“Look upon my affliction and rescue me,
For I do not forget Your law.
Plead my cause and redeem me;
Revive me according to Your word.”
Psalm 119:153-154 [NASB]
Since the moments immediately following Sarah’s earthly death I have clung to the hope that God would use both her death and our indescribable pain to further His kingdom. The pain of Sarah’s absence drives an urgency within my spirit, a longing to “do” something, a desperation to be used by God in a way I can see. I hoped and believed that this deep pain would surely be met with “big redemption.” “Big redemption” being something of broad, tangible, visible, powerful, and ongoing impact.
I’ve prayed over and over again with hands open before Him and tears flowing, pleading with Him to show me what He would have me do. If led by Him, I would be willing to move around the globe to share His name, to go to school for broader ministry opportunities, or to pour myself into ministry locally. I am willing to follow Him wherever and however He leads. I’ve offered it all up to Him, the pain and my life as a whole, but all He has spoken in response is “wait.” Over and over again, both through prayer and His Word He repeatedly says only “wait.”
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Psalm 27:13-14 [NASB]
For months “wait” was the only response He gave my petitions, until a couple of weeks ago. A couple of weeks ago through His Word and prayer He gently spoke another word to my heart, and what He whispered was not what I wanted to hear. In the stillness of my quiet time He asked me if I would be content if the only redemption I ever saw was the refining of my own heart. He prodded my heart asking if I will be satisfied if the only lasting change to come from all my pain associated with Sarah’s death, as well as some excruciating circumstances surrounding it, is my own personal sanctification.
My transparent response was one of great disappointment. The Holy Spirit within me boldly testifies that personal sanctification is more than enough redemption for the agony I bear. But my aching heart resists that notion as it longs instead for what it perceives as “big redemption.” My flesh cries out for redemption that it deems more worthy of the excruciating pain being redeemed. Others who bear the same or similar pain get to see redemption in the form of foundations and ministries that have tremendous ongoing impact for His kingdom. Yet, the Lord is speaking to my shattered heart that it must be willing to be content with the possibility of its only redemption being its own refining?
The truth is, I deeply longed for the big redemption to be the sparking of heart transforming revival in our church and community. We as a family, Sarah included, had prayed for revival in our church and community throughout the year preceding her death. How can I possibly be content if instead my heart is the only one impacted?
“Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD
Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”
Hosea 10:12 [NASB]
As I wrestled with the Spirit through scripture and prayer, I was confronted with the reality of my misplaced focus. I recognized the sanctifying work the Lord was doing in my heart through the pain, but I failed to appreciate the immeasurable worth of it. I was so focused on a desire for external redemption, being called to “go” or “do,” or seeing others impacted, that I failed to rightly appreciate the big redemption He had already provided; His ongoing sanctifying work in my heart in the midst of the flames.
Progressive personal sanctification is “big redemption.” Sanctification turns the soil of our hearts, rips out the weeds of fleshly tendencies and desires, and enables the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in abundance. Priceless fruit, both visible and tangible redemption. Through the sanctifying flames of adversity “the proof of our faith” is found (1 Peter 1:6-7). This sanctified faith that emerges, forged and fortified through the flames, is “more precious than gold.” Precious redemption. Powerful, imperishable, lasting redemption.
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” 1 Peter 1:6-7 [NASB]
I am still in the flames. He is still refining and sanctifying me through the relentless pain. He is still saying “wait,” but He is also saying “be content” in the wait. He is specifically challenging me to be content to “lead a quiet life” as I wait on Him (1 Thess. 4:7-12). In the midst of the pain, He is gently calling me to choose to joyfully embrace and celebrate His ongoing transforming work in my heart as “big redemption.”
Perhaps one day soon He will no longer say “wait,” but will instead say “go” or “do.” If He does, I will rejoice in that day knowing that He has prepared my heart for “such a time” through His sanctifying work in the flames. Whatever my calling may be, whether “wait,” “go” or “do,” may my obedience to it, and my sanctification through it “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity,
but in sanctification.
So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man
but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Now as to the love of the brethren,
you have no need for anyone to write to you,
for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.
But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life
and attend to your own business and work with your hands,
just as we commanded you,
so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep,
so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 4:7-14 [NASB]
Christmas 2016: My last Christmas with Sarah, with the last gift she made me