Most of us long to be in control—of our schedule, our relationships, and our future. Newlywed Laura Story thought she had control over the life ahead of her. After all, she followed Jesus and had a promising new job as a worship leader. Why would God not want to fulfill her dreams? But when Laura and her husband, Martin, faced a brain tumor, infertility, and a son’s birth defect, she realized she’d been looking for a happiness that comes from circumstances, rather than a deeper joy that comes from God. Again and again, Laura had to surrender her vision for her life so she could embrace God’s vision. She learned that even in the midst of shattered dreams, God’s plan brought greater joy than she could have imagined. A few years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat and shared the platform with Laura. We discovered very quickly we were kindred spirits. It’s a grace to welcome Laura to the farm’s front porch today…
can’t say that the weeks between the diagnosis and Timothy’s arrival were easy. They weren’t.
While I made a conscious decision to trust God and surrender my expectations to Him, I also did what anyone in similar circumstances would: I searched the internet for information about cleft lip and palate and clicked through picture after picture of babies born with it.
Let me tell you, friend, my heart sank. That little exercise did nothing to decrease my anxiety.
I don’t recommend doing this or the other fruitless thing I did at first: imagining all the picture-perfect new baby photos of friends on social media or the “March babies” bulletin board in our church’s nursery.
It’s just not helpful—at all—to meditate on what we fear or dread.
Instead, God tells us to consider Him, to immerse ourselves in His Word, and to meditate on His truth.
I remembered a lesson from Psalm 1 I’d shared not too long ago with some new moms in our church, and now it really seemed perfect for me. It begins like this:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (Ps. 1:1–3 NIV)
It’s not wrong, I had told them, to want to be favored, fortunate, blessed.
But it is wrong to expect the world to deliver those things to us.
Instead, our blessedness or happiness comes from considering what God says about Himself and this world.
Meditating on this makes us strong, like fruit-bearing trees planted by fresh streams.
When we’re rooted in God and in His Word, we’re positioning ourselves for a blessed life, regardless of our circumstances.
And what is it, exactly, that rooted trees “do”? Nothing! They simply stay put, right where they are, their deep roots soaking in all that’s needed for a good and fruitful life.
“You and I just need to remain rooted in God,” I told them. “None of us is planted here by chance. No matter what, our assignment is to remain in Him, to receive what we need from Him, to be still and trust Him. He’s going to do the rest.”
The biggest problem with being a teacher is that sometimes you have to swallow your own lessons whole, like I had to swallow that one. I absolutely believed it when I’d said it to them. No doubt about it.
How could I believe it any less now, when it applied so specifically to me?
Before this last pregnancy, I’d started the practice of getting up very early each morning and sitting quietly on the sofa with my Bible and a cup of coffee, drinking in the words I knew I needed more than anything—even more than a few minutes of extra sleep.
Honestly, this practice probably began less out of deep, spiritual commitment than from a desperate desire not to do bodily harm to my children before the day was done!
My record in keeping this appointment has not been perfect by any means. I miss plenty of mornings.
But over time my kids have gotten used to seeing me there, alone and quiet. I figure if they ever ask, I’ll just say, “Mommy needs time with Jesus or she will implode.” Because Mommy does!
Now, waiting for Timothy’s arrival, I needed that time more than ever.
Because the challenges don’t stop coming, even when you’ve done this life of faith thing for a long time.
They bombard you, like C. S. Lewis said: “The very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day.”
I need that “stronger, quieter life” like I need air.
I tend to think of every hardship or challenge as a complication in my “normal,” chilled-out state.
But these things aren’t complications, really. They’re just content. They’re normal life, actually.
We live in a world broken by sin. Bad things happen. They even happen to “good” people, and they always will.
But for those of us who follow Jesus, our challenges and heartbreaks are not the last word. The world doesn’t offer that. Only Jesus does.
Every dark place on the landscape of our lives is a place where we can realistically hope to see God’s goodness and glory break through. That’s just how He rolls.
In the past, Martin and I have both had a tendency to see his disability as an inconvenience rather than as a tool in God’s hand—a way for His glory to be displayed. But God has kept on doing good things we could never have planned or realized through this unique, unwanted circumstance.
We have more compassionate, empathetic children, I’m sure, than we might have otherwise had.
We’ve had to slow down at times and take life at a less accelerated pace, and that has allowed us to see and enjoy things we might have otherwise missed.
We’ve had to rely on others to help us through logistical challenges because Martin can’t drive.
But even that complicating circumstance has allowed us to build true friendships and invest more in the lives of others here in our Atlanta community. We’re not waiting to go somewhere else now. We’re home.
I’m not really much of a why person. I’ve discovered that knowing why a thing happens or doesn’t happen doesn’t change much.
But since the Monday afternoon of that ultrasound and the hard news about our baby boy, I’ve become more focused than ever on what and who.
What do I know is true?
I am extravagantly loved.
And I am not in control. Not even a little.
Who is in control? God is.
He has my good in mind, and He is 100 percent ready to display His glory in and through my weakness.
My only job is to trust Him. To surrender.
Laura Story is a Bible teacher, worship leader, singer/songwriter, and bestselling author. Her songs – which have won Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and Dove Awards include “Blessings”, “Mighty to Save” and Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable.” Blessings was certified GOLD in 2011 and inspired her first devotional book What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops. Her second book When God Doesn’t Fix It serves as a reminder that despite questions or circumstances, He is the ultimate author of our story.
In her new book, I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life, Laura explores: how to delight in God’s gifts no matter your circumstances, why waiting on God is a daily decision, the strength we find from meditating on God’s Word, why surrendering to God leads to reconciliation with others, and how the things we consider to be losses are ways for God to display His glory.
As Laura writes, she no longer wants to be in control of her life. She wants to be rooted in the God who is in control. Discover a deeper life of worship, a fuller life of joy, and a freer life of true surrender as you open your hands to God. And give up.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]