Last time we grew as we discovered the strange connection between suffering and joy; this link shows a very deep trust in God. This foundational trust is the very same part of faith that carried the Apostle Paul when he was imprisoned for the Gospel. It is also the same strange joy that continues to carry and fill the lives of missionaries like Rolland and Heidi Baker. This vulnerable depth of faith also emits a beautiful fragrance of Jesus. I sensed this “godly perfume” in the lives of the persecuted Christians that I met in Shantinagar, Pakistan and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When we are also willing to count the cost of our faith, and push through in very difficult circumstances, we also become much more refined in our character. We begin to look, sound and even smell like the resurrected Jesus! It’s his presence in us!
There is another kind of season that can be difficult for people – that of transition. Desert or wilderness life experiences are one form of transition, but these are often gradual change. (Link to desert article) But sometimes circumstances happen quickly – you can be accelerated into the next season of your life before you have a chance to catch up, so you learn to re-orient yourself. Other times, you may be stuck in a season of hiddenness that seems to go on and on, only because you can’t see the end of what you are going through. Yet in the midst of this change, there are these constants: the faithfulness and love of God, and that you are deeply loved. We are not orphans. We are not rejected. This is a time to seek God even more. He is calling us to our identity as beloved children of God. We don’t have to work for our inheritance. It is already ours.
I used to be a performance-driven people pleaser. I got to be very good at gauging people’s moods and anticipating their needs. But deep down inside there was a deep insecurity. I needed love and had a huge love deficit. I gave love, but somehow I expected to earn showers of love towards me. Even my own love had conditions on it – I wanted those I cared about to feel the same about me. Yet the love of God is unconditional. We don’t have to earn it. I remember a pivotal time in my life happened quietly in a small mobile church in Thornhill, Ontario. Our pastor handed out small business cards and told us, “here is the highest calling you will ever have.” What did it say on the card? It simply said, “Child of God.” I remember holding this card in my hands. My mind said, “What is this? It’s too simple. That’s not enough. Who am I really? I’m this, and this, and this…” But I didn’t have that foundation of love in my heart that showed how secure I was as a daughter, as God’s child. My heart ached and I cried and cried. I don’t remember receiving ministry, but I must have. I needed to grow in my identity as a child of God.
Deepest Needs: Significance and Security
Larry Crabb is a Christian counsellor and pastor. He was one of the writers we read in my Tyndale Seminary counselling courses in the late 1990’s. I remember he talked about the two deepest human needs: that of significance and of security. At that time in my life, I had a security deficit. I tried to fill it with accomplishments I was achieving on the significance side of life. After I married my husband Tony, he became a significant part of healing my security deficit; although it was really God who completely filled that huge sinkhole. God healed me directly by continually filling me with his love and through the love of my husband and friends.
After my insecurity issues were dealt with, I went through a difficult season when I discovered I also had a significance deficit. When I was in school, I filled that need with my academic pursuits, even though these were not enough. Also when I married, I was sidelined away from a ministry career for a time, so the deficit became even more obvious. I felt like I was stuck in the desert with no way out of it. God began to refine that area of my life. In time, I came to lean less on fulfilling tasks as a way to receive significance. Again, my deepest significance is ALSO fulfilled in actively being a child of God. Degrees, mission trips, radio shows and lay ministry experience are all wonderful things, but these roles don’t replace who you are in Christ. You are, as a son, or as a daughter – secure in his love for you. You are not a slave that works for a master. You are a child who inherits. As an inheritor, you also have a role to represent the Father. That is your purpose. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, fills you to do whatever you are to do for him. When you learn to surrender and fully trust his leading in your life, your significance is confirmed over and over as he works through you. Your highest significance is as God’s child; and each child has a unique ministry. Proverbs teaches us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
While you spend time acknowledging God, he gives you your assignment and all necessary grace to accomplish it. He provides the path that is unique for each of us. He prepares us in advance for whatever work we are called to do. He utilizes all of our skills, talents and gifts to work together in a perfect blend. He makes us “uniquely us,” and he gives us the power and love to jump deeply into more of who we were meant to be. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Sometimes these works look different in each season, depending on the assignment that God will give us. When we do these works, they bring deep satisfaction: whether they are monetized as part of our careers, whether they are part of our natural helping roles, or whether they are a supernatural ministry gift (see 1 Corinthians 12).
What is God asking you to be? Unless you know who you really are, you’ll never reach your full potential. You are called to fullness and success, but it is the Father who imparts your identity and purpose. Just as it took you time to grow up physically from babyhood to adulthood, so it often takes time to grow up spiritually. And in this process and season of “there but not yet,” it really is all about trust. As you trust God, he will give you tasks to do, and many wonderful surprises along the way. Open your eyes and look for them. He will not disappoint. Take time with him and let him love you. Allow him access into the secret areas of your heart and give him all your plans. He will reshape all of your life in a way that is infinitely beautiful.
When I was on my first mission trip in Northern Ireland, I discovered the music of Robin Mark. His song “All for Jesus” was instrumental in the complete surrender that opened up healing of my insecurity. Sure, I entered into a desert season for a while, but it was necessary to deepen my trust. The same happened when I surrendered in the all the areas of significance and ministry. It brought me to another desert, and again, it was essential to take out thorns in my heart. Again, it was necessary to deepen my trust in another way. I am not the same person I was when I first journeyed to Northern Ireland in 1995. For this I am very thankful. Both of these needs are summed up in Robin’s song “All for Jesus“, as well as the Bethel Music song “Good Shepherd.”
Next time, we will continue our journey and learn how to deepen our identity in seasons of silence and God saying “no.” As we walk, we’ll sing Amanda Cook’s lyrics (from Good Shepherd). “In the process, in the waiting, you’re making melodies over me. And your presence is the promise; for I am a pilgrim on a journey…”