By Beth Doohan
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give to you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
“Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33, NLT)
* * * * *
Early this spring, I was greeted by a bright, cheery Saturday morning. Birds were happily nesting and singing, the sun was shining and most of the snow was melted to reveal a green world again. Yet, rather than enjoying this blissful morning with my son and husband, I was feeling overwhelmingly stuck in a state of stress. Our family’s financial burdens were weighing on my heart, my 18-month old son was getting bored more easily and experiencing overwhelming emotions commonly labeled as “terrible twos” or “toddler tantrums,” and I was having a hard time balancing work and daily duties with motherhood. It was a struggle, but the real issue was not the state of my work, son or finances, but the state of my heart. Instead of walking in wholehearted surrender, courage and grace, I was letting myself become controlling and perfectionistic, which left me emotionally drained. As the pressure was building up in me, I tried to find answers and consider changes I could make, being as proactive as possible.
While it is good to work hard and put forth our best efforts, I was missing a key component in my situation: trusting God and walking in His grace. I was trying to figure everything out myself, and as a result became frustrated with shortcomings and failed to see the big picture of a heavenly Father who loves His children more than the flowers or birds.
My worried state came to a halt when my son and I caught a stomach bug. The kind that forces you to stop everything else, cancel your plans and lie on the couch. We spent several days snuggled together in between trips to the bathroom. While it was not fun for us to be sick, I found myself enjoying the time together that was free of obligations and full of story-time, cuddling and episodes of Curious George (which happens to be his beloved nursery theme!). More than anything, I sensed God doing a work in my heart to cast my cares on Him because He cares for me (I Peter 5:7). Navigating a situation out of my control helped me realize just how dependent on God we really are. Sometimes there is nothing more I can do in a situation except seek God’s help and rely on Him for strength. Sometimes His grace truly is enough (II Corinthians 12:9).
He Will Certainly Care for You
In my devotions, I came across a familiar passage of Scripture that spoke straight to my heart. Matthew 6 says, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries, add a single moment to your life? …And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you” (verses 26-27, 30). Wholehearted women, how can we cast our cares on the Lord and allow His love to penetrate our hearts even more deeply? How can we make the “wholehearted adjustments” necessary to entrust our care to our loving heavenly Father? The answer is grace.
In his series, “Grace: Experiencing God’s Generosity,” Chip Ingram of Living on the Edge unpacks Christ’s teaching on the parable of the prodigal son. He provides a parallel of two perspectives that people may fall under when they come to God, and both of them need grace. The younger son, the prodigal, has openly rejected the father. He has demanded his inheritance, something he would never do before his father had died, and abandoned his family to live a life all about him. As a result, he becomes broken, desperate, empty and decides to turn his life over to his father and become his servant. Luke 15:17 says, “When he finally came to his senses,” he returned home. What happens next shocks both the son and the audience whom Jesus is teaching. Rather than punish, reject or humiliate his son, the father immediately embraces him, reinstates him as a son of his household and gathers the entire village to throw a party. Jesus is telling us clearly about God’s grace: that when we mess up and make mistakes, the Lord still values us and is ready and willing to forgive all who come to Him in repentance.
The second son’s need of grace may seem more subtle. Unlike his brother the prodigal, this son has not squandered his father’s wealth or openly disobeyed him. However, Chip Ingram explains that the son’s anger toward his father reveals a heart of pride and control, rather than love for him. When the son hears of his brother’s return and his father’s immediate forgiveness and celebration, he becomes sullen and dishonors his father by refusing to join the party. When his father pleads with him to come, the son explodes in bitterness built up over a lifetime. “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends” (verse 29). All in a moment, his heart of selfishness and pride is revealed. He has not served his father out of love, but out of obligation. He has not received the father’s freely-offered love, but has kept his heart guarded and withheld his own love in return. The son needs the father’s love and forgiveness just as much as his younger brother. He is in desperate need of receiving God’s grace.
Chip Ingram explains that, left to our own devices, we create a picture of a God who cannot be pleased, who is always down on us, or who withholds things from us. This leaves us with a heart that says, “I’m in control, I’m doing life my way, I will build my security… I want to believe in God but when pressure comes, I’m in control. This deal is about me and my life and what I can do.” (“God’s Generosity Received, Part 1” from Grace series). We may not admit it, even to ourselves, but when push comes to shove and we face pressure and stress, to whom do we put our trust? Is our heart like Mary’s who sat at Jesus’ feet, surrendering to her Lord and entrusting her life to Him? Or are we running around like Martha who tried to do everything she could to please Jesus and hold her life (and everyone else’s) together?
He Sees Our Hearts
As Christians, we are called to seek God, and as He speaks to us to make wholehearted adjustments. This means opening up our hearts to Him, inviting Him to dark places and letting go of control. Have you heard the phrase, “life is all about course corrections?” This is because no matter how well-intentioned we may be, how clear our vision or how detailed our plan of action, life happens. We become distracted, subtleties draw us off-course and our wonderfully-organized plans go awry. When they do, our response should be to press into the Lord, receive His grace in our lives and invite His Holy Spirit to show us what wholehearted adjustments we can make. This is not easy, but it is completely worth it to receive love from our gracious, trustworthy God who “will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NASB).
Let me close with one final story. The other day, I was reading my son the Bible story about the lame man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus. It suddenly struck me how vulnerable this man must have felt coming before Him. He had friends who were so faithful, they were willing to bring Him to Jesus, by whatever means necessary. When the crowd saw the man being lowered on a mat, it was obvious to them that he wanted healing in his legs. What was not so obvious was that under the surface, the man’s heart needed healing. Our Lord Jesus, ever-perceptive of our needs and desires, puts this man’s mind at ease and tells him “My child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5, NLT). I wonder if this man, as he was lowered into the middle of the crowd, felt unworthy and shamed, lowering his eyes from Jesus, yet eagerly hoping to be healed. And when Jesus forgave his sins, I wonder if he finally lifted his tear-filled eyes, knowing that the Master had seen his heart and loved him. Jesus wants all of our hearts, and that starts by coming to Him in vulnerability and openness. When we do, He will show us His love and invite us to make wholehearted adjustments by His grace. Spend some time seeking God today and allow His Holy Spirit to be at work your heart.
* * * * *