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Withholding and Beholding

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On Tuesday, I wrote about expecting things of others and myself. When I look to my “self” to be Christ, I’ll come up with a handful of nothing good. When I look to others to be Christ, I will be left with disappointment and despair. Although Christ Himself can manifest through a person, that person is not Christ-as-source. Christ alone is the source of Christ-life.

So what I’d like to explore now is how we are affected when those who matter most deny us of what we think we need most of all. How am I to respond when my key relationships fail to meet my most valued desires? What am I to do when father, mother, sister, brother, teacher, pastor fails, in my opinion, in the office or role they hold. How do I respond when it seems these individuals are more a statement of what has been withheld, rather than what is given. The absentee father, the domineering mother, the abusive sibling, the selfish pastor—these roles and offices stand for sources of supply. A father and mother’s love, the shepherding pastor, and the camaraderie of a sibling are all interpersonal relationships that matter the most in our formative years. Then as we grow up, friends, boy/girlfriends, and spouses take their place. All these are seen as sources of life and supply. So how do I respond when these key relationships feel more like betrayal than benefit? The answer is found at the Source.

Withholding is for beholding. 

When these life-forming roles fail us rather than support us, I must know there is a higher Purpose active here. This apparent withholding is for my beholding of Him. A greater Mind is at work. God’s doing something that is beyond my seeing and feeling. And my need is to ask what, not why. “What are You after here, God?”

In Martha Kilpatrick’s book All and Only, she explores this conundrum in her chapter about Joseph. Joseph’s dilemma was not why God was allowing things to happen but what He was forming through what He was doing. Joseph’s questioning of God didn’t target His sovereignty, but purposed to bow to it instead. “What are You after? What are You looking to achieve through these circumstances You have created?” (For more on this, take a look at what I’ve written previously on Joseph’s dilemma.)

It’s a brave man who faces the facts laid out by his Sovereign God. They remain facts whether I acknowledge and embrace them or not. But it’s quite a courageous undertaking to ask the Sovereign Lord what He is after by allowing painful circumstances in my life. Sure, we can blame and complain about how these key figures have wronged us. Statements like, “My father abandoned me. My mother scorned me. My siblings abused me. My pastor used me.” All of these are extremely painful and leave a lasting effect on our life. So now, do I ask God why He did this to me, or do I say, “What were You trying to bring about?” One stance comes yielding while the other comes demanding.  Which do you think God is more likely to answer?

Now that we are entering the holiday season, where more likely than not, our wounds might be grated, I am purposing to inquire of God what not why. I’m asking how I can fall in line with His Will and Way. “What is it You have wished to develop in my life? How can I come in line with Your plans?” It is in this that we will receive Beauty for ashes.

to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord to glorify Him.
Isaiah 61:3 HCSB

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