Living Open-Handed

Last week, the organization I work with had a retreat for all the staff on the island. It was a great few days away – despite the fact I wasn’t terribly excited to be there at the start. 

One of the things I felt I should do to get my attitude right and be able to hear all God wanted to say to me during the time was surrender everything I brought with me. So, Wednesday night, I spent time laying everything down before God – my book, singing, my life in Ireland, ministry opportunities, and other dreams and promises I felt He’d given me. I told Him I only wanted to bring home what He gave me back during the days of the retreat.

During the next two days, I struggled with some of the hopes and dreams I’d placed on the altar of surrender. There were items – like my book – which I expected to be returned and received back fairly quickly. I still don’t know how God will use Live Your Story to impact lives, but I believe He will bring Himself glory through the message. I trust Him with how that will look without specific expectations, so it was easy to accept that item back from God.

Other hopes and dreams were more difficult. One promise in particular kept finding its way back into my hands and heart. Each time I discovered I was holding it again, I would put it right back down on the altar. While I believe the fulfillment of this promise could bring God much glory, it is not so much a “ministry” promise as a personal one. Because of this dynamic, it was much easier to believe that I was picking it up again because of my own desire for it.

By Friday morning, as I spent time listening to God and writing in my journal, I felt God was saying, “Thank you for surrendering your desires and hopes, but you now have to be willing to receive back the gifts I want to give you.” I felt He was saying that He had been trying the whole time to give this promise back to me, but I was refusing to accept it because I was afraid of turning an “I wish” into a “God said.”

I realized once again that surrender really means living open-handed before God. Hands that are open release things, but they also receive. Just as I don’t know what future ministry opportunities will look like or the impact my book will have, I don’t know how the fulfillment of this particular promise will come about or what it will bring. But I have chosen to leave my hands open to receive all that God wants to give and surrender all that isn’t from Him; I have chosen to trust His faithfulness. He is a good Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children. I may not feel worthy of the gift, but He gives based on His character – not mine.

What is God trying to give you today? Sometimes accepting and hoping for the gifts He offers requires courage because hope brings the risk of disappointment, but the hope He gives is always worth the risk. He is trustworthy. Open your hands.

When Surrender Means Holding On…

I’ve been thinking lately about surrender. There have been some hopes and dreams on my mind and in my heart for a while now that I felt like God put there, but recently I’ve been feeling the need to surrender those things back to Him again.

It is easy to get discouraged when what I see doesn’t seem to match what I believe He has spoken. Disappointment sets in, and I begin to feel like I must have heard wrong. My eyes and heart and mind tell me to bury the dreams, grieve, and move on. My mind says that this is surrender, letting go of what I’ve been holding onto so tightly and handing it back to the One Who I thought gave it to me in the first place. Surrender even means to give up, yield, or relinquish.

So, last week I decided to surrender some of my dreams and hopes back to God. I held open my hands, hoping that He would take them back and let me move on to other things I’ve been working toward and praying for. Instead of taking them away, He began to close my fingers back around those hopes. He is not ready to let me walk away from them yet. For now, surrendering to Him means continuing to hold tightly to the promises He’s spoken, trusting Him more than I trust my eyes, walking in faith that He is faithful and trustworthy and worth the risk of disappointment.

As I walked to church on Sunday, I was thinking about this topic and asking God to confirm whether He really was asking me to hold onto this hope. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern His voice from my own thoughts. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to give up; perhaps I was convincing myself that God wanted me to keep holding onto something that He really was asking me to give back to Him. Then again, maybe I was trying to give it back because I’m scared of the potential to get hurt and be disappointed if I keep holding on. (Isn’t it amazing how difficult it can be to figure out what’s going on even inside ourselves?)

The sermon at church on Sunday was focused on Abraham, and Romans 4:17-22 was one of the texts used. “In hope he believed against hope… No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” Abraham believed in the God who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

Sometimes surrender means letting go. I’m learning this week that sometimes it also means holding on – not just to the hope or promises, but to the Giver of them, the only One who can speak things that are not as though they are… and be right. Faith isn’t blind. It sees the difficulties, the ‘impossibilities’ and chooses to still believe in the God with whom all things are possible (Luke 1:37).