By: Jenni Walker
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)
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During the spring semester of my senior year in college, a girl at the middle school I was student-teaching for in Tulsa, Oklahoma stabbed another girl to death at her home. This was the school the Lord led me to teach at after graduation as a special education inclusion teacher. I had always sought God’s will throughout my life, listening for His calling and pursuing His plan, even when it was difficult or out of my comfort zone. Teaching Title 1 education was something I knew God had led me to do, and I leaned on Him for guidance in some of the toughest, at-risk schools in the Tulsa metro. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but I became a better teacher for it, and my heart was pulsing with passion for those kiddos!
A year later, there were a lot of changes happening at that school, and the Lord led me to another school district ten minutes down the road from there. I put in my application and was almost immediately hired as a Title 1 fifth grade teacher for the upcoming school year, meaning the majority of my students came from poverty backgrounds: Some were in acute need of basic assistance with clothing and food, while others had a more functional home but with a parent or grandparent working several minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet. Teaching these at-risk children of the Tulsa metro area became my God-given mission for the next six years.
Even though teaching was a true passion of mine, I also had felt a deep call to parenthood with my husband Bryan. In 2015, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart toward part-time work in order for my husband and me to focus on starting a family. Bryan and I were both in agreement about it and were excited about the upcoming “new season” of our marriage. I was hesitant to leave full-time teaching, but my heart was assured by the Lord. I gave my notice that I would not be returning in the fall, completed the school year, and Bryan and I began trying to get pregnant and grow our family that summer. I was very familiar with my body’s fertility signs, so I anticipated that all would go well quickly and easily.
But month after month came and went, and we still did not have a positive pregnancy test. I just wasn’t getting pregnant. I went through spurts of taking extra supplements, using different ovulation predictor kits, consuming fresh pineapple, and eventually meeting with a reproductive endocrinologist.
Over the next year, I had two exploratory outpatient surgeries to rule out anything of greater concern. Nothing was found that would explain my body not conceiving. We followed up with a few more tests and more waiting only to again be told that both my husband’s and my results are what they should be. On paper, we should be pregnant. I experienced so many emotions in this season full of unknowns. Hope, then frustration, anger, helplessness…hope again, then more frustration, grief, and confusion. I knew it was the Lord’s timing to step away from full-time teaching when I did. I was assured that He was involved in the details of our family. And yet, my heart was hurting; I was desperate to know where the Lord was leading…
PROCESSING AT HIS FEET
In How’s Your Posture?, we explored the significance of sitting at Jesus’ feet with a posture of surrender. It would take at least an afternoon of sitting across from one another over coffee to share with you some of the deep things the Lord did in my heart, my husband’s heart, and other “unplanned” kingdom fruit (that was planned by Him all along!) that was born out of this waiting season. I can only tell you here that it was in this season of unknowns that I experienced God in profoundly intimate ways. I learned all the more deeply what it meant not only to stay postured in surrender but to process what was going on in my heart as I drew near to Him. Needless to say, it has been a journey of the heart: of walking with the Lord step-by-step, trusting Him, seeking Him, receiving from Him, and having lived intimately what it truly means to sit at His feet.
Mary’s relationship with Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of this processing of emotions, circumstances, hopes, and unknowns at the feet of Jesus. In John 11, Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, has died. After Martha speaks with Jesus as he nears her home in Bethany, she returns to the house and informs Mary of the Lord’s arrival. Beginning in verse 29, we are told, “As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying ‘She is going to the tomb to weep there.’ Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
Before I really knew I was having trouble getting pregnant, my sister, Beth, and co-author for The Wholehearted Woman experienced a miscarriage. This was her and her husband’s first time getting pregnant, and the loss of their child was heart-wrenching. I am the older sister, and my heart ached for them. But the way that Beth walked through that loss was beautiful to watch. She not only anchored her heart in the truth of God’s Word, but she PROCESSED at the feet of Jesus.
Our most-read Wholehearted Woman post was about this experience. In it, Beth describes her season of grief. (Read the full article here) She writes, “After we lost our sweet baby, there was nothing I could do but cry out to the Lord. I urge you to do the same. Bring your hurts, pains, struggles and fears before our loving Father. He will answer and draw near to you. James 4:8 says, ‘Come close to God, and God will come close to you.’ Again in Psalm 34:17-19, we see how the Lord protects and sustains His children as they cry out to Him: ‘The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.’”
Sometimes when we encounter difficulties in life, or the unexpected, or even just have minor disappointments or pains here and there like life often brings, we respond in two different ways:
- Sometimes we gloss over it, and it stays below the surface, untouched but also festering and needing to be cleansed and healed.
- Sometimes we keep the wound wide open, leaving it susceptible to other contaminates and focusing so much on it that it begins to define us in an unhealthy way.
So what is a girl to do when she is waiting for fulfillment of something spoken to her by the Lord? Or she is dealing with a wound, doubts, or simply needs God’s wisdom when facing a decision that needs to be made? The answer is to PROCESS at the feet of our Lord! When Mary fell down at the feet of Jesus, she withheld no part of her heart from Him. John 11 tells us that He saw her weeping, and that He even wept with her.
TO KNOW AND EXPERIENCE HIM
Processing at the feet of Jesus can and should be an ongoing element of our relationship with God. But just what does this look like? There were several specific ways the Lord revealed Himself, and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, through Scripture in this “processing” season of desiring to become a mother:
1) THE PSALMS
“All with eyes to see can discover in it a complete gymnasium for the soul…” (Explanations of the Psalms by Saint Ambrose)
The Psalms are filled with songs of lament and songs of praise. (View https://thebibleproject.com/explore/psalms for a quick study of the book in its entirety!) As a whole, its chapters are a poetic “gymnasium for the soul” that acknowledge not just difficulties of life in a general sense but the emotions of the individual heart. And, yet, they always draw the focus of the heart to God. It is not biblical to ignore pain in our hearts and lives, nor is it biblical to live with that at the helm of our hearts. Processing at the feet of Jesus with your Bible open to a specific Psalm is a powerful way for your heart not to become unmoored by painful emotions, uncertainties, or deferred hopes but to remain tethered to HIM.
The following excerpts from the Psalms were several of those used by God to minister His hope, His supernatural joy, and His courage directly to my heart:
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)
“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.” (Psalm 33:20-22)
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan…Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42:1-3, 6a, 11)
Oh, sisters in Christ, what intimate communion with our Lord is waiting for you as you pour out your heart at His feet through the Psalms…? He is faithful and so worthy of our praise. Do not delay!
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” (Philippians 3:17)
The Lord also used stories such those of Hannah and Sarah in the Bible to minister to my heart. Hannah’s story of crying out to the Lord and, in time, becoming pregnant with Samuel reminded me that I am heard by God and that He is my Rock. Sarah’s story of becoming pregnant with Isaac reminded me of God’s both intimate and Almighty plans. The birth of Isaac not only blessed Sarah and Abraham personally but was a critical part of His plans in the earth.
I want to also mention that several dear friends and family members walked alongside Bryan and me in this journey, praying for us and sharing stories of their own that encouraged my heart deeply. They shared of God’s faithfulness and love and lifted up the name of Jesus. And my amazing husband was a profound source of strength during this season. I was able to share what was going on in my heart, and his love and support ministered to me powerfully as we processed together.
Testimonies of those who have gone before us, and the godly encouragement of those who walk alongside us, are profound ways in which the Lord ministers to our hearts as we process with Him. Their stories resonated with the living Word of God that I had already hidden in my heart and helped put me in remembrance of the faithfulness of God and who HE is!
3) SPECIFIC PROMISES
“I give You thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing Your praises before the gods. I bow down before your holy temple as I worship. I praise Your name for Your unfailing love and faithfulness; for Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your name. As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength.” (Psalm 138:1-3 NLT)
Nearly a year ago during the Christmas season, we had been waiting for the growth of our family for over three years. It was at this time that the Lord began leading me to specific, Scriptural promises about fulfillment. The fireplace crackled and the tree glowed as I sat curled up on the couch and meditated on verses such as Luke 1:45, in which a different Mary, the mother of Jesus, is visiting her cousin after being told by an angel that she would become pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:31). Upon her arrival, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth proclaims, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” At this point, both women are pregnant in two very distinct ways and for God’s unshakable purposes.
It was through verses such as this one that the Holy Spirit stirred up my heart in what I can only call a holy anticipation. It was similar to a man named Simeon’s experience after the birth of Jesus. Luke 2:25-26 explains of him, “This man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
In the posturing and processing of my heart at the feet of Jesus, there were some specific things that the Lord spoke to my heart. I did not know what the timing would be, but I had His promise of fulfillment. (More details to come in Part 3 of this story next week!) Dear sisters in Christ, do you believe that our Lord still speaks specifically to our hearts even today? He does! Do you believe that He is a God who reveals Himself through His promises? He is! As you spend time with Him through His Word, take time to quiet yourself before Him. Write down what He impresses on your heart through Scripture and what is spoken by the Holy Spirit.
PROCESSING IS A PROCESS
Ladies, when was the last time you quieted your heart to hear from our Heavenly Father? What is it you need to process with the Lord? What has He spoken to your heart that you are not sure of how it will come to pass? Perhaps your heart feels unsettled from the busyness of life. Maybe there is an unresolved fear deep down that God wants to minister to. Or maybe you just need to say as in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, Lord, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Although we cannot sit at Jesus’ physical feet in our time here on this earth, we can do this spiritually in the quiet of our hearts. Don’t ignore pain in your heart, neither let it begin to rule your heart. Make some time during a child’s nap time, on your lunch break, or a quiet moment on your back patio to journal with the Lord in light of Mary’s example, who fell down at His feet after her brother died, processing and sharing her heart fully with Him. He did not turn her away. He wept with her. But he did not stop there. He revealed Himself in a new way to her, to Martha, and to those with them as He walked to Lazarus’ grave, prayed to His Father, and raised Lazarus from the dead! (See John 11 for the full story.) Processing is a process, but our Lord always hears us, He guides us, He reveals Himself to us, and HE is Lord of the process!
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Note: Our walks with the Lord are intimate and personal in so many ways. Yet, community is biblical and essential, and wise counsel is also important! Never be hesitant in the “processing” to talk with a trusted friend or family member, to seek pastoral care, or even to ask your doctor for recommendations for professional counseling. A solid, two-part podcast on this topic from Ransomed Heart explores this tension between spiritual and soulish ways the Lord works in our lives: https://www.ransomedheart.com/podcast/soul-vs-spirit-part-1 and https://www.ransomedheart.com/podcast/soul-vs-spirit-part-2.