“I hardly know where to start,” a recent letter begins. “My story is not one involving men. That’s the problem. Male companionship seems not to be found, and, I fear, may never be found. They never ask me out twice. I’m always ‘dumped.’ The problem is I want a relationship. I have this overwhelming desire … ”
Last evening in my living room someone said, “I fell deeply in love. He fell deeply in love, too – with someone else.”
Another letter tells of the agonized yearning of one couple for a child. Since God has not removed the desire, they ask, may we not conclude that He wants us to employ whatever means we can in order to have a child?
God’s not having taken away a perfectly normal human desire does not by any means indicate that we are free to pursue its fulfillment in any way we choose. A woman who had, after years of struggles, quickly lost sixty pounds told me that she had been expecting God to take away her appetite. When she realized He did not intend to do so (she had been asking for the removal of our God-given protection from starvation!), she stopped gratifying that appetite in the wrong ways.
Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe 1994 will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the “deep, sweet well of Love.”
“Why won’t God let someone into my life? I feel left out, abandoned. When will it be my turn?” The petulant letter goes on. “I feel deprived! Will He deny me the one small desire of my heart? Is it too big a treasure to ask? I sit in torture and dismay.”
Life is likely to continue to hold many forms of torture and dismay for that unhappy person and for all who refuse to receive with thanksgiving instead of complaint the place in life God has chosen for them. The torture is self-inflicted, for God has not rejected their prayers. He knows better than any of us do what furthers our salvation. Our true happiness is to be realized precisely through his refusals, which are always mercies. His choice is flawlessly contrived to give the deepest kind of joy as soon as it is embraced.
Joseph Eliot, in the seventeenth century, said, “I need everything God gives me, and want [or feel the lack of] nothing He denies me.”
In Moses’ review of God’s leading of the children of Israel he said,
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart.. .. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord… Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you …. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land -a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing. (Dt 8:2-3, 5, 7-9, NIV. Emphasis added.)
The cause of our discontent: we simply do not believe God. The wilderness experience leads to the Promised Land. It is the path God chose for us. His Word is established forever, and He tells us in a thousand ways that His will is our peace, His choices for us will lead to fulfillment and joy, the way of transgressors is hard. Do we suppose that we could find a better way than His?
One of George Eliot’s characters says,
You are seeking your own will, my daughter. You are seeking some good other than the law you are bound to obey. But how will you find good? It is not a thing of choice; it is a river that flows from the foot of the Invisible Throne, and flows by the path of obedience. I say again, man cannot choose his duties. You may choose to forsake your duties, and choose not to have the sorrow they bring. But you will go forth, and what will you find, my daughter? Sorrow without duty-bitter herbs, and no bread with them.
Instead of seeing His everlasting love, tenderly bending down to our humanness, longing over each one of us with a father’s speechless longing, we sometimes think of Him as indifferent, inaccessible, or just plain unfair.
The worst pains we experience are not those of the suffering itself but of our stubborn resistance to it, our resolute insistence on our independence. To be “crucified with Christ” means what Oswald Chambers calls “breaking the husk” of that independence. “Has that break come?” he asks. “All the rest is pious fraud.” And you and I know, in our heart of hearts, that that sword-thrust (so typical of Chambers!) is the straight truth.
If we reject this cross, we will not find it in this world again. Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the Lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month in 1994 in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there. “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup” (Ps. 16:5, NIY). Shall we not gladly say, “I’ll take it, Lord! YES! I’ll trust you for everything. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul!”
**Excerpt originally published in the Jan/Feb 1994 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.