“If Jesus is who He said He is, we can trust him with everything—even the most broken areas of our lives.” –Dr. Timothy Keller, Jesus The King
Jesus, how can I ever trust you again?
Seven years ago today I gave birth to our precious son Elijah Marc. The day a child is born is usually the most wonderful day in a mother’s life; for me, March 4, 2009 was the mostdevastating day of my life. My son never took a breath. I was crushed by the reality that I’d never wipe away his tears, watch him play t-ball or teach him to read. We’d never have a battle over eating vegetables. We’d never see him make a best friend. We’d never hear his unique voice or feel his warm hug. I believed the Holy God I’d trusted and served all my life had let me down. I felt betrayed by the One I trusted the most. Honestly, I felt I’d been good enough and deserved a perfect life. Had I actually been trusting in myself instead of Jesus all along? Yet, in light of this loss, how could I ever learn to authentically trust Him?
Learning to trust has taken me on a journey marked by lonely valleys, unforeseen obstacles, deep waters, engulfing flames, refreshing streams, and mountaintop perspectives.
I’d like to say I just woke up one sunny day and discovered everything was better. Yet, that’s not how it has worked. This journey has been a process, and just when I think the process is complete I realize more work is yet to be done in my heart. So, I’ve decided to embrace the process, even if it lasts all my life.
Just this week, my heart unexpectedly found greater freedom than I have ever known.
1:30 AM…the house was quiet…I had just finished writing some final thoughts in preparation for my weekly Bible study group. Before turning out my lamp, I decided to write one last heart-felt declaration on a fresh page in my journal.
Pencil in hand, I wrote: “Jesus, I believe You are who You said You are.”
I paused and looked at the pure, blank space on the white page.
Then, in the most close and peaceful place of my heart, I heard these words, “Who do yousay I am?”
Chills. I held my breath.
In that moment, He gave me the grace to look at my own heart without condemnation or masks. I laid myself bare before Him and emptied my heart of all the labels I’d given Him though seasons of doubt and pain. I wrote: aloof, non-responsive, forgetful, stingy, unapproachable, conditional, withdrawn, distant, disconnected, detached…and the list went on. Yet, I did not feel Him draw away. Instead, I felt great intimacy in that honest place.
After I transferred all those secret perceptions from the pages of my heart to the pages of my journal, I turned to the place where I’d read Jesus ask that same question of his disciples.
Matthew 16:13-19 (NIV)13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter [petros: stone, pebble], and on this rock [petra: cliff, boulder] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Verses 13-14: Who do others say Jesus is?
- Who do my parents say Jesus is?
- Who does my pastor say Jesus is?
- Who does my spouse say Jesus is?
- Who do THEY say Jesus is?
- My answers to these questions may be true of Jesus, but does my heart agree with the truth of who Jesus is?
When we lost our son many people gave us words to try to explain God’s place in our experience. I found no one’s revelation of God comforting. No one’s words eased the pain or restored what we’d lost. I needed God to reveal Himself to me.
Verse 15: Who do you say Jesus is?
- What does my heart truly believe of Jesus?
- Are my perceptions of Him tainted by disappointment and despair?
- Has my perception of Jesus determined if and to what extent I trust Him with my life—especially the most broken pieces?
I am now able to receive the revelation of who Jesus really is because I’m willing to release the bitter perceptions I’ve had of Him. Experiencing His loving and gracious response to my honest expression of my doubts of Him has (in itself) led me to trust Him again.
Verse 16-17: How is the identity of Jesus revealed?
- Simon Peter boldy expressed his accurate and confident perception of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
- Jesus said Simon was blessed because this accurate perception of Jesus was not revealed to him by any human mentality but by God Himself. God reveals Himself to our hearts. I must linger with Him to truly KNOW Him.
I’ve learned that Jesus is not obsessed with me offering the “right answer.” He is most concerned with the condition of my heart. I realize Peter could have simply declared Jesus as the Messiah as an intellectual reference, but Jesus discerned the true revelation that was at home in Peter’s heart. Jesus knew what Peter truly believed. Jesus knows what I truly believe, too; He wants to show me and set me free.
Verse 17-18: Jesus reveals me to me.
- Seeing Christ for who He is precedes Him showing me who I really am.
- Jesus revealed to Peter his purpose and gave him authority to fulfill that purpose.
When I see Jesus for who He truly is I can discover who I am in Him. When I know who I am in Him I am positioned to discover His will for my life.
Verse 19: Jesus gives me the keys to unlock His purpose for my life.
- Whats follows such open, honest revelations of identity?
- What do I do with all this now?
When these identity issues are established He reveals the authority He has given me to fulfill the purpose for which He called me.
I struggled with a sense of purpose and focus following our son’s passing. Once I submitted to this type of honest, authentic connection with Jesus, I began finding purpose and fulfillment in saying “Yes” to Him.
In searching scripture, I have not found one single healing in the gospels that was void of personal, relational connection with Jesus. No one, not even the woman with the issue of blood, got a drive-thru healing. Jesus always calls us out, looks us in the eye, talks to us, touches us.
Jesus is far more concerned with what He is doing IN us than what He is doing FOR us.
According to Ephesians 3:20, we know [God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. All my life, I’d believed that verse meant that if I prayed just right for a nice new Buick, He would do immeasurably moreby giving me a Maserati. I had completely underestimated the promise in Ephesians 3:20. Instead of the limited interpretation I’d believed, I now know that the “immeasurably more” refers to the deeper work of restoring my heart to His.
I sat at the piano a few moments ago and opened my old Nazarene hymnal to the 1922 song written by Helen Howarth Lemmel entitled Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus. As I read the lyrics, I thought about the joint process of The Father revealing Jesus to me. I must turn my eyes to Him. Then everything else grows strangely dim in light of Him.
Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus
Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
O soul, are you weary and troubled?No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!Refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
Who do you say Jesus is?
Will you dare trust Him with the most broken areas of your life?
What is the far more He will do in you?
© 2016 Lesley Sturm