How Do You Let God Work in Your Life?
- Tuesday, August 16, 2011
We have the perfect excuse not to let God work in our lives. We’re human. It’s our natural instinct to want to control our environment. If it were otherwise, we wouldn’t be the proud iPod carriers that we are today. But what if we went beyond the horizon of our own understanding and trusted in God to guide us? What more could we achieve? God has a way of raising our level of potential, until we’re shocked by our own accomplishments. And He brings people into our lives who help to make this possible. It’s up to us to follow His lead. But . . . how?
Jesus called to the fishermen, his future disciples, and “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:20 (NASB) A fisherman leaving behind his net is like a writer leaving behind her laptop, without first backing up its hard drive. Here are some examples of following God’s guidance that might make letting go of our ‘nets’ less scary.
Linda Rohrbough, award-winning author, entrepreneur, and writing-coach, tells a unique story of surrender that gave God the opportunity to bless her life. In 2007, she was invited to a luncheon in Amarillo, Texas, a six-hour drive from where she was living at the time. Her writer friend Jodi Thomas was hosting a best-selling author and distinguished editor, and encouraged Linda to stay the weekend and meet them. Linda arrived late the evening before, and so did Jodi, coming home from a long book tour. When Linda came downstairs the next morning, Jodi was busy preparing food and looked exhausted. Linda worked alongside her, but before everything was ready, they had a houseful of guests.
In the living room, writers gathered around the famous author and editor as if being told the secret password to getting published. Linda faced a dilemma: should she continue helping with the food, or start networking? She had given up the weekend to meet the best-selling author in particular, one of her all-time favorites, Debbie Macomber. Perhaps Debbie might even give her some advice about breaking into the fiction market . . . . Linda turned back into the kitchen and told Jodi to go greet her guests; she’d take care of lunch. Listening to her heart, she surrendered her expectations to God.
What started as helping to get the food served, ended with helping to clear it away, and Linda had barely spoken to either of the luminary guests. Resentment and frustration could have gnawed at her throughout the afternoon. She had not been pro-active in advancing her career. Of course, she felt some disappointment, but since she had surrendered her expectations, she didn’t have as far to fall. In her heart, she was glad to have helped her friend, and in her mind, she was sure God would see to her writing.
After the last business card was exchanged, guests said their good-byes, well-fed and inspired. Linda dried her hands on a damp dishtowel, not looking forward to the long drive home. Jodi thanked her profusely for pulling off a seamless luncheon, and then asked if she wanted to join her and Debbie for a tour of Amarillo. Well, Linda accepted.On their outing, Debbie told about her long-term struggle with weight gain. She felt it was a roadblock in her faith, something that God wanted her to fix, and yet she failed, time and again. With the excitement of a child doing show-and-tell, Linda shared her story of losing more than 140 pounds with the Lap-Band®. She was even working on a book with her surgeon, Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band. Suddenly it seemed that God was connecting the dots.
Debbie wasn’t sure about “the Band,” however. Besides, wincing at the word ‘surgery,’ she believed she needed to defeat the demon of weight gain herself, alone. Eventually, she put her trust in God and surrendered control, asking Linda to become her ‘coach.’ Linda shared the information she was collecting for her book and gave moral support for years, under sworn secrecy. In return, Debbie helped Linda with her writing and endorsed her work. A trusting friendship formed.
Debbie has lost over 80 pounds, and the roadblock in her faith is gone, allowing her to see God at work in her life through other people. She revealed her secret in her 2010 book, God’s Guest List (see Chapter Three), andnow Linda can speak openly about how they met. In the book, Debbie tells the story of that fateful luncheon when Linda sacrificed her expectations, surrendering to God’s will, and He opened a glorious door in both their lives.
Another example of dropping our ‘net’ to follow God comes from Paula Mowery, a writer for ChristianMagazine.org, a pastor’s wife, and a home school mom from Morristown, Tennessee. She allowed God to work in her life when she took her vocation outside her church. Paula was plenty busy working within her church, serving a congregation of hundreds. But she felt conflicted about not reaching out to the lost in her community, the ones who don’t know Him. She prayed about it and was heard.
At a town association meeting, the director of a local pregnancy center made an appeal for volunteers to cook meals for their night classes. Paula responded, thinking the women’s ministry at her church could get involved, and then she listened to her heart and asked if she could perhaps lead a Bible study. The director exclaimed, “I can’t believe it! I know God has been working in this. My devotional leader had to step down, and I have been trying to do the devotions myself, but it’s been hard with my other responsibilities.”
Now Paula was committed to serving outside the security of her church. Not only did she have to make time to prepare lessons and attend classes, she had to face her fear of reaching out to those who might reject her beliefs. The first night arrived and she stood before the young single mothers, feeling anxious. She had a limited time to work with them, some of whom had obviously developed hard hearts from years of abuse and/or drug use. They wore their doubt like a spiked robe. What if she couldn’t reach them? Or what if they retreated even further into darkness? She prayed that God would speak through her, and then she did the only thing she could and opened her heart to the women.
After the first class, the director noted how well everyone paid attention. Paula blushed, admitting that as an interpreter for the deaf, she tended to be animated. The second night, some of the women even talked about their situations, which the director referred to as a “Wow” moment. At the end of the course, Paula offered a challenge to the women: that they read Proverbs every day and see if God speaks to them through any of the verses.
She prays daily for God to work in those young mothers’ lives, and she sees how He is working in hers, as she continues to reach out to the lost in her community. By following the examples Jesus set, serving those floundering in sin, she’s become a role model to her family and congregation. The gifts of understanding and compassion she has gained have not only helped her to be a better pastor’s wife, but a better mother and teacher to her daughter.
In 2005, while living in Manhattan, I prayed about making a difference in other people’s lives. Shortly thereafter, I came across an opportunity at The National Arts Club and applied to volunteer in local high schools as a writing workshop leader. Having attended a small Catholic school in Upstate New York, every muscle in my body went weak the first time I walked into a school the size of a city block, passing through metal detectors and signing in with a security officer. Students greeted me with hard stares and skepticism as I struggled to keep a steady voice. But by the end of my first workshop, after my students had found the courage to express themselves and the fortitude to rewrite, the comments were along the lines of “writing has changed my life.” I felt elated!
I listened to God and took another unexpected journey while handing out lemonade in Dixie cups at Holy Apostles’ Soup Kitchen, a haven in Manhattan that serves over a thousand meals a day. When one of the other volunteers heard about my work in the high schools, he mentioned the Soup Kitchen’s writing workshop, started by author Ian Frazier. I showed up the first day and asked if they needed another workshop leader. Mr. Frazier was hesitant, understandably. There I was, a small-statured, fair-haired woman with an eager smile, not the one to step in if a fight were to break out or a problem were to arise from mental illness or drug abuse. My own family thought I was taking an unnecessary risk, and my grandmother, for the first time in my life, asked me to give up on an idea. But I was determined to serve, and over time, the dedicated group of ten or twelve men and women taught me, one of the leaders, how to write with an open and honest heart.
By building the confidence of others through writing, I became more confident as a writer. Imagine that! I asked God to use me to make a difference, but He needed to make a difference in me, as well. How did I let Him work in my life? It started when I followed Him into the high schools and saw how much hope lies beyond the horizon. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
Debbie Macomber's books can be found on her website: www.debbiemacomber.com.
Sara Goff has published in several New York City journals, and her article "How Does One Keep a Vow of Chastity" was previously published on Crosswalk.com. You can read her short story, "The Smell of Burnt Vegetables," in the July issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine. Sara has received fellowships to Summer Literary Seminars in Russia and Kenya, and was a writing workshop leader at The National Arts Club. She has spoken on the topic of writing in NYC high schools and at St. Francis College and was a writing instructor for the homeless at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. She founded Lift the Lid, Inc., a charity for Third World schools that encourages creative writing. Sara is a Semi-Finalist in the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest, and she helped judge the 2011 Global eBook Awards. She currently lives in London and is represented by literary agent Wendy Lawton of Books and Such Literary Agency. Learn more about Sara and Lift the Lid, Inc. at www.saragoff.com.
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