Saturday morning I was reading the Psalms and praying God would save so many people I love.
Praying God would redeem them. Break them down. Cleanse out all their idols. Give them new hearts. Make them new creations. Add their voices to the song that never ends. Raise them up to be holy and faithful laborers. Cause them to look and live.
“Whatever it takes, God. Whatever it takes.”
Have you prayed that before? I would venture to say most people have. We pray it at our church often because it’s obvious that, in the cost/benefit analysis of God’s grace-driven salvation, the benefits far outweigh any cost we could be asked to pay. In light of what Jesus has done, nothing we could ever do is enough to earn God’s favor and nothing He asks of us would be too much. As Elisabeth Elliot says, “He supplies the material for sacrifice.” And the sacrifice, if initiated and prompted by a holy Father, is always worth it.
But what if we pray “whatever it takes” with all our well-intentioned heart and then despise the “whatever” when it comes?
That was my train of thought on Saturday morning right after I said, “Whatever it takes, God. Whatever it takes.” This is from my journal:
Speaking of that prayer… What if everything happening in our country with the legalization of same-sex marriage, the threats of ISIS, the incompetency of our elected officials and all the other “craziness,” what if all those things are part of the answer to our prayers for loved ones, families, kids, etc., to be saved, “whatever it takes”?
Therefore, if that was the case, it would stand to reason that if we are whining about all the junk happening in our culture, we’re actually whining about the very circumstances God is using to answer our prayers and glorify Himself.
And how many times have we done that? Not just about the cultural things and whining about them, but complaining so deeply about situations designed for our good?
Which ones are those?
All of them.
Do we really believe that God is good? Are our hearts gripped by the Uncreated One’s unmarred character?
Do we really believe that He is good if He chooses to answer our “whatever it takes” prayer with a changing government?
A career re-route?
An athlete’s career-ending injury?
His character is always good and therefore these circumstances (ordained by God Himself) are good. Although they may not appear good or feel good, they’re still designed and allowed by a perfect Savior with flawless character for His worship and my good.
Do we really believe that He is for us and not against us? Do we really believe that He has promised to work all things for the good of His kids? Do we really believe that He only gives good gifts?
This is the cup God has given you to drink.
This is a good cup.
He only makes good drinks.
How can you be sure?
He only had one cup of wrath and Jesus drank it all.
So as we pray “whatever it takes,” for God to save people and “whatever it takes” to make me holy, I’m adding “and help me not resist whatever that may be.”
May we look at all circumstances through the lens of the Gospel, knowing that whatever comes our way—whether it’s a fiery trial, exhilarating victory, agonizing hurt, blissful joy, aching sorrow or deep loss—is filtered through fingers of love, and the Judge of all the earth will do/has done/is doing r i g h t. He can do nothing else.
Is it not reasonable to believe that that same God, the God of heaven to whom all thanks is due, will provide for us today the materials for sacrifice? “All things come of Thee, O Lord,” we sing, “and of Thine own have we given Thee.”
Sometimes the materials He provides are things of beauty, things for which we give thanks at once with all our being. The glory of the oak trees today was one of these. And sometimes they are things which break our hearts—not gifts in the sense that Almighty God decrees the evil and suffering of the world (we only know that He allowed it, we do not know why), but gifts in that He gives to us Himself—His presence, His never-failing love in the midst of our pain. We may offer up those very pains, those inexplicable catastrophes that baffle us to silence. We may even give Him our broken hearts, for the sacrifices of God, we are told, are “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.” All of it—the gladness and the sorrow—material for sacrifice, given “day by day without fail.” For one who has made thanksgiving the habit of his life, the morning prayer will be, ‘Lord, what will You give me today to offer back to You?’ -Elisabeth Elliot