Ever since I dropped some packages off at the post office and the postal worker handed me a receipt for $6.66, and I looked at him and him at me, until finally he said, “I didn’t want to say it out loud” and I said, “Well, I am mailing religious books, so take that Satan!”...well, ever since then, things have gone incredibly awry. I will spare you all the horrible details that fell somewhere between the $600 cat surgery and the dead guinea pig, but let’s just say that I must be doing something right because someone down there is not happy.
Being a soldier of Christ Jesus is not for the faint of heart, my friends. Some days I wish I had chosen to become a soldier of anything else...like a soldier of lattes...or manicures…or sleep.
Sitting at my desk while trying to fight off all of the useless questions we like to ask God in times of suffering, questions like, “Why?” and “How long?”, I pulled up the first video for the Living in the Father’s Love Bible study, The Beauty Of A Childlike Faith. In this video, Lisa Brenninkmeyer lists three childlike qualities that God desires to see in each of us. I was most drawn to the second: Having confidence in God, trusting that only He can do what we cannot.
So, let me ask. Do you? Do you trust that He is in control? Are you confident that He has a good plan for you? When the ground is falling out from beneath your feet, do you trust that God knows what He is doing?
I’d like to think I have a firm trust in the Lord. I’d like to say that my confidence is not in myself but all in Him. But then...the cat’s ear blows up and I find the guinea pig hard as a rock and everything starts to crumble around me, and well, suddenly the obedient Christian life is not looking like such a great fit for me!
Have you ever felt this way?
Have you ever gotten to the end of your resources?
Have you ever looked at the path the Lord kept calling you to walk down and thought to yourself, “Good grief, Jesus, can I please get a new path? Or at least a scooter?”
Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you pray, how dedicated you are to being a servant of God, you are the one who continues to draw the short stick?
It is hard to have a childlike faith in the midst of the battle. Staying confident when the storms of life seem to pound and pound to no avail can feel unrealistic and impossible. And as I found myself in this place of doubt, I recognized that unless I physically move, I will remain spiritually stuck. So I took a walk down a long paved path, praying the sorrowful mysteries each step of the way. And I asked the Lord to please conform my will to His. I begged that He remove the doubt and desire to self-rely, and that I would have a firm trust in Him no matter the outcome; that I would still love Him just as much as I do on the mountain top as I do in the desert. That should He say “no” to my prayer, I would continue to say “yes” to whatever He chooses, out of love for Him.
Because here is the thing. When God chooses, He chooses from an eternal perspective. And I can’t even begin to pretend that I know how to wrap my head around that. But I have just enough faith, sprinkled with a good amount of grace, to know that this is a leap worth taking. A true and free gift from God. I am able to accept this; that He has the bigger picture. Not me. And if He does not give me what I ask for, it must be for my good. That this very cross I want to lose is actually my bridge to Heaven. And as hard as this can be to understand, I simply do. Because if this isn’t true, well then, none of it is.
As I neared the end of the path, a vision of Simon of Cyrene came to mind. Simon was the man compelled by the Romans to help carry the cross of Jesus. He was pulled from the sidelines observing, and took action by positioning himself under the cross with Jesus leading the way. I’ve heard many a reflection on this encounter—usually pointing to the theme of discipleship, stewardship, and helping others carry their burden. But, for the first time, a different image came to mind. This time it was not Jesus asking me to go out and help carry the load of another, but very specifically, He was inviting me to help carry His. How could I not step in and help Jesus carry what was meant for me? How could I not suffer under the weight of my cross when He already did? How could I not offer to share in the suffering when I am the one who caused it in the first place? This image completely changed my perspective. What looked impossible to carry only moments ago now looked like a gift. A walk that began in anxiety and doubt was now completed in confidence.
If your confidence in yourself is stronger than your confidence in God, ask yourself: What path of obedience is God calling me to that I am afraid of? Then offer up your need to understand. Say, “Here you go, Jesus. Here is my heart. It is weak and it is imperfect, and sometimes, it is as hard as my dead guinea pig. But here ya’ go, it is all yours.” Make no mistake. This is not giving up hope. This is saying, “I love you so much that I am willing to say “yes” to whatever you choose because you choose from an eternal perspective, and you always choose what is good.” This is how we become like children. This is how we remain confident when the storms of life rock the boat. This is how, compelled by love, we get off the sidelines and take action, positioning ourselves under the cross and walking the path of obedience with Jesus leading the way.
My youngest child was just four years old when we moved from California to Connecticut. The main reason for this major uprooting? To be closer to family. My sister, just a few towns away now, suggested she take my four kids to a movie so that I could unpack the eight million boxes I was staring at. I jumped at the offer and gathered the kids and ushered them out into the driveway. But as I buckled my youngest into the car seat and kissed him goodbye, a thought hit me.I never told him where they were going! And as my sister started up the engine and began to back out, I called out, “Luke? Do you even know where Aunt Kathy is taking you?” And with a trust and peace that truly transcends all understanding, he looked at me, smiled, shrugged his cute little shoulders, and said, “nope.” And I laughed, as they drove away.
I still think about this moment, eight years later. My precious one? He knew me so well, and was so certain of my love for him, that there was no need to question why I was putting him in another car, strapping him down, and sending him off without giving him the details. He trusted me so much, believed in me so much, that concern or worry about what the plan for him was, was a non-issue. He willingly accepted that he was not in charge, but that because I had proved my love to him over and over again already, he had nothing to fear. So long as he was in my hands, he was in good hands.
This is the beauty of a childlike faith.
And good grief, I want it.
And because God knows I want it, he is doing all that he can to teach me it. Which depending on the day you ask, I may or may not boast of His faithfulness and goodness, because asking God to bless you with a childlike faith is basically asking Him to strap you into a stranger's car and have them take off, without telling you where you are going. It is a prayer of surrender. And we all know how easy it is to surrender, don't we?
Ugh. Why is surrender so difficult? Seriously. Think about that question. Because most people find surrender incredibly hard. I sure do. Surrendering goes against everything my earthly self automatically desires. Things like full control, and knowing the future, and some sort of guarantee in writing - or quite possibly blood - that everything and everyone will be okay. Surrendering means emptying my soul of all those feelings I tend to cling to and rely on as truth, of accepting the “supporting actor role” of my life because I understand that I am not the hero of my story, but rather, God is.
Did you hear that?You are not the hero of your story.
Does that last line make you angry to read? I gotta admit, it is a little scary to publish. But I am feeling feisty today, so I am going with it. And more than feisty...I 100% believe in this. You see, I have heard and read the “girl power encouragement” that is floating around out there, and while most of it is wonderful, some of it makes me incredibly uncomfortable, as I think of all the young women who are embracing these statements as truth: You are the hero of your story. You are in control of your life. Because, I swear on my love of chips and salsa, sweet friends, this is simply not true.
In Laura Story's book, When God Doesn't Fix It, she asks us to think about the characters in the stories in the Bible.“Their stories aren't in the Bible because these characters are heroes. Their stories are in the Bible because God is the hero of their stories.”  She asks us to really think about it, pointing us to Daniel being saved from the lions, and to Noah who was saved from the flood. Were Daniel and Noah the heroes? Or was it God, the Great I AM who swooped on in and did the saving? Every story you read in the Bible points to one hero, and that hero is never us. It is God. This life we are living? This story of ours? It is God's story. And we are not called to control it or re-write it. But we are called to be a part of it. And it starts with surrender.
If you are like me; if you struggle with understanding your place in God's story, and the idea of surrendering with a childlike faith, might I suggest we do a few things together. Why together? Because I like your company, that's why. And...we can hold one another accountable. Plus, we don't even like to go into a public bathroom without bringing a friend along, so why should growing deeper in our faith be any different? But as I was saying...here are three things we can do together to develop a childlike faith:
I think we need to start by praying for bravery.
In the Walking with Purpose six-week study, Living In The Father's Love (LIFL), author Lisa Brenninkmeyer reminds us that “Living a life that says 'yes' to God and His purposes requires bravery.” And so let's pray for that. Let's ask for the courage to not be the dead fish that goes with the flow, but to be the strong, brave fish, that swims against the tide. Any decision we make out of fear is the wrong decision. So let's pray to be brave...Daniel and the Lion kind of brave...and let's see how our hero comes through and saves us. Because He always does. He always will.
The second thing we need to do?
I think we ought to read HIS story, to understand our place in it.
Remember...my son trusted me to buckle him up and send him on his way with zero idea of where he was going, because he knew me so well. How well do we know our Father? How certain are you of His love for you? Sure, we can all recite “God is Love,” but what does this really mean to you? Honestly. Do you believe that God the Father adores you? That He will go the long haul for you? That there is nothing you have done, or will do that will ever change how He feels about you? That He has a unique and divine purpose for your life? That you are beautiful, worthy, and forgiven? Do you believe this?
Because I think these are the real questions that women who are struggling ask. In Chapter 2 of Living in the Father's Love, Lisa assures us that, “The more we are rooted in a deep understanding of just how crazy God is about each one of His Daughters, the better we will be able to wrestle through these questions.”  This is such an important chapter with an honest-to-goodness life changing teaching. Lisa walks us through the beautiful truths of God, who He is, and how very much He is for us. Sweet friends, we will never, ever trust God if we are unable to list His faithful characteristics and promises. I highly encourage you to go back to this section, which challenges us to seek God's motive in relationship with each of us, to literally list the characteristics of love and God as found in 1 John 4:16, to make a conscious effort to reject any lies or half-truths that might be keeping us from trusting God with a childlike sincerity.  This chapter is so good I just scheduled an appointment at my local tattoo parlor to have it written in permanent ink on my entire left leg.
And the third thing?
We need to get to know our WWP Patron Saint a little bit better. Or a lot better, even.
There is no better example of embracing a life of surrender and childlike faith, than sweet Saint Therese, whose Feast Day is October 1; I am giving you permission to go buy yourself a dozen red roses and an 8 inch chocolate cake on that day to celebrate. In Chapter 1 of LIFL, appropriately titled, The Beauty of a Childlike Faith, Lisa directs us to the words of this amazing young woman, in an effort to accept that we are not in charge.
“I desire neither suffering nor death, yet I love both; but it is love alone which attracts me. Now it is the abandonment alone that guides me. I have no other compass. My heart is full of the will of Jesus.”
Oh, how I pray we can all say these words along with Saint Therese, and mean them….my heart is full of the will of Jesus. Because this? This, sweet friends, is the answer to all those doubts and fears that keep us awake at night. This is the answer to what is my purpose, and does God really love me? This right here is the answer to every single obstacle that stands in the way of our unclenching our fists and dropping our arms and resting peacefully in the center of God's will.
May we have no other compass, as we surrender to our guide - bravely taking our place in HIS story as we come to know and live in the Father's love.
Saint Therese, pray for us.
With faith in the hero of our story,
PS: You don't have a copy of the WWP six week study Living In The Father's Love? That's okay! Just click here to purchase! And while you are at it, why not enjoy our LIFL playlist while reading more about our Patron Saint here!
Laura Story, When God Doesn't Fix It (Thomas Nelson, 2005), 186
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Living In The Father's Love (Walking With Purpose, 2010-2015), 33
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Living In The Father's Love (Walking With Purpose, 2010-2015)
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Living In The Father's Love (Walking With Purpose, 2010-2015), 26
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Living In The Father's Love (Walking With Purpose, 2010-2015) d'Elbee, I Believe In Love, 86-7.