Submit to God's Will
- 2003 10 Jan
But after nineteen years in the Arcadia, California, home that held so many warm and loving memories, my dream began to unravel. Our ministry, Focus on the Family, had outgrown its facilities, and the high cost of local property prohibited us from building a new campus in the area. Following much searching and prayer, the Focus board of directors selected Colorado Springs as our new home.
Though I knew this was a positive change for the ministry, I did not welcome it with enthusiasm. I found myself asking, Why, Lord? I felt I needed the support system we had developed in California. Our friends there saw Jim and me not as ministry leaders, but as "Jim and Shirley." We'd been in one another's weddings and had babies together. For years we'd had them over to celebrate the Fourth of July in our backyard.
I grieved to leave this safe and loving circle of friends, and to say good-bye to my parents and both of our children. Jim said that when we moved I left skid marks all across the Rocky Mountains!
In Colorado, I continued to wrestle with feeling sorry for myself and missing home, family, and friends. Yet I still sought the Lord's direction. One day I was standing in the bathroom preparing for work when I felt His presence. "Shirley," He seemed to say, "I'm not concerned about your happiness; I'm concerned that you are in My will, and My will is that you be in Colorado."
From that point on a new peace filled my heart. The lingering feelings of discontent left me. Though I still miss my roots and friends, after ten years in Colorado Springs, I can see God's hand in it all. I have stretched and grown in ways I couldn't have imagined. Over the years, my old friends have moved, too. Only a few of those couples still live in that area of California, and we see our family almost as often now as before.
No matter how fervent our desires and requests, the Lord does not always respond the way we would choose. Sometimes His answers to our petitions are the very opposite of what we've sought - yet He always has our best interests in mind.
When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," he added, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me" (Matthew 11:28-29).
Coming to our Lord in acceptance and prayer requires us to also yield to His yoke. We must submit to where He leads and what He commands, even if He sends us in a direction we don't want to go.
It's a bit like river rafting with an experienced guide. You may begin to panic when the guide steers you straight into a steep waterfall, especially if another course appears much safer. Yet after you've emerged from the swirling depths and wiped the spray from your eyes, you see that just beyond the seemingly "safe" route was a series of jagged rocks. Your guide knew what he was doing after all.
When we yield to the Lord's leading, we discover the additional truth that followed Jesus' statements above: "I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (v. 29-30).
What Christ offers is indeed a yoke, and we must indeed yield - yet when we do we are amazed at the lightness of the load.
In submitting to the Lord's leading, we obey Scripture's command: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him" (Proverbs 3:5-6). At the same time, we open our lives to the promise that accompanies the command: "...and he will make your paths straight" (v. 6).
The path that Jim and I have taken over the course of our marriage is not one I'd planned on. I thought that I would be a teacher, Jim would establish a full-time Christian psychology practice, and later we would spend our lives in medical research. I am a private person who would have preferred a life outside the limelight, surrounded by family and friends.
But God had something else in mind! Through Jim's books and speaking engagements, as well as many other unexpected developments, the Lord specifically called us to the highly visible world of Focus on the Family. Later, He showed me how I could serve Him through a role with the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
Even though we did not seek this life, we have always tried to discern and yield to His will. Jim and I believe that we are on the "straight path" that He wants us to travel, and we welcome it wholeheartedly. Our prayer now is to finish the race strong.
Yielding to the will of God is simply letting His Holy Spirit have His way in our lives. Continual prayer allows us to be "filled with the Spirit," as God commands us. Scripture declares that God's will for us is to "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). If we yield, we will continually be filled with joy and thanksgiving in the Spirit.
Excerpted from Certain Peace in Uncertain Times, by Shirley Dobson. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc., Sisters, Or., www.multnomahbooks.com, 1-800-929-0910. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
Shirley Dobson serves as the Chairman of the National Day of Prayer, which takes place on May 2, 2002.
How has God led you to change your plans to follow His plans? What challenges did you face when trying to submit to God's will? Why are you glad you did so? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.