courageous HOPE

Raw. Vividly described.  Heart-wrenching ache.  Crushing burdens.  Wave after wave of a whole new level of “hard.”  Hers is a reality I honestly cannot say I have ever experienced.  I took in page after page in solemn stillness.  I wanted to honor her pain with attentiveness.  A genuine search for understanding.  To simply listen and really hear.  To pay attention and really see.

In her book, Glorious Weakness, Alia Joy bravely describes the many difficult trials she has navigated in her life.  A path few of us are ever called to walk.

With passion and vulnerability, she details her unexaggerated, harsh reality, devastating hardships on so many levels: physical, mental, financial, emotional, and spiritual.  She sheds tragically needed light on the additional pain of being unseen, ignored, misjudged, neglected – by the very ones she hoped would notice her deep struggles and offer any help they could, even just to be present in her pain.

With honesty laid bare, she shares her struggle to understand and trust GOD in the depths of her darkness.  Her outright rebellion against Him, and the miraculous ways He reached her right where she was to draw her heart to His.  The ways He used His Word to disarm her darkness, and His Spirit to place the desire in her to read and receive it.

Many of her struggles, Alia carries with her still.  Decades running.  It is unthinkable to imagine the depths of her felt weakness.  Yet she boldly claims HOPE in the LORD!  He has given her different eyes with which to view the gaping lack that characterizes her life.  Her heart has been drawn to surrender the most painful places, to see them as caverns the LORD’s presence is welcomed to fill.  She now sees weakness as a precious gift, where He can meet her uniquely and intimately and give her priceless glimpses of His glory, a sacredness far beyond herself.

Alia’s words remind me of many of the Psalms.  Raw honesty.  Desperate agony.  Bold questions.  Unfulfilled longing.  And yet… in the midst of unresolved trials, a determined choice to believe!  To hope in GOD.  To trust in His unfailing love.  These words of wrestling yet choosing hope could have been her own:

“O LORD GOD of my salvation, I cry out to you by day.  I come to you at night.  Hear my prayer; listen to my cry.  For my life is full of troubles.  I am forgotten.  I am in a trap with no way of escape.  My eyes are blinded by my tears.  Each day I beg for Your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to You for mercy.  Can the darkness speak of Your wonderful deeds?  I have been sick and close to death since my youth.  I stand helpless and desperate before You.  Terror has paralyzed me.  It swirls around me like floodwaters all day long.  Darkness is my closest friend.”  Psalm 88

“For You have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.  I will ever praise You.  I will always hope.  I will yet praise You more and more.”  Psalm 71:5-6, 14

 “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.  Hear my cry for help, my King and my GOD, for to You I pray.  In the morning, LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.”  Psalm 5:1-3

 “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”  Psalm 143:8

 “I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my GOD.”  Psalm 42:5

.   .   .

As one of my favorite podcaster’s described it, Alia’s book “wrecked me.”  I have struggled to process it all.

Do I recognize the needs all around me?  Do I take time to look and really see beyond someone’s brave exterior?  To pick up on cues that they are desperately longing for someone to notice?  Am I willing to respond to nudges from GOD’s Spirit to reach out in any way that I can?

When I face my own struggles, when I am paralyzed by my own fears, do I dare to believe He is still there?  That He is who He says He is?  That He will meet me in those hard places?  That His Word will give me fresh hope, exactly how and exactly when I need it?  That with His help, I can always take one more step, face one more day, endure what seems unthinkable?

Can I learn from Alia how to look for ways the darkness shows me the LORD’s wondrous works?  Have eyes to see His glory revealed through my weakness?  Determine to choose courageous hope, even when a difficult path remains unaltered?  Am I willing to let the tender touch of My Savior, the very presence of His person, to steady my heart and heal my pain?

I lay it all before the LORD.  He simply whispers, “keep your eyes on Me… I will help show you how…”

Alia closes with these words as she bears witness to the redeeming power of GOD’s unfailing love, her every reason to HOPE:

“We keep company with sadness.  We learn the lament of everyone who holds quietly to the knowing: things are not as they should be.  And still we hope.  Still we see our Redeemer come.  We speak in a dialect of our kin, our native tongue.  We are fluent in the language of hope.  We bear witness to the goodness of GOD in the most unlikely places.  He is our all in all – we know this from the desperate spaces when we had nothing else.  No other route, no calmer sea, no other choice but surrender.  And that is a gift.  That is our glorious weakness.” (p.222)

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If you long for courage to believe in the One who offers hope and healing, Alia Joy’s story may help you discover a precious new reality in trusting JESUS.  Look for Glorious Weakness, published by Baker Books, wherever books are sold.

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set free

“What a wonder to treasure this place where I was broken and spilled out. 

Where we counted the cost, but still chose to follow CHRIST. 

Out of trust and obedience that has always propelled us, but now also out of worship! 

For He is worthy of the surrender of my whole heart!”

I had just finished writing those words as part of another project when my husband returned from the mailbox with a package I expected to arrive weeks before.

It was not late in coming, as I assumed.  It was intended for that day.  Specifically.

I pulled two books from the Baker Publishing Group package.  Seeing the first cover, I sunk into the back of my chair and closed my eyes with a knowing smile – Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot.

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This woman’s heart for GOD’s truth and straightforward, let’s-be-about-the-Father’s-business challenges grabbed my wandering heart as a twenty-something.  I have a bookshelf filled with her writings.

I knew.  I just knew the words I had just strung together to express a very real and present wrestle with the LORD for my full heart surrender would be reinforced by her thoughts in this book, a reprint of what she originally published in 1982, called Discipline.  It was time for my own heart to circle back – a return, but with fresh eyes and a newly tuned heart.

As she has done many times before, Elizabeth Elliot’s thoughts in Joyful Surrender cut to the chase of my own thinking and set my mind squarely on things above.

“Discipline in the wholehearted yes to the call of GOD.  When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master.  I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.” (p.16)

The word “discipline” causes us to cringe, conjuring up images of hard work, strict expectations, harsh sacrifice, severe limitations.  We shrink back when we feel our comfort bubble threatened.  Elizabeth Elliot’s no-nonsense language admittedly caught me off-guard.  I squirmed uncomfortably and felt the urge to argue.

But just like our Savior, she took her time setting a very different scene to which my heart could respond.  She reminded me that I am “created, cared for, called” (p.9) by One who attends intimately to the unique details of my life.  Almighty GOD is my Creator.  I honor Him when I acknowledge my “createdness.”  He is GOD.  And I am not.

“Discipline” is simply the life of a disciple, one who has chosen to follow the One who has captured the heart, whose very Person commands full trust and loyalty.  “Discipline is the believer’s answer to GOD’s call.” (p.15)  “We may choose to say yes and thus fulfill the Creator’s glorious purpose for us.  GOD calls us to freedom, fulfillment, and joy.” (p.15)

The tug on my heart goes deeper still.  As Creator, the LORD is fully worthy of my surrendered will.  His creation is not mine to direct.  But He is also my Savior!  He gave everything, His own life’s blood, to reconcile me to GOD and draw me to His side!  How could I not respond?  How could I not desire to offer Him all that I can?

“The disciple is one who has made a very simple decision.  JESUS invites us to follow Him, and the disciple accepts the invitation.  The disciple is no longer on his own.  He gives himself to the Master.” (p.23-24)  JESUS CHRIST is Savior because He is LORD.  He is LORD because He is Savior.”  (p.26)

Now with my full attention, Elizabeth Elliot moves chapter by chapter through seven key areas of surrender in the life of a Christ-follower: body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, and feelings.  She offers snap shots of what this surrender will require in “real time.”  Again, I felt myself wince a few times.  But His Spirit helped me to pause each time and admit she is not wrong.  She unapologetically presents the truth of Scripture!

In a few places, I hoped for a little more sensitivity to the unique struggles of individual people with certain challenges she mentioned, but the truth behind the call of GOD is right and true.  I can trust Him to direct my heart to respond.  He will show me what surrender in each of these areas asks of me.  As my Master, I simply need to ask Him.  And decide again and again to follow where He leads.

I started the book with a heavy, uncomfortable feeling.  But I can honestly say, with each new wave of surrender, I felt a lightening.  A falling away of so much that bound me.  Expectations – real or perceived, my own or other voices – that held me captive in pursuit of ideals my Creator never intended for me.  Pressures and burdens from which my Savior died to free me!

I reached the end of the book with a true sense of JOY!  There is a single-mindedness in following CHRIST.  A beautiful simplicity.  A pure and singular focus.

He plans and directs.  I follow.

He refines my heart.  I learn and grow.

He creates beauty.  I receive it with JOY.

My Creator and Savior only asks me to surrender what takes up space in my heart He longs to fill with something infinitely better – Himself!  He delights in pouring His best and abundant provisions into my open arms, lifted to Him.  In GOD’s economy, nothing surrendered to Him is ever a loss.  It is only gain.  When my heart responds to Him, I always “trade UP!”

Elizabeth Elliot includes a beautiful analogy:

“Is there any image of freedom and joy more exhilarating than a full orchestra, everybody sawing, tootling, pounding, strumming, blowing, clashing, and hammering away for all they are worth, under the direction of the immense energy and discipline of a man who knows every note of every instrument in every concerto and knows how to elicit that note exactly so that it will contribute most fully to the glory of the work as a whole?”  (p. 38)

How thrilling to imagine!   Surrendering who I am and what my life can become into the hands of the One who orchestrates all things to perfection!  He knows exactly when and how to call me to play my part, to offer to His masterpiece what I, alone, was created to contribute!  In that yielded place, His flawless design shines in its full glory.  And I have the unspeakable joy of hitting my note in full strength, feeling with chills the harmony with which it resounds in concert with every other exactly intricate piece!

Elizabeth Elliot concludes with these words:

“He offers an exchange:  His life for ours.  He showed us what He meant by giving Himself.  He offers us love, acceptance, forgiveness, a weight of glory, fullness of JOY.  Is it so hard to offer back the gifts that came in the first place from the wounded Hands – body, mind, place, time, possessions, work, feelings, and more?” (p.150)

Elizabeth Elliot doesn’t pull punches.  She is not concerned about being “politically correct.”  Her straightforward, unapologetic delivery may catch readers off-guard, as it did me.  I fear this is more likely a sad commentary of how loud the voices of a worldview have become.  Our hearts are too easily draw away to listen to what we think we want to hear, rather than wrestling to fully understand the desires of the One who created us in the first place.  The One who gave everything to redeem us so He could give us all things!

The Savior called Elizabeth Elliot Home to heaven a few years ago.  Imagining her in His very Presence, face to face after a lifetime of longing to know and serve Him more, I can only guess that she does not regret one thing she ever surrendered to the LORD.  If anything, it is not until then that we will fully understand how much we owe Him.  Given the chance to step back in time, I believe she would long to have given Him more!

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

How can we, in turn, not freely offer all things back to Him in Joyful Surrender?

give Me your heart

Find Joyful Surrender, by Elizabeth Elliot, published by Revell Books, wherever books are sold.