A Christian testimony tends to fall into one of two categories. The first category is the spectacular testimony. Such a story describes a person submerged in their sin when God rescued them. A testimony like this make us think to ourselves, Wow, God surely can work miracles. The second category...
The conversation is seared into my brain.
We were at the kitchen table eating breakfast with my dad, studying Scripture, and processing how we often see suffering as an inconvenience rather than what it is, love from God, when one of our best friends said,
[Suffering] actually produces gold and then you level up, like in a video game, so you almost want to go find land mines joyfully and destroy them so we get more of Christ.
For a couple of years, my constant prayer has been that I would not resist anything that would make me look more like Christ. But my friend’s words at breakfast opened up a completely new and convicting perspective on trials.
His words reshaped my prayer.
To Embrace Is to Joyfully Receive
No longer am I praying to not resist God’s molding. That’s where the heart remodel has happened. I don’t want to simply tolerate sanctification. I want to joyfully embrace anything that would make me more like Christ.
Including deconstructing the walls I hide behind.
Including “risky” relationships (and the not-so-risky ones).
Including sacrificing dreams and desires as Isaacs on the altar of my heart, should God ask me to.
At least, I want to want that. I want that to be my default setting. I want counting it all joy and boasting in “light momentary afflictions” to be a reflex as natural as blinking. But never in my life have I felt so strongly the reality that “the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
And in all that, God’s revealed that my season, my time right now, is a time to embrace.
Embrace: Hold closely in one’s arms, especially as a sign of affection; accept or support willingly and enthusiastically; to take or receive gladly or eagerly.
To Embrace Is to Throw Off Every Weight
She ran full speed into my legs with her arms outstretched, looking at me to pick her up.
My favorite 4-year-old wanted some love and cuddles. I’m pretty much always open for that, but in this moment I couldn’t reciprocate. My arms were completely full of food for our small group gathering; I didn’t even have one free hand to do that sort of pseudo-hug thing you do when kids are wrapped around your legs.
[Tweet “We embrace our circumstances and get to know the God who mercifully ordained them for our joy.”]
“Let me put all this down and I’ll hold you,” I told her.
Before I could scoop her up and squeeze her, I had to let go of all the other stuff (which was extraordinarily insignificant compared to her).
To fully embrace Christ, holiness, and sanctification, I must first turn loose of sin, pride, self-protection, fear, or any other “weight that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:2).
To Embrace Is to Know God More
Let it go.
So you can embrace.
It’s important to note that we don’t embrace sanctification because “that’s just what we’re supposed do.” That’s not enough to keep us going in the middle of the flames. We embrace our circumstances because in doing so we get to know the God who mercifully ordained them for our joy.
“You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4)
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
To Embrace Is to Grow
I’m learning to joyfully embrace sanctification through:
The exposé of sin God’s doing in my heart
Restrictions and boundaries (which God is using to increase my joy)
Submitting to others
Trusting God and others with the grossest parts of me
The constant, cold reminder of my insufficiency contrasted with God’s warm blanket of mercy in his words, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
To Embrace Is to Trust the Grace-Dealer
What are the ways God is calling you to embrace him? How is he leading you deeper into his heart? What is he asking you to release so you can embrace him and his activity more fully?
We embrace the hand we’ve been dealt because we know the Dealer, and he never deals badly. (John Piper)
Do we really believe that God, not a pain-free life, is our exceedingly great reward?
Do we really believe that God designed our season and circumstances not to kill our joy, but to kindle it?
Do we really believe that in the embracing of God’s mercy through sanctification he gives more grace?
If we do, our lives will reflect him.
Oh, for grace to trust him more.
What identity will you assign yourself today? Will you deal with life based on what you assess you bring to the table or based on who you now are as a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Savior who is always with you in power and grace? Will you live in timidity and fear or in the courage of hope? Will you avoid challenges of faith in fear or move toward them, resting not in your own ability but in the presence, power, and grace of the One who rules all and has become your Father? May God give you grace to remember your identity as his child in those moments when remembering is essential. (Paul David Tripp)