Last month, I sat out on my mom’s back porch in Little Rock, Arkansas, anxiously waiting to hear back from YWAM Redding about the status of their School of Supernatural Frontier Missions (SFM). It was a quiet evening. I could hear the faint sound of crickets in the distance muted by the wind chimes swaying above my head. They rang a kaleidoscope of melody into an otherwise mundane month.
As I sat there looking up at the stars, I contemplated the possibility of my school getting postponed. I waited nine months to attend the SFM and move to California, but because of COVID-19, I faced the harsh reality of having to give it up entirely. The possibility disarmed me. Dealing with this situation, while navigating COVID-19 and grieving a difficult family matter, left me feeling disappointed, restless, and confused.
Currently, I’m in California, exactly one month later, attending YWAM Redding’s SFM, but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent waiting in Arkansas. That season taught me so much about the true meaning of surrender.
Before COVID-19, I thought that attending the School of Supernatural Frontier Missions, and one day becoming a full-time missionary in Southeast Asia, was the ultimate form of surrender. In my pride, I felt like my heart was in the right place, so I built my security and joy around this plan, and called it a fortress. When the pandemic hit, God showed me that my fortress was only a house of cards unraveling in His hands.
As I sit here in reflection, I’m reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis in his book, A Grief Observed.
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”
I’ve come to realize that surrendering to God doesn’t lie in the person taking the boldest step towards Christ, but in the one who finds joy in the places they don’t want to be. We are the strongest when we choose to draw out the living water of God in barren places. I am the strongest when I choose to find joy in the unstable, dry seasons.
This pandemic reminds me of the story of Habakkuk. He was a prophet who found joy in a desolate season. As Habakkuk knowingly waits for Babylon to invade and conquer Judah because of their sins, he openly questions God’s wisdom. After dialoguing with God, still questioning, but ultimately surrendering to His will, Habakkuk gives this beautiful response in verse 3:17-19:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
While life sometimes calls us to be Peter, Esther, or even Paul, there are seasons, like today, when we’re called to be Habakkuk. Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is simply surrender to the desolate place God’s calling us to be, and rejoice, not in our circumstance, but in who He is. When was the last time you came to God, not with a request, or to grow in supernatural gifts, not out of obligation, or fear, but simply to be in His presence and delight in who He is? I firmly believe this should be our response during these turbulent days. The time to surrender to God is now.
As I wrap up this thought, I want to end with a call-to-action to the Church.
When all the lights in the hospital rooms grow dim, it’s our time to burn; and when faith wavers on the edge of a knife, and the only sound in the city is the collision of wind against vacant buildings, it’s our time to rejoice. When fear is so familiar we no longer feel it, and the strength in our hands falter as we fold them on our knees to pray, it’s our time to hope. It’s our time to press down hard enough into the presence of God, and spring forth living waters of hope to a country that’s sinking further into despair.
It doesn’t end here. I have a feeling, and I think you feel it too, this lukewarm air is lifting. The Church is sifting and the ground is shaking. It’s our time to respond.
Will you respond in surrender, indifference, or despair?