“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Last year, when I was in Idaho, I was able to hike up Stevens Peak. It took about 3 hours to climb almost 3,000 feet of elevation. As I emerged from the dense forest at the top there, in front of me, was a perfectly serene alpine lake. And while I stood there, in the perfect quiet, it was the most peaceful I had felt in years. I don’t consider myself to be a high-strung stressful person but even I can get caught up in the pressures of this life. I needed a little quiet to recenter. (that’s me in my self-timer shot photo)
Where in your life do you need quietness? There is a famous statement that God uttered thousands of years ago that continues to ring true, “Be still and Know that I Am God.” I forget that sometimes. I forget that He is God and not me. I know that makes me sound terrible but I’m guessing you can relate. Most of my life is lived with me on the throne, not God. I hustle and bustle about “getting things done”. I work so hard to fix things. I analyze and hypothesize how to handle every situation. I try to heal every broken relationship.
A month ago someone finally asked me, “How’s that working out for you?”
My answer, “I’m exhausted.”
I’ve learned that I have a hard time with brokenness. I don’t want things to be broken. I don’t want people to be hurting. I don’t want my life to be messy and so, I put a ton of exhausting efforts into making everything better. The problem is I can’t keep up.
Perhaps you can relate to this scenario. Perhaps you are exhausted too. Sounds like a good time for us to recenter ourselves on these principles:
1 – “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” We want so badly to get rid of every struggle and imperfection as though they will keep us from experiencing beauty. It’s precisely this misdirected belief that can keep us from seeing real beauty. There are glimpses of God’s glory and grace that I’ve only seen in the dark moments of life. It’s in those dark moments that we are looking earnestly for a light, and His light is always shining. Before you try and get rid of those dark moments in your life stop long enough to gaze at the ever-present and ever-faithful light of Jesus.
2 – “Being” should always come before “doing”. It is my impulse to respond like an EMT to every area of my life. I rush to fix, clean, repair, heal, or explain each trial that comes my way. In fact, years ago during a personal retreat, I implored God to just tell me what to do and He responded, “I love you.” It was not the answer my flesh wanted to hear but it was the answer my soul needed to hear. Our work is often in the way of our identity. We wonder why we are always tired and stressed. Maybe it’s because we have decided to base our worth on our performance instead of who we are in Jesus. We must constantly remind ourselves that our value is in Jesus and not in our accomplishments. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you less, and there’s nothing you can do to make God love you more. The house is messy. Your relationship fell apart. Your boss unfairly criticized you. You failed, came up short, messed up, dropped the ball again. Stop and remember that your worth is in this statement, “He loves you”.
3 – “He is no fool who gives up what He cannot keep, to gain what He cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot) I am learning that only through surrender can I experience a fullness of life. It seems backward, doesn’t it? By giving up – I am full? By letting go – I gain? Sometimes we hold onto things so tight we squeeze the life right out of it. I’ve realized that all my efforts look a lot like that carnival guy who’s trying to keep a dozen plates spinning on the sticks. I can’t keep them all spinning long enough, and as they fall one by one and crash to the floor I blame myself. I should have put in more effort. If only I had tried a different technique. Until you and I are ready to surrender we will wear ourselves out playing God over our lives. Are you willing to surrender yet?
It would be easy here to think the analogy means that we should let go and let God spin our plates for us. Nope. That would assume all those plates we are trying to spin are actually necessary. Maybe all those plates you are trying to spin aren’t even the right plates? Our goal should be this: before we do, before we work, before we stress out, ask God what matters most to Him. Ask God what He wants to give you. Don’t try and align your desires to God’s will, allow God’s will to align your desires.
Somedays I wish I could just set up a tiny house right next to my Alpine Lake and spend my days enjoying the peaceful silence. But the truth is, I don’t need to be there to experience peace. I have been given peace through Jesus and I can experience that peace every day as I surrender. (Romans 5)
“Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6)
Where can you apply this truth in your life today? What plates do you need to surrender? Where have you been working so hard that you’ve placed yourself on the throne? Where do you need real peace?
Stop and take a moment to surrender your efforts and embrace the peace of a loving and sovereign God.