I see, but I don’t see.
I hurt, but I don’t cry.
I fear, but I don’t feel.
I rant, but I don’t rend.
This stretch of journeying with the Lord is a little bit lonely. A little bit heavy. A little bit disappointing, but not in Him. In me, and in my inability to be truly broken over my sin. Broken over what the Lord is clearly exposing of the condition of my heart: my distorted way of seeing things because of prideful planks in my eye, being wise in my own eyes, and good old fashioned unbelief. Ways I am taking things into my own hands, stirring up trouble for myself and assuming lordship over my own life. It is sin against Him and Him alone, especially as much of it takes place in the private place of my heart.
The other morning, I ran across Joel 2:12-13:
“Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.
Joel is warning God’s people of an approaching day of gloom. An army is coming, the likes of which has never been seen. Destruction is in its wake, and it’s headed right for them. The Lord does not want to see the destruction of His people, but He cannot allow them to continue in their idolatry and sin. He will allow suffering as a catalyst for return. He will allow suffering as a catalyst for surrender.
Sometimes pain is at the hands of others; sometimes pain is self-inflicted. We imprison ourselves in a place of suffering because we don’t want to deal honestly with the Lord and do the hard work of turning from sin.
The Lord is showing me I can no longer withhold parts of my heart, deciding my way of worshipping Him so I can hold on to what I think will give me what I don’t think He is. I can no longer embrace idols while exclaiming the Lord God with my words. He won’t have it.
We are no different than the Israelites. God saves us, sets us apart, shows Himself mighty and faithful and true, and we are all in for a time! We are moved by His goodness and committed to Him as our Lord! And then time and circumstances and culture lure us into complacency or temptation or apathy and we find ourselves in despair – a threat looms as God warns us to turn to Him with all our hearts, fasting, weeping and mourning, to be broken over our sin against Him.
You see, God does not want part or most of my heart; He wants it all.
He does not want part or most of your heart; He wants it all.
He wants us to rend our hearts and not just tear our garments in some form of outward behavior modification while we retain what we want of our heart because we think it serves us better.
He wants a broken and contrite heart.
Because a broken heart beats inside a broken vessel, and only broken vessels are useful in the Potter’s hand: His light shining and living water pouring forth from the very cracks of our weakness in order to expose His strength.
We must rend our hearts: be reviled by our sin. We must open our eyes, and open them wider – enlarge our vision to see what God sees. Like a clown who paints his eyes to look huge – to be wide open, we are to intentionally give ourselves large eyes. We must cut out that which God gives us eyes to see. Cut it out! We cannot see our sin and allow it to remain and expect the Lord to relent in the consequences. He loves us too much to allow us to remain in a place where we are placating ourselves and our sin. Getting comfortable in it. Giving it lordship in our hearts. Because that’s what we’re doing when we allow sin to stay: we are giving our sin priority over our God. And it’s serious business.
Shauna, this is serious business!
Turn to the Lord with all your heart!
With fasting, weeping and mourning.
Rend your heart and not your garments.
God doesn’t want an outward expression; He wants an inward transformation.
Because when it’s inward, it shows outward.
Return to the Lord.
Turn. Not to some place back in time. We can’t go back. We just turn to Him right where we are. Not one more step back or forward. Stop. Turn to Him exactly where you are.
And when we do, do you know what we will find?
We will find that the Lord IS right now, always has been and always will be gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. It is who He is and how we will find Him to be toward us when we turn to Him right where we are, because He knows it’s His absolute best for us. And nothing is better for us than God’s best!
I wish I was writing this from the other side of obedience, having already seen the deliverance that is coming from the Lord, but I am not. I am in the middle of it: seeing my sin and asking the Lord to work in me to rend my heart and get rid of the idols that rob Him of my full affection and my whole heart.
What about you?
Is God warning you, opening your eyes to a looming threat should you choose to dig in your heels in whatever way you are withholding even a part of your heart from Him? Do you need to stop right where you are – go no farther and backslide no more? Do you need to rend your heart – tear it into pieces so hardness can be replaced with brokenness that leads to usefulness in God’s hands?
What if all of us did this together – one unified broken vessel shining forth and pouring forth God’s love, light and living water as He demonstrates He power and strength in and through us to our husbands, children and hurting communities, nation and world?
Oh Lord, yes! I will rend my heart, yielding it entirely to You and trusting You to do what only You can do to bring about my entire surrender. You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; thank You for relenting from doing harm. As an act of my will, Father, I stop. I stop right where I am and I turn. I pray for every sister in Christ reading this right now, and Father, I bring her to You and ask You to show yourself gracious, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness as You move in her to stop, to turn to You right where she is and to rend her heart so every shred of it becomes Yours. Lord, let it be so. Do it in us and for us so You can do with us what is Your perfect, good will. In the mighty name of Jesus, by whose name we approach Your throne and by whose blood we are saved, forgiven and given eternal life, amen!