Three weeks ago, I packed up my car with everything I could possibly fit inside and made the trek to this grand ol’ state of SC. As I drove, there were a few thoughts at the front of my mind – first, I was always slightly nervous when I saw a police officer, because I was sure that the amount of stuff in my car was against some public safety law. I could imagine them coming up to my window… “Ma’am, you clearly cannot see anything out of any of your windows. You are a threat to your fellow drivers.”
Secondly, I kept waiting to cry. You know, bawl my eyes out (another driving hazard) and weep over the end of this chapter of my life. A nice cry sesh.
And weirdly, I’m still waiting. I expected to cry a lot over this, because I am a crier. I cry over things. I wouldn’t change that about myself if I could. Yet for some reason, the times that I expect to cry, I am washed with peace. Not that I haven’t experienced sadness during this time (and notes from friends certainly have brought tears), but I have been incredibly sheltered from feeling overwhelmed or abandoned or fearful during this process. Yes, I came to a city where I literally knew nobody. Yes, I left what I am convinced are some of the most wonderful and beautiful people on the planet. But I am so enveloped in peace.
Jesus has been incredibly, wonderfully good to me this whole time. And.. he answers prayer. Like, for real. And it is so fun to ask for specific things and see how he gives… and abundantly so! I have a cute place to live, wonderful roommates, a church I’m excited about, fun people to do things with… and already have started having adventures with new friends here. Three weeks in. Three weeks! I’m blown away. I have to admit, I expected so much less.
But one of the special treasures of my life recently has been this verse in Amplified version… I’m simply enthralled with Amplified and the way it opens up my eyes and heart to the richness of what Jesus has for me and is for me.
“Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One)…”
Read that again. And maybe a third time. These are words that resonate in my soul and wake me to the extremity of how blessed I am. I possess a PRICELESS PRIVILEGE – I get to know Jesus. I get to go through seasons of life that draw me closer to Him. I get to experience Him and His word on a daily basis. And the value of that is greater than anything and everything I could think of.
And if I ever view my access to get more of Jesus as less than this, I am missing something. If I consider it as of “some” worth, as a “pretty neat” privilege, as “cute” and precious, as a “helpful” advantage… man. That would be losing sight of his magnitude, his love, and his ever-surpassing glory.
Nothing can compare to him on this whole earth, unless I stop comparing the two. If I don’t stop to think on Him, then my awareness of the preciousness of knowing him will dwindle.
I have been reading through Isaiah lately, and I LOVE IT. It’s so rich. It has the sweetness of Psalms with the theological “oomph” of Paul’s letters. I’m currently on chapter 38, which finds King Hezekiah seriously ill, on the very brink of death. Isaiah comes to the king to relay this message: “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die, you are not going to recover.”
Hezekiah, who has seen the power of taking his concerns and “laying them out” before the Lord (Isaiah 37:14), does so again. He begs God to remember Him, and to have mercy. He weeps over it.
And God hears his cries, heals him, and promises to keep the city safe from the threats that were coming against it.
Hezekiah, experiencing the mercy of the Lord in being rescued from death itself, writes a poem about it. This is part of how he processes his deliverance:
“I will walk humbly all my years, because of this anguish of my soul… You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.” (Isaiah 38:15-17)
Walk humbly: He is made more aware of his position of dependence upon the Lord – Hezekiah is awakened anew to the reality that he cannot control, protect or save himself or his city from death and destruction. The dichotomy between God’s power and control over everything and Hezekiah’s helplessness is brought to new light. Understanding of his extreme need brings humility to his steps, and he was royalty- king of a nation. Times my soul anguishes are times when I run faster and straighter to Jesus, and am increasingly aware of how much I need Him. And that breeds humility in my heart, knowing how incapable I am, yet how infinitely capable He is.
For my benefit: Wow, Hezekiah. This phrase cuts through some of my emotional tangles. It doesn’t matter how much I read Romans 8, or any other passages that point to His sovereignty… it is always incredible to me that hard things are opportunities for God to move, and move for my good. Like seriously, guys. What!? How could I ever deserve such mercy?
The times of anguish, they have been good for me. Why?
- They make me aware of how much I need Jesus, and in that process of being desperate for Him, I know Him more richly- it is a time that I progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him. And that is a precious privilege.
- I learn more about myself and what I hold back from Jesus. Anguishing times are times when Jesus often points out things that compete for his position in my heart – things that may be deceiving me into thinking that they are just as, or more so, worth my time and attention than Jesus is. And if something threatens my opportunity to have a firm hold on and an unwavering gaze at the One who is a “supreme advantage” to know, then I am disadvantaging myself. I’d rather have two hands on what is of surpassing worth and grasp it with all I am than to lose any of that for the sake of trying to hold onto other things not as worthy, not as precious. Anguish makes me let go of those things and cling, cling to Him.
- Who knows. What God is cooking up for me, I don’t always know in the moment. I don’t always get to see all His reasons behind the hard things. I might not even understand it months, years, decades later. It might be a heaven-discovery… why tears came at certain times in my life. But I can trust that He is wiser than me and loves me more than I understand. Maybe some of His refusals are, as Elisabeth Elliot says, some of his greatest mercies to me, saving me from something that I couldn’t fully understand. Like a Father telling his child “no” when that child unknowingly asks to do something that would hurt them.
Oh Jesus, refine me! The anguish is not what you ultimately desire for me, and one day all that is sad will be untrue, but in this broken world you use that anguish to BENEFIT ME. And I am so so grateful for that.
(P.S. – this song is rad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHKjnTVma0c )