What Must I Sacrifice?

Does the word sacrifice leave a rancid taste in your mouth? Why does that word have to be a negative connotation? What if the purpose of sacrifice was releasing something (maybe even something good) to receive what’s best?

Last month, I wanted what I wanted. What I wanted is mine to know. But oh, how I clung to it with selfish hands when a thought fluttered into my mind and hovered there. A lightbulb clicked.

Could I . . . would I give up this thing I wanted? Were there things I refused to sacrifice? I cringed to think I might have other gods before GOD!

The Lord knows I love him, I reasoned, without sacrificing something to prove I love Him. Lord, is there no other way?

“No other way.” Weren’t those the words Jesus spoke before he went to the cross?

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Sweating drops of blood, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and begged God to remove “this cup” from him. Jesus wasn’t refusing to give up some pleasure, or vice, or “thing” that stood between him and God the Father. He asked if there was some other way to atone for people’s sins than death by crucifixion.

However, Jesus only wanted what the Father wanted. So he said, “Not my will, but Yours.”

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Do I want what God wants?

I remember a woman who once sat beside me, crying buckets of anguish. Her red, puffy eyelids were squeezed shut. Tension riveted her body so that even her hands were clenched in fists as though subliminally curling herself into a fetal position.

I’d tried to soothe her with words. Then I held my tongue and stroked her knuckles, threading my fingers between her fists to gently prod her hands open so she could release the stress and sorrow. As I massaged her hands, her tears subsided. She breathed deeply and relaxed.

Is that me, Lord? Holding onto regrets? Worry gripped between my fists? Clinging to what I want instead of receiving what you want for me? Even if it feels painful in the moment?

“So often man, crying out for some blessing, has yet such tight hold on some earth-treasure that he has no hand to receive Mine, as I hold it out in love.” (God Calling)

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Lord Jesus, help me open my hands, knowing your will for me is better than any “thing” I hold dear in this world.

Show me how to spread my fingers, palms up . . . the same way you stretched your arms wide when they nailed your hands to a cross . . . so I can release whatever’s inside my fists. And receive Your very best even in this moment.

How To Cope with Pain & Adversity

Today, I saw my neighbor at the grocery store. “How’s your wife?” I asked, standing in the canned vegetable aisle.

“Hanging in there. She still has another month of recuperation.”

I wish I could say his wife is the only one who entered the new year with a major injury. But I know multiple people who are recovering from broken bones and surgery.

Other friends live with chronic pain, depression, and debilitating diseases like Parkinsons, and in one woman’s case—terminal cancer.

C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Have you—or someone you love—been roused by pain? Patience worn thin?

When Job was tormented by grief and agonizing pain, he implored God, “Why am I suffering?” However, he refused to follow his wife’s advice and curse God.

Instead, he said, “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In this, he did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

My mentor, Loretta, calls this …

Job’s Intolerable Compliment—God trusted Job to honor Him in his circumstances.

Even Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow….Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36)

Honoring God in our adversity begins with the heart. Accepting and trusting God’s sovereignty.

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Several of my friends deal with chronic pain and health issues. They pray for the absence of pain. They believe God has the power to restore their health, but they agree—for whatever reason—God’s allowed poor health in their lives.

They’ve come to a place of submission.

  • Accepting what they cannot change.
  • Acknowledging God’s eternal purpose—to use everything—to teach and mold us into Christ’s image.

One friend said, “When I’m in pain, I cling to God. Sometime I wonder if my faith would be as rich if I’d been a healthy woman.”

She admitted, “Some days, all I can do is pick up my son from school and put dinner on the table. On these days, it’s my choice to…

  • Get angry and kick myself; feel like a failure.
  • Compare myself to healthy friends; feel resentful.
  • Have a pity party; feel sorry for myself
  • Give myself grace; accept this is all I can do.

Her attitude echoes another friend’s words. “When I’m in pain, I try to pray like Jesus, ‘Father, Thy will be done.’”

Perhaps like me, you don’t deal with chronic pain. Maybe your adverse situation is unemployment or dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction. If so, there’s a lesson to be gleaned from Job’s Intolerable Compliment.

Honoring God even in this…..

 

Photo: JennyWredePhotography

Put on the Oxygen Mask

By Saturday morning, I was tapped out.

All week, I had been with people. Serving some. Listening to others vent. Now I needed to visit jail for one-on-one counseling, but I had nothing left to give.

My head pounded. My body was like a limp rag. How can I share the gospel when I can barely remember my name? I had to reschedule.

Too often, helping humanity seems more exhausting than yard work or housework. My back may ache as I pull weeds or push a mop, but I’m on autopilot. At the end of the task, I feel productive, even energized.

When it comes to people, particularly listening to their problems, I’m drained. That’s because I absorb people’s moods like a sponge. Think I can fix them. Fall back into people pleasing.

“You’re an answer to prayer,” someone told me, after I resolved her problem. Now I have the problem.

Practically speaking, I must:

Set boundaries

Stop rescuing

Say NO…without guilt.

Spiritually speaking, I must:

Meditate on the Word

Ask for Wisdom

Obey God’s Will 

   In Mark 1: 21-38, Jesus spent the day in Capernaum healing many people with various diseases, and casting out demons. Verse 33 says “the whole city had gathered at the door.” So how did Jesus avoid burn out?

 Verse 35:  “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out to a lonely place, and was praying there.” 

Simon hunts for Jesus and says, everyone is looking for you.” But prayer was a priority. Jesus understood His purpose (verse 38) and wasn’t going to be derailed by everyone’s demands.

If Jesus, in his humanity, had to pray and seek the Father’s will, then I must:

  • Have the mind of Christ so I can…
  • Have a sacrificial servant’s heart so I can…
  • Have His love and strength to help others without sabotaging myself. 

Bottom line, I must:

Remember prayer gives me a right perspective so I can respond properly to my relationships and problems. 

In other words, “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

And take a deep spiritual breath.