This week, Camp Robber #2: Unreasonable Questioning
Here's a situation that came up this week:
A restructuring of a retreat at which I'd been asked to speak next winter, caused a cancellation on my end, and put another speaker in place. I have always trusted the Lord with my schedule, so that wasn't the problem. I've had other retreats cancelled, for various reasons, and I found that almost always the Lord has had a very good reason in mind. However, I've never had a cancellation because I was being replaced (even though there really was a good explanation for the restructuring). Regardless, this felt a little bit like rejection, and the robber-of-my-joy, took advantage of it. I attempted to thank the Lord for His involvement, His timing, His knowledge of my future, and His reasons for this particular situation, but, honestly, my heart wasn't in the thanksgiving. I was looking forward to this particular overseas event. It was the kind of venue in which I feel most comfortable as far as my calling in ministry goes. So, I'll admit, there was a hint of wallowing...and questioning of my ability, my calling, my value, my future ministry, yada, yada, yada. All ploys of a Camp Robber sneaking in for the steal. Well, really there was no sneaking - but, there certainly was stealing!
In the midst of my whine, I read this thought from speaker/author, Angela Thomas: "The mature follower of Christ is learning how to joyfully wait on God. She has learned through tears, disappointment and even rejections that sometimes it's just not her turn. That doesn't mean that it won't ever be. Or that you're not qualified. Or that you've gone completely the wrong way. It's just not yet. God decides when the waiting is over."
(Does God know what we need, or what?) There were some things I really HATED about that quote. 1) It confirmed I'm an immature follower. 2) It meant that, for some reason, I'm in a waiting room (which is another Camp Robber we'll look at next week).
There were some things I APPRECIATED about the statement. 1) This isn't about me...it's about not yet. 2) It isn't about my qualifications, my ability, or my direction in ministry. 3) It is about being joyful...in spite of (there's that phrase again).
Much of the time, I find my joy stolen out from under my nose when I start to question my identity in Christ, my value in Him, my "territory" in ministry. All of the above were brought to debate with this one silly situation not worth the struggling. This kind of questioning causes no small amount of joy-loss, and I must be on guard against it.
What occurred to me in the midst was the tension between two passages of Scripture. Let me address them. First, remember the Prayer of Jabez? "Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain (1 Ch. 4:10)." Then there's this passage from Lamentations 3:24, "I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion (allotment, territory, inheritance), therefore, I will wait for Him."
On one hand, I've been taught to pray like Jabez, and ask the Lord to bless me by enlarging my ministry territory for His glory (which, indeed He has done), and on the other hand I am to thank the Lord and be content/joyful in the territory He has given me. Like many things spiritual, this is setting me up to be stretched. The tension between the two causes growth. The growth comes when I walk in the balance of both instructions. Ask for one, trust in the other. To question cancels trust. To question steals my joy.
Instead, I learn to do what Jeremiah did:
1) I talk to myself about what is true: The Lord holds my "territory" in His safe keeping. Whatever He does is to fulfill the promise of His presence and to keep me from harm/pain...
2) I remind myself that He is Sovereign...and knows my needs better than anyone can; and,
3) I wait in quiet expectation for The Lord's next assignment.
In that quiet place: joy! Sweet, serene, joy!