Make me the man that you want me to be E’en if I do not want to be that man. Teach me to trust you when I cannot see The purpose in the details of your plan. Help me to hope when tempted to despair At circumstances greater than my strength, To trust that, in the darkness, you are there With love beyond all height, depth, width, and length. Show me myself, and make me truly know The greatness of my need and of your grace. Remind me you are with me as I go, And lead according to your path and pace. Lord, search me, try me, know me, make me new. Let all my life be lived in love of you.
Over the last number of months, I’ve met a strange combination of events that have produced a state of tension within my soul. On one hand, I’ve faced more disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement than I can remember facing before in life. My plans and God’s plans for me did not agree, and I wrestled long and hard (and still do) to discern what faithfulness looks like for me at this time. The season has been uncomfortable, embarrassing, and isolating.
On the other hand, I’ve seen fruit from the steady plodding of previous months and years. I received a Master of Theology, marking roughly the mid point of my pursuit of a PhD. I passed the one-thousand mile mark on an app that keeps track of my running. I’ve finished reading books I set aside months ago. I’ve made progress on some new projects I’m excited about. I’ve been encouraged. The season has brought affirmation, support, and hope.
Seeing both types of experiences in the same season confuses me a bit. One moment, I feel like I can’t do anything right; the next moment, I’m affirmed in the work I’m doing. One day, I feel lost; the next day, I feel content and secure. I feel hopeless and hopeful, lost and found, faithless and faithful. I’m learning to rely on friends while worrying that I annoy them with my needs. I’m learning to boast in my weaknesses while wishing I could grow out of them. I feel a bit like a living paradox.
During this season, some biblical passages have come to life in fresh ways. The tension between suffering and steadfastness, between death and life, at play in 2 Corinthians 4 holds new meaning as I’m stretched by the trials and joys of this time. Hebrews 12 also challenges and comforts me as I see afresh how God is disciplining me, a painful process, to produce the fruit of righteousness, a pleasant result. I’m learning to hope in and rely upon the Lord, thinking often of him as my Shepherd (Psalm 23). I’m learning to long for the Lord, realizing in new ways my need of him (Psalm 63).
As I reflect on this season, I confess that I desire its end. I want to move past this present state, to learn the lesson and be done with the trials. I don’t enjoy living in the tension. But I recognize that lessons are learned through the testing of faith, that sanctification is accomplished through the long seasons of discipline. So I pray for faithfulness, for endurance, for hope that will not put me to shame. I pray for the Lord to accomplish his work in my life and for him to sustain me on the path he’s called me to walk. And I trust that he who began the work will not fail to complete it (Philippians 1:6).
I neither like nor understand your “no,”
Yet neither are required for me to trust
That you make straight the way I am to go
E’en when desires give way to thirst and dust.
If you withhold no good thing from your own,
Then your withholding must be for the best.
I may feel I am utterly alone;
I know you have a purpose for this test.
The LORD will never fail. Thus it is joy
To walk the path of sorrow for a time.
The surest hope, none ever can destroy.
No valley deep can halt the upward climb.
Your love holds fast despite what eyes can see,
Thus sight always defers to faith in thee.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols,
Works of our own hands. Voices–our voices–
Call us to cast off all righteous bridles,
Chastise us for limiting our choices.
Choose you then this day your lord, your master.
Choose the voice you trust above all others.
Choose the path to life, avoid disaster.
Heed the voice of reason, sisters, brothers.
Learn distrust of self, for self is often
Led astray by varied vices. Passions
Harden hearts to truth. Consciences soften,
Filled with fleshly fears and fleeting fashions.
Build upon the only sure foundation.
Idols only lead you to starvation.
I strive to walk not by my sight
But by my faith, for such is right;
But sight so terrifies my soul
For I am never in control.
My will is weak, my focus frail;
My future hope, in them, is pale.
My understanding fails to find
A footing, for my eyes are blind.
When all around me calls for fear,
To gospel truth I turn my ear.
God still is on his throne above,
Still steadfast in his perfect love,
His pow’r to rule affected naught
By my imperfect, doubting thought.
No fear of failure, want of strength,
Nor any trial of any length
Can sever heaven’s holy grip
Upon my soul, this sinking ship.
I know, though I know not the path,
That God, in sov’reign mercy, hath
Made straight the road and called me to
His purpose, which is ever true.