return home, I met with a mentor for our customary cup of coffee. I shared with her openly regarding an ongoing struggle, but her usual encouragement didn’t come. She sat for a long while and then said, “I’m going to challenge you to consider something drastic.” She set her suggestion out on the table between us. Her words struck like a punch in my gut. For a moment I couldn’t breathe. Inwardly, I punched them right back. “No way!”

My suffering-avoidance strategy kicked into overdrive.

“Radical repentance”

I knew instinctively my unwillingness to consider her challenge had more to do with my easygoing, conflict-avoidant, “I-can-make-a-molehill-out-of-any-mountain” approach to life than a true commitment to love. I am a peacemaker at heart, but if I can’t manage to bring genuine tranquility after endless attempts, I am perfectly adept at faking it. I had prided myself for far too long on my idolatrous ability to make life work this way.

Accepting her challenge would require radical repentance of my cherished way of being in the world. Not something I had much interest in giving up anytime soon.

At the time, my Battle for the Heart group was walking through Realities 3 & 4 in the follow through process: Evil is hunting you and a fellowship desires to protect you. Little did I know how much I would need the clarity of those reminders as their truths began to play out dramatically in my quite ordinary life.

Over the next 40 days Jesus invited me to pray about the possibility of stepping into the very thing I feared most. While seeking his guidance on such an important step, it became clear I was being invited to play a part in God’s larger story and to trust God to provide the courage it would take.

The way of fear and pride was my comfort zone. Parts of me longed to stay on its safe, well-trodden path. Every day my fear of what would happen if I took this challenge rose up and every day the way of humility beckoned, reminding me that its gate led first through suffering, crucifixion and death with what seemed like a very wispy promise – that resurrection, life and glory were somewhere beyond the fog in a hazy, distant future.

My battle preps kept me daily in touch with God’s love and care at many moments just when I needed it. God’s love, in turn, provided me with courage to follow where it became clear He was leading.

“Love of the Fellowship”

 Obedience felt like a freefall. In the midst of my toddler-like attempts to walk in fear-laced faith, my fellowship became the very arms of God breaking my fall. Apart from their love, I can’t imagine how I would have made it through that season.

They didn’t have any more clarity than I did on how God would bring life from my entry into suffering and apparent death; they simply stayed present to the battle for my heart.

Dallas Willard often defines Grace as “God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own.” As I stepped out in faith, his grace orchestrated events and details in ways I never could have imagined much less arranged. It was flabbergasting, in fact, to watch Him provide for every single thing I needed to follow Him.

“The path that leads to restoration”

Even in the midst of his provision, however, the pain was enormous. His clear provision softened but did not eliminate agony. My fears were not all imagined. I faced very real loss. For a full two years the path felt very dark with only one immediate next step slightly illuminated. Many times I took it feebly, aching to be able to see where this path was leading but blind none-the-less.

Eventually, just when I least expected it actually, the fog lifted and the destination became clear: A restoration beyond belief.

The very thing that I had longed for….my deep desires for peace and love….began to be filled in the wake of abandoning the very strategies I had thought would procure them.

“Strategies that sabotage”

I am growing in my recognition that my fearful avoidance actually sabotages God’s peace beyond my comprehension. I am growing in my love for this wild gift of repentance that invites me to give up my own strategies to make life work and to free fall into his love.

As for that ‘wispy’ promise of ‘resurrection, life and glory’ – my heart cannot contain the enormity of goodness he has brought and is bringing to me and my domain from what felt like death to me. His faithfulness is staggering. He is indeed Resurrection and Life.

And his words to me in the workshop still engulf me in tears over the immensity of his tenderness to show me that it is his strength, not mine, that carries me.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – Jn. 12:24

 


One Step Further:

  • Where is God calling you to suffering, crucifixion and death?
  • What truth do you need to embrace in order to choose the Way of Humility in this area?
  • What might resurrection, life and glory look like here?