Every year for the last several years on my birthday, I write down a blessing from the year for my age. So this year, I'll write 24 blessings from this past year. It's been a great rhythm for me to start off my birthday praising God for all He's done in the past year.
My birthday is coming up soon and in early November, I began to ponder what I would put on this list. What would I list as my number one blessing for this past year? What am I most thankful for? How can I summarize what God has done for me in this past year?
It has been an absolutely wonderful year and I have seen God move in my life in so many ways (even in the midst of hard, hard trials) that a list of 24 items just would not be long enough.
But then I started to think about what I had prayed would be number one on my list this year. The thing I had desired most last year this time that as I closed my journal I quietly prayed that God would give it to me and I could write it in my number one slot this year.
Today is December 7, 2018 and I cannot write what I had prayed for in my number one slot.
In mid-November, this thought absolutely devastated me. I was teetering on the verge of tears for a couple of weeks. I cried and asked God to show me what I had done wrong to not earn what my heart desired. I beat myself up. I was hurt and angry. I felt like these last almost nine years God has held this promise out in front of my face like a carrot and has been stringing me along all of this time with no intentions of doing what He promised. I had spent the last several months studying about how God CAN and WILL remain faithful to His promises. Those months I had heard His voice so clearly encouraging me and reminding of His love, goodness, and trustworthiness. I believed and rejoiced that God would do exactly what He said He would. Why did I all of a sudden have such a hard time believing that God would be faithful? Why did I doubt all of a sudden? Why did my rejoicing turn to such bitter lamenting and mourning?
I think the answer is pretty simple: I took my eyes off of Jesus and put them on myself.
My focus had turned away from who God was and is and is to come and started focusing on myself. I stopped counting all the ways that God has been good and started counting all the times I didn't get exactly what I wanted when I wanted. Like Peter, I had taken my eyes off of Jesus for a split second and I was sinking, needing a Savior to pull me up again.
When I finally shared my heart with my mom and told her that I didn't know what I had done to make God not give me what He promised. She told me, "Allison, you don't have that kind of power."
The same statement was echoed from a spiritual mother at Bible study as she spoke to a room full of women. Jesus had put that in there for me. I don't have that kind of power. I didn't have that kind of power to save myself from the punishment of my sin. I don't have the power to earn His grace or His love or even His willingness to listen to my prayers, much less speak to me.
This past week, the Lord used His Word to speak to me again. I'm so unworthy for so many reasons but after a pity party and temper tantrum like that, He still wants to communicate with me? Man, what a patient, loving, all-knowing, faithful God. There is no one like Him and there is no one greater.
I was reading Psalm 23. I've heard that Psalm throughout much of my life and have always heard it read from the King James where verse one says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." The thoughts of not wanting anything while in the care of the Good Shepherd seem foreign and hard, reading verse one in the New International Version was enough to make me weep.
"The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing."
Oh my word.
I do not have not because I have not earned. I do not have because God is God. He is my Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd and He provides all I need. I do not have because I do not need. I do not have x. y, or z to put in the number one slot of my blessings from the year because I do not need x, y, or z. And when the Good Shepherd gives me what I have prayed for in the future, it is not because I lacked it now. The Lord has given me more than enough to make it through the season He has me in. When the Lord grants me x, y, or z, it is because the Lord has determined that it is what I need for that season.
The funny thing about desires is that they're always changing. I may desperately long for one thing now and then when the Lord gives it to me, that longing will change to something else. So even when I have exactly what I have prayed for and my heart longs for something else, I will still lack absolutely nothing.
When we are striving to be exactly in the center of His will and relying on Him, we lack absolutely nothing. When we taking our eyes off of Him and begin putting our faith in ourselves to get what we want (or what we think we want/need), we start to sink. We find ourselves crashing off of our "mountain top experiences" straight into a a muddy, slippery, sticky valley that we can't get out of by ourselves. We need our Good Shepherd to come and restore our soul (23: 2). When we follow the Good Shepherd and stop going rouge, our cup overflows (23:5). That dream we wanted in our number slot becomes filled with all the goodness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and love of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
"Surely Your love and goodness will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:6, NIV
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.