Not all of us have the luxury of doing what we were made to do. Many of us walk through years of uncertainty before discovering that place we're convinced we’ll come alive. Others grow up with one dream, only to discover unopened door after another to its reality. We get stuck in jobs, in situations, in seasons where we come to realize how much more we have to offer, how little our current circumstances satisfy us, and how limited by it all we feel.
During my first days and months of motherhood, I found the ability to accomplish anything other than the responsibilities of this new role, well, quite impossible.
While I was delighted at the new life God had allotted me, I also wrestled with what to do with the old one. How do I proceed with my entrepreneurial business that largely depended on my mental space and physical labor? How do I continue using the gift of counseling God had mercifully entrusted to me? How do I do anything but hold and feed and care for this new little human 24/7?
I knew transition brought with it a necessary change upon all that came before it. But change doesn’t always sit well with me, and I felt stuck, struggling with my new limits. Before my baby took up all my time, energy, and devotion, I was able to work and minister in ways that maximized my talents for the glory of God.
A wise friend shared with me timeless counsel that fostered a quickening of my surrender:
God is not surprised by your circumstances. Your gifts are not lying dormant during this season. You may not get to use them the way you think wisest or envision as being best. But they are being refined, sharpened in a new way, as you grow more aware of your need of God and in that place, receive more of Him.
I didn't understand it fully, how my gifts and talents could be sharpened even while I wasn't "using them." But I trusted this friend, and I began to daily surrender my plans, my hopes of accomplishments, my deadlines, and my business. I would sit in a rocker during naptime—a mother's only "free time"—holding my baby who resisted sleep anywhere else. I would nurse frequently in the middle of the night, for many more months than the baby books had prepped me to expect, rendering me tired and lacking in mental acuity the next day. My limitations stared me in the face each time I canceled on a friend or disciple due to a sick baby.
You may not be glued to a rocker, but if you feel stuck in an unwanted season, you know this experience. Maybe it’s a desk job that's not life-giving or utilizing the best parts of you. You may not miss a night's sleep, but you find it hard to keep up with all your friendships due to an overwhelming life-change. You may not be hemmed in by a sick baby, but by anxiety or lack of direction or simply a growing awareness of your own weaknesses.
My own willpower could not sustain this path of limitations without producing endless frustration. Entertaining shame over my reduced abilities would have sent me into a deep depression. No, the only way to walk through this new set of circumstances without being overcome with despair, longing, or bitterness was to face my utter need of God and engage the daily act of dying to self.
No one wants to be needy. In John chapter 6 many of Jesus’ followers turned away when Jesus called out their need, their deep hunger that could only be satisfied in Him. The Samaritan woman at the well changed the subject in John 4 when Jesus turned the conversation to the topic of her personal life, the sins holding her back from receiving His living water. The rich young ruler in Luke 18 walked away sad when Jesus invited him to experience riches eternal in exchange for temporary denial. There's a declaration in Scripture that we come face to face with in these seasons: "The way is hard that leads to life and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:14b).
As I began to reckon with truths I knew about God, I discovered there was more of Him to be found. I couldn't help but be changed by the God who revealed more of Himself to me in my own neediness. Because the place where we become increasingly aware and expressive of our limitations, our hunger, and our need for God is the place where Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal" (John 6:27). "But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). "But he said, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God'" (Luke 18:27).
During that first year of motherhood, God revealed how lacking my understanding and experience of His comfort had been prior to caring for a needy baby. Her needs made me grow in awareness of my own, and the only refuge strong enough to hold the cries of this mother was the comfort of God Himself.
As I slowly wade back into the ministry of counseling, can you imagine the difference? The comfort I've received from God flows unhindered from me. The glimpse I've seen of His compassion for His children gives me new eyes for the women in front of me. The overwhelming experience of being so undeniably needy and finding only tenderness and mercy in the countenance of my Father, it puts on flesh in the counseling room. I didn't do all of the standard suggestions to grow at becoming a better counselor. I walked through fire, desperate for God, and received more of Him.
Your fiery season may not look the same as mine, but yours is not outside of His knowledge or will. It may not be the wonder of His comfort that He's hopeful to reveal to you, but there's a piece of His character He needs for you to know not just about Him, but as experientially and undeniably true of Him. Your responsibility is to walk that hard road that leads to life, to die to self and declare how desperately you need Him. When you do, you'll discover that He is waiting to give more of Himself to you.
grace & peace,
ps. if you're interested in the main passages that came alive during this season for me: Psalm 139, Psalm 119, 2 Corinthians 4, & Luke 18.