Isaiah 41:1 (the message)
“Quiet down, far-flung ocean islands. Listen!
Sit down and rest, everyone. Recover your strength.
Gather round me. Say what’s on your heart.
Together let’s decide what’s right.”
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Perhaps you have too much going on and can barely keep your head above water. Perhaps you are facing a serious crisis and don’t know what to do. Perhaps you have suffered a great loss and feel you are hanging on by a thread. Perhaps you are just living life on your own terms and you are less than fulfilled.
I love this verse. I love how it is written in The Message paraphrase. So much of the time, at least for me, when I read God’s Word it always comes back to being real. Your Heavenly Father, your Creator, calling you to come and rest. To gather round Him and just say what’s on your heart. Let me pause here for a moment…see, I believe many of us who are accustomed to church-world have forgotten it’s okay to just say what’s on our heart to God. We try to wrap our words in the right religious jargon. We try to pray the “right” way. We have been taught the points, can quote some scripture, and may have slipped into a formula mind-set. Or maybe church-world was one where the Pastor/Preacher/Priest did the praying, talking and communicating with God on our behalf. Maybe our experience was in a liturgical response written in a book or on a piece of paper. I am not suggesting the points or the liturgy are wrong. But I am suggesting we quiet down and gather round, as this awesome verse says. I am suggesting that if we want peace in our lives we just tell God what’s on our hearts. See, He is quite personal.
The last verse is the kicker: together let’s decide what’s right. What if, even in the midst of our turmoil, we won’t just gather round and be real with God because we are determined to do things our way? Creator wants to help us! He wants to fill our lives with peace and bring stability. He wants to soothe our broken hearts, help us through our losses, show us how to manage our lives, give us direction, purpose and fulfillment! And I believe most anyone would tell you, if you asked them, that they long for peace, stability, comfort and purpose! So, how come so many lack it? How come, just getting real, so many Christians lack it?
I dare to write about this because I have been there. I asked Jesus into my heart as a young child. I grew up in church. My childhood was not perfect but I knew about God and He was part of the equation. I did what I knew to do…I went to church. I went to youth fellowship as a teenager. But you know what? I hardly ever read my Bible. I don’t remember praying much. But I did love God. I stood up for what I believed in as a high-school student. I knew God loved me. But I didn’t know Him in a way that would cause me to gather round and find out what He had to say about boyfriends. I didn’t gather round to hear Him tell me where to attend college or what profession to enter. I told my friends and my mother what was on my heart, but I don’t recall telling God. Bottom line…I was doing what I knew to do, even though it could have been much more impacting and significant.
One day, I was around 20 or 21, a visitor to my then church prayed over me and asked me what I would do if I could do anything? I couldn’t answer! I didn’t know! But I suspected she really wanted an answer because she was intense and repeated the statement…she went on to say God would kick down the doors for me. I have never, ever forgotten that. It was a God-moment in my life…one I kind of tucked into my back pocket for a time in life when I could understand it better…or be brave enough to answer the question. Why brave? Because being real with ourselves and God requires vulnerability and humility. Just like gathering round to hear what He has to say about our lives requires a willingness to admit God knows better than we do. It requires surrender. Here’s the thing: I know surrender is not easy…at first. I know surrender requires a shattering of our pride. And I also know, because I have been shattered, there is no greater way to live than in surrender. You may cringe inwardly as you consider the notion. It’s quite risky to live surrendered to your own will, financial gain, other people, fear, anger, bitterness or the past. But make no mistake we all live surrendered to something. Yet, when I finally grew desperate enough to surrender fully to Jesus , I found more freedom than I had ever known before.
Are you desperate? You may have admitted you were overwhelmed, but are you desperate for peace? The truth is until we are desperate, like I must have peace and I’ll do what I need to do to get it, we will continue to live overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel kind of sad because there are people I love and I know they could live in true wholeness and freedom…in joy and peace…with passion and purpose…but the truth is they aren’t really desperate for it. Maybe it goes back to what I described of my childhood. You do what you know to do, and I really believe God understands that. But I just have to believe for every life, there are events and moments when God is showing you an opportunity for more…if you want more. I believe in my life it took a very difficult marriage to really make me desperate. My parents divorced when I was a kid. I had a few “issues” growing up and I made some sinful and ugly choices for a season, but still I just carried on with what I knew. See, I believe that is the fundamental question today. Are you just going to carry on with what you know? Or do you want more? If you lack peace, joy, purpose, fulfillment, healing, wholeness, forgiveness and freedom are you going to just carry on this way? Or are you willing to gather round your Creator and tell Him what’s on your heart? Are you willing to hear Him speak and show you something new?
Let me wrap this post up this way…yesterday when I came home, my husband was sitting at the kitchen table with my girls. He had been by the store and bought a packet of construction paper and he was helping my 6 and 3-year-old make a Valentine’s Day card for me. I mean He was helping cut and giving ideas and guidance. My husband is 6’3” and is a hunter and fisher. He builds and welds and anything else he puts his mind to. He is an engineer by profession and a somewhat type A individual. We have been through a lot together…screaming matches, overturned tables, clothes thrown out onto the porch, hateful words, separation, miscarriage, tight finances, manipulation, intimidation, bitterness, strife and many tears. Yes, I was willing to carry on with what I knew until I knew I didn’t know nearly enough. Then we had these two beautiful girls, see, and they needed and deserved a healthy and stable home. Finally…I was desperate. Finally…I was willing. Finally…I surrendered. I didn’t really have any idea what to do…so I just gathered round my Father. I told Him, just like a friend, what was on my heart. I was broken and hurting and overwhelmed. So I told Him. And step by step, God did what He says in the verse above. As we came together, my God and I, He helped me to see what was right. He showed me the next step.
Being vulnerable and humble…being broken…was the best thing that ever happened to me. Tonight I’ll open my home-made cards. I’ll savor the memory of coming home to my miracle marriage and watching my husband and girls cut and glue together. I don’t begrudge the hardships of my life. I guess I would if I was still depending on what I knew, my own way and my own strength. But I gave that up. I gathered round my Savior and gave it up. Every time I told Him my heart He spoke back into my life. Every time I felt I couldn’t go on He infused me with His peace and love and a bold determination that the enemy would not have my marriage or my children.
Now I live to be near Him…to hear what He’ll say…to know what’s right. If you are overwhelmed, I pray you’ll grow desperate in your circumstance. Yes. Desperate to know Jesus in ways you haven’t yet. Desperate to hear Him speak to your heart as you gather round.
Nothing is impossible with God.