What does “handing it over to God” even mean, and how do we do it? It’s something Christians often say. But what do we think will happen when we say it? What do we do after we say it? An even harder question is – what about the outcome? How do we deal with the outcome after God “takes it from us”?
I made a note to myself to write about this after reading the segment below –
“God has been in the business of encouraging His people from the first sin in Genesis all the way to the last word in Revelation. He always offers truth from His perspective, usually by saying “Trust me, I got this.” There may be adjustments we need to make, but mostly we just need to stop worrying and give the outcome to God. The key to all encouragement is trust in God. Know He loves you. Trust He cares. Believe He’s doing all He can.”
from “The 100 Most Encouraging Verses of the Bible” by Troy Schmidt
info on the quote is at –> http://a.co/aQQgvlc
But I didn’t write anything at the time. This is the kind of “answer” that gives people unrealistic expectations. When we hear “Trust me, I got this” – we expect a “good” outcome to whatever we just gave to God for Him to handle it. And I mean “good” as defined by us.
Sure – the quote says “there may be adjustments we need to make”. But that sounds like minor little things – like maybe someone will be healed, but not as fast as we expect. Or maybe we’ll get a good job, but not the exact one we were hoping for.
When we hear something like “trust in God. Know He loves you. Trust He cares. Believe He’s doing all He can” – we get high expectations. We trust God. We believe God cares. And we’re sure that when God does all He can, it’s going to be a great outcome – the outcome we want.
And then …
And then, last night I read this –
“When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1943, Catherine Marshall was married to the pastor of a vibrant Washington, DC congregation and was the mother of a busy toddler. Month after month of chest X-rays suggested the prayers of this woman of great faith were in vain, driving her to despair. Marshall had read the story of a missionary who had begged God for healing while she was disabled for eight years. It was only when the woman gave up praying for health, and relented to the will of God, that she was healed. At the end of her own rope, Catherine Marshall emptied herself before the Lord. She explains, “I handed over to God every last vestige of self-will, even my intense desire for complete health. Finally I was able to pray, ‘Lord, I understand no part of this, but if You want me to be an invalid for the rest of my life—well, it’s up to You. I place myself in Your hands, for better or for worse. I ask only to serve You.”[ 1] Later that night, Jesus appeared to Marshall, healing her body entirely of tuberculosis.”
from “At Peace in the Storm: Experiencing the Savior’s Presence When You Need Him Most” by Ken Gire
info on the book is at –> http://a.co/deBkcfp
And I just cringed.
Yes – God can most certainly do this. God could make everything come out the way we want them to.
When that happens, we think everything is perfect.
One problem, of course, is that often this isn’t what happens. The deathly ill person we pray for doesn’t live. We don’t get the job we want – and if we do get a job at all, it’s not enough to pay the bills and take good care of our families.
Then we wonder about God. Can we really trust God? Can God really handle the thing we turned over to Him? Does God really even love us?
And then …
And then, since I read a lot, I read this –
“We want the job to come through, our flaws to disappear, the cancer to go away. And sometimes, thank God, we actually see these miracles. God calms the circumstantial storm and we are relieved and grateful, as our furrowed brows relax and the knots in our gut give way to peace, blessed peace. Joy, unbounded joy. It’s finally over. Our prayers are answered. The storm has passed. We’ve got a testimony wrapped up with a bow, ready to take on the world.”
And I immediately thought –
But what have we learned?
If we only experience the three segments that I put above – we’ve learned that when we turn things over to God, and let Him handle it, everything will come out just fine. It will be “perfect”. And if it doesn’t come out “perfectly”, then it’s our fault – because we didn’t really believe, or we really didn’t turn it over completely, or we didn’t have enough faith, or something else that we’ve done wrong.
And therefore, when it doesn’t come out according to our definition of “perfect”, then we lose faith, we lose our trust in God, we assume God hates us, or some such outcome.
All of this because some well-meaning people try to be encouraging. Especially the well-meaning people who have actually experienced these results. Or maybe the well-meaning people who’ve never turned anything over to God – have read about things like this – and assume it will always be like this. Or, maybe even worse, the well-meaning people who turned things over to God and then don’t want to talk about it – because they didn’t get the results they wanted and are afraid it’ll make them look like they weren’t “good enough” for God to answer their prayers.
It’s all so unfortunate.
Let me be clear – the unfortunate part isn’t about trusting God and “turning our problems over to Him”.
The unfortunate part is about what well-meaning people sometimes lead others to believe about the outcome when we do really turn our problems over to God.
The Storm …
At peace in the storm continues –
And then there are those pesky chronic storms that linger long, that wear us down, that don’t go away. Month after month, year after year, we look on the horizon for the Savior we thought we knew, the One who could walk on water and order the waves stilled and bring instant calm to our lives.
Like I said, given what we’ve heard from well-meaning people, and given various encouraging verses plucked from the Bible, we may very well expect our prayers to be answered – exactly the way we wanted them answered.
When we read the passage about walking on water, we especially can be made to feel like it’s our fault when our prayers aren’t answered. Well – not answered the way we want, is more like it. Truth is every prayer is answered. Even if we don’t like the answer, it is answered.
Mt 14:22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Mt 14:25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
Mt 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mt 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Mt 14:29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Mt 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Mt 14:32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Did you see it – if you can’t walk on water it’s because you doubt – because you don’t have enough faith.
And if that’s what you got from the passage – it’s unfortunate. Because that wasn’t the point.
The point was that we need Jesus. We cannot walk on water on our own. We can’t save ourselves. We can’t even save others – even Paul didn’t save anyone – the grace of God did. That last sentence really makes the point of the passage – “Truly you are the Son of God”. This side of Heaven, our faith alone isn’t strong enough – we need the Son of God as well. That’s the point – not that we don’t have strong enough faith.
Fortunately, At peace in the storm continues the message that I want to deliver about our expectations of answered prayers.
But here’s the rub about faith (and most of us who’ve lived for a while, had a long marriage or lost one, or a few imperfect kids or grand-kids, a betrayal or a personal failure, or any number of life’s disappointments, know it all too well): Prayer changes things, it calms things and us, it soothes and restores. But what things are actually changed or restored are not in our hands or under our control.
That last sentence says something really important –
But what things are actually changed or restored are not in our hands or under our control.
This is all about the real meaning of “love” and what’s “perfect” for us. Neither is defined by us, for God to give us – like rubbing a magic lamp and having the Genie fulfill our wishes. No – it’s God’s love for us that defines what’s “perfect” for us at any given point in our lives. And a lot of the time what’s “perfect” for us isn’t the outcome we’d want.
Earlier, I asked a question –
But what have we learned?
Asking what I’m supposed to learn is something that took me years to get around to. Before that – it was things like “Why me”, “Why are you doing this to me” – stuff like that. Finally, after asking “What am I supposed to learn” – then I started to understand a little about what was going on. It didn’t solve anything right away, but I did feel better – not so stressed. Not feeling fine – really good – totally relaxed – but better.
At peace in the storm continues –
Though we long for the miracle of the outward variety, the only real guaranteed miracle God offers us is inner peace, the peace of Christ. A peace so deep that it cannot be analyzed or understood. It just descends on us even when everything else is falling apart, while the drug-addicted child does not come to his senses and continues to eat hog slop, the job offer doesn’t pan out, the cancer rages, and the marriage is a hollow mess. But I’ll let you in on a secret. This miracle of the inner variety, this inexplicable and supernatural calm in the storm, is the greatest miracle you’ll ever experience.
Yes – things don’t always turn out the way we want. Truth is, we’re often better off when things don’t turn out the way we want. We don’t see it at the time, but we often do realize it later.
It would be nice if we got to that deep peace the very first time we came to the realization that God’s way of answering our prayers is better than the way we asked for. Even as a kid in grade school, I was totally after the promise in this passage –
Ask, Seek, Knock
Mt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Mt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
That was a whole lot of years ago – and I still don’t have that “perfect” faith that enables me to remember this every time something goes wrong. I’m getting better – yes. Jesus would still be asking me – “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” But I’m still saying – “Truly you are the Son of God.” So I don’t feel so bad, knowing that I can’t be perfect. I’d like to remember sooner – save myself some grief and stress – but I’m not going to lose faith just because I don’t remember quick enough.
At peace in the storm continue
Getting to a place of steady inner calm is not easy. Like any skill, it does get easier to put our auto-panic nature on pause as we learn, and practice, and grow in trust. But life is tough, we are human, and all of us get shaken. Sometimes to the core.”
which echoes the thought I just expressed.
In 2016 I went through one of those experiences that shook me to the core. My favorite dog (ever) got cancer. We had to put him to sleep after 8 months of chemo. There were a few times during that treatment when we thought our prayers for Dewey to go into remission were going to be answered. The first one was right after he started treatment. He responded very well to the first drug. Although he had problems with a few drugs in the cycle, by the end of the treatment period he was within a couple of weeks of being declared in remission. Then the cancer came back – stronger than ever. The last one was when he got accepted in a trial for a new drug. Again – he responded incredibly well. We could literally feel the tumors shrinking throughout the day. Then, it went to his brain. Within a matter of hours, we had to put Dewey to sleep. (You can read more about what I learned from Dewey during his treatment at Learning from a dog – again.)
Talk about shaken to the core. After I retired, it was like Dewey had taken it upon himself to make sure I adapted to sudden retirement. Lot’s of dogs follow their people around – we have one like that. But Dewey – I tried to establish a routine to help with the sudden change – and Dewey had it figured out so quickly and he’d be waiting for me wherever I was going to be next. Not following – but knowing where I’d be. And I was so sure, from what was happening when he responded so well to treatment – that God was going to answer my prayer the way I wanted it answered. I was so crushed when I had to make the decision to put him down. It wasn’t so much that Dewey didn’t survive – it was more about the things that happened along the way – the times when it seemed so positive that he’d live through it.
I was shaken to the core. Why did Dewey have to die – but especially why did it have to be this way?
To tell you the truth – I still don’t have an answer to that last question. I don’t have a clue why it had to be that way. Yes, I did learn a lot during those 8 months – nearly 5 years in doggie time. But couldn’t I have learned them and Dewey still live? I just don’t know.
It’s now August, 2017 – and I’m updating this to use it in a class. I now believe I know at least part of what was happening with Dewey. More on that in a moment.
The question then, is when the worst case scenario for our prayers happens, what do we do?
Do we give up on God? Does our imperfect faith get even weaker? Does our faith even go down the drain? Do we stop trusting God?
We have an example – from Jesus.
Mk 14:32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mk 14:35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mk 14:37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Mk 14:39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Mk 14:41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
That’s being shaken to the core! Jesus – knowing not only that He’s going to die, but that it’s going to be a horrible death. That’s perfect faith – Jesus knowing that everything is possible for The Father. And that’s perfect trust – saying Yet not what I will, but what you will.
Not being perfect – we can’t really do all those things.
But having even a little faith – if we remember that God really does love us – we are capable of moving from our state of being shaken to the core, to one where we can begin to trust again.
You may or may not remember something we read earlier – but didn’t focus on at the time –
Though we long for the miracle of the outward variety, the only real guaranteed miracle God offers us is inner peace, the peace of Christ.
Yes – God does answer our prayers. Maybe not as we’d like – maybe the answer was no, or not yet – because we really needed something other than what we asked for. Even with Dewey – do I want to focus on the day I had to put him down – or on the nine great years he was with us, and especially those last eight months when he went through the chemo in such an amazing way?
It’s interesting – looking back, most of those last eight months – both me and Dewey were very much at peace. Dewey enjoyed his time with me, and even with the vets, the technicians, the front counter staff, the emergency room people. And so did I – a non-people person. The circumstances weren’t always great – especially the ER visits – but it was an amazing time. There were literally a handful of hours where all that was forgotten. But now – I can look back and see what really was happening a the time. That I had peace then. And that I’m moving back towards that peace now.
That – believe it or not – is an incredible miracle.
But, there’s more – here in August of 2017. I have what my doctor calls white-coat-itis – fear of doctors. And nurses. And everyone else related to medical treatment. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know I was in the hospital earlier this year with what turned out to be a staph infection. I was in big trouble – kidneys on the edge of failing, lungs filling with fluid, and liver starting to go bad as well. You can read more in God, is it time for me to go home? I’ll include only the Reader’s Digest version right now.
One night I had this experience – maybe a prayer, maybe a dream – where I asked, “God – is it time for me to go home?”
I didn’t get an answer, so I continued. “After all the times I would have welcomed a ‘Yes’ answer, I feel like I have more to offer here”.
I still didn’t get an answer, so I continued. “If you want me to come home, I’m OK with that. If you want me to stay here and do more for you, I’m OK with that too. Whatever you want, I’m good with it.”
After all these years, I finally got what it really truly means to turn something over to God. Whatever He wanted from me – I was OK with it.
Then I got an answer – some verses from the 23rd Psalm.
Ps 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
Ps 23:3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Ps 23:4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Actually, I think I got it even before that night. I found out my condition the morning after I had that conversation with God. However, I first started feeling the effects of what turned out be be the infection more than a week before. At first I thought it was bad food. After a few days, I went to Urgent Care, where they misdiagnosed the problem. Finally, after seeing my own doctor, he told me to walk the 1/2 block to the emergency room – right away.
The weird part – for me – is that through the whole process, I never felt any fear. Not even a little nervous. Not before the hospital – not in the hospital – not in the month of home care after that – and still not, while I’m waiting for the last of a series of tests in January, 2018.
That is turning it over to God. And being OK with whatever He’s got planned.
As Paul wrote –
The God of All Comfort
2Co 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2Co 1:8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
As Paul says – it started with Jesus – it continues with us – and it needs to continue to others. Giving people the impression that turning something over to God will solve our problems, or that God is good (which He is) so things will turn out the way we want (which they may not), telling people they need more faith – all of that doesn’t have comfort flowing from Jesus to us to others. Because the comfort isn’t getting what we want, the comfort is being good with whatever it is that God wants. We’re here to serve God – He’s not here to serve us.
The comfort I felt through that whole process was something that I “experienced” through Dewey’s eyes and Dewey’s life when he went through his cancer experience. What Satan intended as something to drive me away from God was turned into something that enabled me to really trust in God when I had my own health problems. Truth is – it wasn’t even a case of “surviving” the experience – I actually enjoyed it. Even the hospital and the nurse who came by the house for a few days to teach me how to change the IV / infusion antiseptic bag every day, and to do a blood test once a week. The whole thing. Like I said – I’m not a people person, but I love the feeling of being with God. That’s comfort – and it just can’t help but break through and touch others when we feel it.
Another passage to look at is this –
2Co 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
So far, it appears that contrary to what the doctors expected, I will be completely healed from the infection. If that had not been the case – I pray that I could do what Paul writes here. Honestly, it’s the only way in which we can accept the comfort from Jesus and pass it on to others.
That’s how we can “walk on water” – by keeping our eyes on what’s really important.
I’m still reading the book, but from what I’ve read so far – I highly recommend it. Whether you’ve gone through the storm, are going through it now, or haven’t gone through one yet – it’s a very good book. Even if you don’t think you’re going to go through a storm – and may you be so blessed – if you know people – it’s still good to read this book.
Info is available at – amazon.com
No, I don’t get anything if you buy the book. I just happen to really like it and think it could be helpful in the midst of the storm. It points us to the real meaning of many Bible verses that too many people don’t really get and that leads to too much disappointment.