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Cease Striving

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Back in the day when I was a naive and energetic 20 something, I rattled off all the lofty things I was eager to do for the Lord to a godly, dear friend.  As I paused, waiting to hear how great my plans were, I instead received a simple reply that shocked me.  She said “cease striving”.

Her words stopped me in my tracks.  In some ways I found it a bit hurtful.  Her opinion was extremely important to me.  Everyone else seemed to find my enthusiasm enjoyable and contagious.  The following weeks and months were filled with attempts to more accurately explain myself.  Each time she would lovingly repeat the phrase “cease striving”.

I continued on my path, trying to take her words to heart.  She ended up leaving our church and over time, we slowly grew apart.  Even though it has been 10 years, her words still echo in my head from time to time.  I knew they were supposed to mean something even though I couldn’t figure out what… until now.

Last month my husband and I started attending a home group.  We have been reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan which the Lord has used to reveal a great truth in my life.  He wants me to cease striving.

Sometimes I forget how unimportant I am.  Sometimes I forget that God doesn’t need me.  I can’t really do a single thing FOR Him.  Ever.  If I were a wiser woman I would take comfort in that sentiment.  However my over-achieving, people-pleasing nature thinks that somehow I will make God love me more if I do a lot for Him.  After all, that’s what a good Christian does, right?

The problem with striving day in and day out is that this kind of behavior is motivated out of fear and guilt.  I do the things I do because I HAVE to.  I MUST do them.  And here I wonder why I have difficulty finding joy in all things.

God loves us, not what we can offer Him or do for Him.  Just us.  He ultimately wants our heart, not our hands.  When we can really embrace that truth we will start to want Him in the same way… not for what He can offer us but for who He is.

The beauty of this scenario is that we will still do things for the Lord, great things, but the motivation will be our love.  When He becomes our beloved, our will conforms to His and we desire His path.  The things we want to do will be one and the same with the things that please Him.

If you have also found yourself serving out of obligation, whether it be in your church, community or your family, I want to encourage you to pray and ask your heavenly father to help you be still and recognize the great love He has for you, just you.  May you drown in the depths of His amazing love and most importantly, cease striving.
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