I sat on my bedroom floor, staring at the computer screen and the information I had just received. My head swam. I had thrown my heart and efforts into something so very important to me, and it had failed—again. But, this time the failure touched every aspect of life.
I didn’t understand. I had seen this as God’s answer to a desperate prayer several months earlier. Now, when it mattered most, it was failing. Dozens of questions flooded my mind in that moment. How was I going to get through the next few weeks? How could I put so much work into something truly good, only to have it come crashing down in flames before it had even left the runway? Why? What purpose did God have in this? Surely, He wanted me to see something through it.
Tears slid down my cheeks. My heart ached. I was ready to quit, and at the same time, a passion burned so deep within me that I knew I could not. I wiped my tears away. I still had to face the world. I still had to go on. I still needed to encourage those around me and had to carry out my responsibilities.
I could do nothing to fix what was happening, what had happened. But, I could do one thing. I could open my hand and say, “Lord, it’s yours.”
A calm fell over the raging sea of my heart as though its tumult had heard the Savior say, “Peace, be still.”
I wish I could tell you the story ended there. But it didn’t. The next hour, the waves began to stir. I cried out, moment after moment, day after day, “Lord, I’m sinking. Save me!”
After more than a week of prayer and hidden tears, I went to the office when no one else was around and took extra time searching the Scriptures for some hope, some purpose to cling to. It was then I saw the beauty in disappointment and learned once more the peace of living open-handed.
A Polished Stone
I’m a big fan of word studies. Definitely what you might call a word nerd. That day, all my “nerdiness” paid off.
I opened my computer and began studying out Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” I wasn’t surprised to find that the word sick (chalah) means to be sick or worn down. I was surprised to find it also refers to a woman’s jewelry. You read that right. Jewelry. When we respond rightly, a heart deprived of its deepest longings becomes a polished gem.
When I was a little girl, my grandma had a rock tumbler. The process intrigued me. How could a dull, ordinary rock go into that little machine and come out days later as a beautiful shiny stone? I gave little thought to the grinding that stone must go through. Time after time it must endure hardship, first with coarse grit, then with a finer grit. Little did I consider that the stone must turn over and over, flipping upside down and in circles until all the rough edges have worn away.
Through our disappointed hopes, God, in His love, is polishing us. The wounds we feel so deeply, the disappointments, the embarrassments, and failures are all part of the polishing process. But we must respond rightly. Unlike a stone, we have the choice to stay under the Lapidary’s hand or to resist. Resisting, of course, leaves us with nothing but an angry, resentful, ugly heart. But, opening our hand and surrendering to His plan renders that sheen of grace in which His own reflection is seen.
Surrendering the Darkness
As I sat there that day on my bedroom floor, the days ahead seemed shrouded in frightening shadows. The Lord brought Psalm 119:105 to my mind, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Often, God gives just enough light for the next step. We cannot see what is in the shadows around us. We cannot see the answers to our questions. Voices of doubt clamor through the night. Fears crowd in around us, trying to lessen the glow of the candlelight upon our path.
The harder we strain to see through the darkness, the tighter the grip of fear, failure, and doubt around our heart. The further we lean in toward the shadows, the fainter grows the light we have been given. The closer we draw to the questions, the greater power the surrounding darkness of unknowns has over us. Until at last, we give in to despair.
The answers do not lie in that vast darkness but rather in that small circle of light. When we surrender up the fears of the darkness, our empty hands are free to take hold of the promises of Scripture and the hope in Christ. Why cling to the shadows, when we can surrender the darkness to dwell in the light?
Peace that Passes Understanding
Understanding is not prerequisite for obedience. It helps, but it is not necessary. Obedience, on the other hand, is vital. It is vital in our earthly relationships, and it is vital in our relationship with God.
In the book excerpt above, Jessica Bennett is struggling with the decision to surrender the life she had imagined would be hers in order to accept the reality of what she was living. Over the course of the previous hours, she had been given numerous directives with no background information and no explanation. While they all seem like simple commands, they were confusing and given in a place, which she has seen only in the darkness. But in the moment of decision, she realizes her friend’s life depends on her obedience in those small things, whether she understands or not.
To this day, I don’t understand the disappointment I met that morning as I sat on my bedroom floor. But, I have found peace beyond explanation and calm for the storm in the light of Christ, who is our peace. Such peace does not come because we understand the path we walk, but from opening our hand and saying, “Lord, here it is. I will trust You, and one step at a time, I’ll walk the path You have put before me.”
That is the peace of living-open handed. Letting go of the disappointments, the unknowns, the questions, and the fears, and opening our hands to take hold of His. Walking in that small circle of light, clinging not to our perception of what life ought to be but rather to the assurance of who Christ is.
May we, like Hudson Taylor, learn “to think of God as The One Great Circumstance of Life, and of all lesser, external circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best, because either ordered or permitted by Him.” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret)
What has God taught you about living open-handed? Have you made a conscious effort to “hold all things loosely”? How has it changed the way you live? How has it changed you?