I was reading in Ezekiel 24 about the death of Ezekiel’s wife. God told the prophet Ezekiel that someone he loved was going to be taken away suddenly and when that happened he was not to mourn in the usual manner, that in fact, he should mourn so no one would see. The passage goes on to explain that the example God was making of Ezekiel was to show the Israelites that the things they held closest to their hearts were going to be taken away and they would not be able to mourn these losses. What struck me so significantly was that there didn’t seem to be any obvious consideration or benefit to the prophet. His (and obviously his wife’s) life was to be poured out for others. Ezekiel’s personal loss, pain and how God instructed him to react to this loss was primarily for the sake of other people. And although God promises “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), it forces me to consider and determine whether I have steadfast faith in God and great love for others in light of being poured out in that manner.
God brought to mind a situation where our family was asked to do something, of which we agreed to do, that was a huge loss to us. It was extremely painful and the reason we were asked to do this was solely for the sake of someone else. Although we sacrificed for another’s sake, could I say we did so with a completely pure heart? To be quite honest, no. We weren’t convinced this was from God, and we agreed to do it because we didn’t have much of an alternative, but regardless of the circumstances we couldn’t deny that God was allowing this to be asked of us. Did we have steadfast faith in God’s sovereignty? Again, I’d have to say no. We had faith, but it was not steadfast. We wrestled with this situation. In addition to that, we wanted our pain to be realized by others. We wanted others to rally around us, to know our sacrifice, and care for us; to show the same concern for us that seemed so lavishly heaped on others. It was a human reaction to our pain.
When it comes right down to it, my life is not my own. God owns me completely; and if He wants me to step back for another without any benefit or consideration to me, that is His right. He is the only one who is entitled to anything. So, how should I cope with these situations when God requires this of me again? I must defer to Scripture to answer that question and this is what God revealed to me:
- I need to have a good understanding of God’s love for me and the promises He has made to me.* I suspect that if I actually had the capability to understand God’s full love for me, I would never question His ways. I would be completely secure and actually joy-filled with whatever He asked of me. But until then…
- Allow myself to follow Jesus’ example and acknowledge the pain and struggle. (John 11:35) Thinking I need to suck it up is not brave or mature, it’s actually prideful in the sense that I’m saying I can handle this independent from God. It’s also unhealthy. I have lived most of my life stuffing feelings thinking that was the right or godly thing to do. What resulted from that practice is a very hard, cold shell around my heart disguised behind a pleasant and easy-going facade. A pastor once told me that if I have an emotion or feeling I’m not sure what to do with, ask God what to do with it. And lastly (at least that I’m going to share here)…
- In all my reactions to what God asks of me, I need to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). I need to determine if what I am doing is pointing to God’s kingdom or is it fulfilling my own desires. Are my words or actions unifying or are they destructive?
Although Ezekiel carried out God’s will, the passage doesn’t reveal the condition of his heart and whether or not he wrestled with what God asked of him. I am making the assumption that he probably did better than me, but I think that of most people.
“Dear Heavenly Father, Help me to prepare for the next time You allow pain in my life. Give me the desire to remain in Your Word and to grow my faith and trust in all Your ways. I want to better understand Your love and ask that You fill me with Your love so that I will love others deeply; sacrificially without concern for myself. Amen.”
* For a generous list of verses which reveals God’s love for each of us, please see my post titled “God Couldn’t Possibly Love Me”.