God is for us :: Sarah Bessey

God wants so much from me.

What should I give up? What should I lay down? What should I do more?

I need to read the Bible more. I need to pray more. I need to give away more of my money, more of my time, more of my home.

If I really loved, God wouldn’t I be more like so-and-so? That one really has it figured out.

I should really volunteer at church more, lead a Bible study, organize something for the homeless. I’m the worst at this Jesus stuff. I should really be doing more for God! It’s so demanding, it takes everything EVERYTHING. Jesus laid down his life for you, you should return the favour.

Don’t you just feel so much more holy when you’re sacrificing everything on the altar of doing more for God? We like to feel like we’ve earned something. Who wants a free gift – those come with strings attached, right?

***

I used to think God wanted a lot from me.

And I was happy to do it. I loved God, I wanted to please God, I wanted to be worth something to God. I thought I owed God something for all the saving-the-world thing. Of course this life in Christ will cost me something – everything!

That old God wanted so much from me: time, money, energy, focus, worship, passion, work. God wanted my best behaviour, a clean conscience. Work harder, do more, strive strive strive. People are going to hell if we don’t do our part, the stakes are high. Defend the faith!

God wanted my best; of course, it’s just too bad my best won’t ever be good enough.

***

If I saw my children entangled, oh, God, I would cut away every thicket to reach them with my bare hands, crying out that I was coming for them with every breath. I wouldn’t rest, God help anyone who would stand in my way.

I would tear away all of it until I had them in my arms, I would laugh and I would cry at the moment of rescue. I would snatch them up and kiss their sweaty and scratched necks, you’re safe now, I’m here, I’m here.

***

Here is what I think: Maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us.

Maybe God actually wants things for us.

After all, God imagined us for love and for beauty, for life and for wholeness, for goodness and for mercy. You were made in the image of God. The Holy Spirit stirred over the waters, deep calling to deep.

God yearns like a father, like a mother, for us to be free.

God is Love, yes, and so God wants to lavish friendship and meaning and abundant life upon us, to help us to see this old world like the new world God envisions.

God wants us to be truly human, the way Jesus walked for and with us. Even the wrath of God isn’t something to fear, but something to welcome – that wrath is coming against the very things in us that bring death and destruction.

You, dear one, you’re not being condemned. You’re being rescued.

***

God doesn’t want much from me: God wants so much for me.

See there? The difference?

Start there. Start with the Love and with the freedom, with the grace and the wisdom, with the abundance, and suddenly those other things are simply an overflow instead of a sacrifice.

***

Open your hands and surrender. Cut away the thickets. Hand over your apathy and your loneliness, your never-enough and your too-much. Lay down your sin and the things you do to numb yourself against feeling it all. Toss down your pride and your greed, your selfishness and your me-first, those things aren’t for you. What are they but fetters? Can anything hold up against the fury of a God who wants you free, wants you restored, wants you to see that you are loved loved loved.

God is for you, Love is for you. The only thing God wants from you are the chains that are holding you back. Hand them over, they’ve already been unlocked, you get to walk away free.

***

God is for us. Never against us.

I’m not working for God. I’m working with God. We’re on a rescue mission, we’re on a setting-things-right all-things-redeemed mission.

We’re not trying to wrestle paltry gifts from a reluctant deity, counting coins in the counting house, viewing our lives as a sheet of checks and balances. You’ve been caught in a war zone, not a bank.

The spreadsheets have been tossed out, there is only welcome now.

The counting house doesn’t exist, there is only the supper of the Lamb and there is room for everyone.

Run towards grace, towards shalom. As the Apostle Paul said, throw off everything that holds you  back – it is holding you back! Restoration Project: partners.

Add everything back, everything that has been stolen will be restored.

We are not serving gifts of stone or snake for the children who ask, there is only a Father of Lights handing out bread to the entire hillside, this is a party.

Open the gates.

image source: lightstock

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  • Lauren Ward

    Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today.

  • Kim Waggoner

    Good grief, Sarah. You send me straight back to my Pentecostal roots. I’m waving my hands around my empty house. I asked God very specifically for reassurance today, something I can’t remember asking for before. And then this. It feels too good to be true, so it must be divine. Love this. Love you. Thanks.

  • Susie Klein

    YES! This is my entire life message and the theme of my blog! I love the way you say it Sarah! http://www.recoveringchurchlady.com/

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    Preach, my sister. Love you so much. ThankYou.

  • Naomi Williams

    Aah Sarah – I’m newly married and all week I’ve carried a vague sense of guilt that I have been so consumed with love for and this new life with my husband that I have somehow ‘neglected’ to invite God into it all. The guilt has stolen my joy these past couple of days. This was such a timely and beautiful reminder it brings tears to my eyes. All of that love and joy? God is in and delights in it all with me and for me. Thank you!

    • Chelle Powell

      Naomi, Abba wants you to enjoy this new gift of love. It is part of your understanding of Him. Congratulations!!!

    • Kristen Fields

      Marriage can definitely pull your attentions in a new direction, I’m two years in now and I’m just now learning how to put aside more time for myself and Jesus. Remember, though, that when you are with your husband, you are celebrating something God created FOR you! It’s a sweet gift to love and be loved in this way. You might have to be more intentional, but just because things look different than before, doesn’t mean they’re wrong!

  • fiona lynne

    Yes. This sums up everything I have been realising these last few years. But that old way of thinking sure is clingy…

  • Alissa Maxwell

    I often return to a beautiful sermon I heard when I was newly learning about God. I was a sermon on those 4 words God is for us – exploring what it means if we emphasize a different word in that phrase.
    GOD is for us. (God: the creator of the universe)
    God IS for us. (IS: today, this day, working in our lives)
    God is FOR us. (For: always working toward life, love, goodness.)
    God is for US! (Us: you and I; this truth applies to me and you and all who seek it.)

    • That is fantastic – what a great way to lay it out. Thanks for sharing that, Alissa.

  • Bingo! Absolutely to the point.

  • Sarah

    I needed this. I just got ordained, and I’m up to my eyeballs in children’s ministry planning, and I’ve let so much of the you-suck-try-harder crap into my heart this summer. Thank you.

  • The story where Jesus described himself as a doctor who has come to heal just about saved my faith at a time when I was done trying to avoid the thunderbolt-throwing deity I had learned to fear and perform for.

  • Sarah, your blog is like Elrond’s Last Homely House — the last peaceful place on the internet. I’ve been scrolling down my newsfeed for 45 minutes and reading articles that friends post, and I finally came here and — just, ahh. It’s like setting aside my fifth espresso for a nice clean glass of water. Thank you. “His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley.”

    • Love that analogy, Jessica! thank you for this.

  • Lisa Guinther

    Thank you. I needed to read this today.

  • Peri Zahnd

    “Out of his infinite glory, may he give us the power through the Spirit for our hidden selves to grow STRONG, so that CHRIST might live in our hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, we will with all of the saints have the STRENGTH TO GRASP the breadth and the length and the height and the depth, until KNOWING the love of God which is BEYOND ALL KNOWLEDGE we are filled with the utter fullness of God.” This is some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. Paul is over the top ecstatic in his understanding of the goodness of God’s love.

    Too many years stuck in the darkness of that counting house. Time to come outside and see the beauty of a much larger world he created for us to enjoy. Thank you, Sarah!

    • One of my most favourite-ist favourites of Scripture, Peri! thank you for sharing it here. Gives me the hallelujahs every time.

  • Chelle Powell

    Thanks for this, Sarah. So refreshing. It’s funny, I’ve been a Christian for 23 years and a “free-range” believer for the past 5 or 6. By “Free-range”, I mean church home less. I grew weary of the religion in the buildings and went on my own journey of faith and love. I am a recovering alcoholic and have found a new freedom in relationship with God through the fellowship of AA than I did in most churches I was involved in (and I was deeply involved in running the show). He is truly about loving us and inspiring (not forcing) us to love Him and others. That’s my only religious “rule” anymore (I think aspiration is a better word than “rule”), and I think it is enough. He takes care of the rest.

    • Beautiful, Chelle – I like the word “aspiration” for a religious rule, so good.

  • Nisha Varghese

    “God doesn’t want much from me: God wants so much for me.” Love that!

  • “You’re by beloved, my kin, no more a slave…” This verse from a song by the group Joseph hit me yesterday as I was singing in the car. Your post drove this home even more.

  • Sandra Sands

    Thank you and YES YES YES!

  • I love this…and think you’re right on! I believe my Higher Power wants things for me and will work with me to those things. My job is to show up and be. My job is to honor that which I’ve been given and to learn from my experiences, thereby enhancing my life. 🙂

  • Olivia Butz

    Thank you for this stunning reminder of God’s grace – I am beginning to learn that living loved means accepting these gifts and moving forward in repentance – turning to God and inviting Jesus in again, and again, and again…

  • God wants us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and yet you claim He doesn’t want much from us, Sarah?

    • Monica

      Ginny, from my personal experience, once I tasted the love God has for me and allowed myself to receive it, rest in it, even wallow in it, I came to love Him with my heart, mind, soul and strength. The ability to do that comes not from striving, but from surrendering and receiving. There is simplicity and freedom in that. I promise!

      • andre_lefebvre

        As Monica says, our learning to love God goes through a shift, when we realize that we think it means doing more for Him or others – our performance value – and then when we finally crash and give up, it’s not on God we are giving up, but on the god-image we carried inside our inner sanctuary. Then we start letting go of this way we had, and learn from Jesus, to find the way He has prescribed for us – to be sons and daughters – which means learning to let ourselves be loved for who we are, warts and all, as we are in the now, and resist trying to put make-up on our old self. It’s a relationship, it takes times, it will be so till we cross over, but we will gain much more understanding and be much better fed and lead if we love others out of our own experience of being loved. Makes sense?

  • vankaypie

    this provoked a resonance and movement in my bones that i haven’t felt in a long time. yes. thank you.

  • Sarah, this is wonderful. No matter how much I learn about grace, there’s always more – and I still catch myself trying to prove myself, to earn love and approval from God, playing the old merit game, the old stats, numbers game which the world plays. I want to get to a place where when I’m at my worst, I don’t play the merit game. That even there, I’m recognising I am a gift, and I’ve been given a gift. Acknowledge I’m loved at THAT moment, not just when I ‘behave’.

    I want to recognise God is not asking me to meet rules or a standard, but wants me to thrive, to be fully alive, and that the way to do that is live life how I was designed to – sin is simply living or acting in a way which is detrimental to others – but also to me. It’s not recognising the truth about ourselves, that we’re loved, accepted, welcomed, valued even unconditionally even when we’re at our worst, in fact, especially there. It’s about realising we matter, and a worth taking care of, and when we receive this, it allows us to pour this out to others, and we want to.

    I struggle with this so much. It’s an ongoing journey. So thankful for grace, and for this beautiful reminder of it. Thanks.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    I’ve been bereft of joy lately and I think the root of it is my ‘he’s not enough’ kinda God. thank you for these words, Sarah. They touched me deeply.

  • Beautiful, true, encouraging. Thank you.

  • ksmajeski

    weeping, my heart in your words. thank you

  • Blessed Unrest

    I needed this today. Actually I needed this last week, last month, last year, but today is good enough. Thank you for your writing and making sense of it all. I am going to read this every day.

  • Ken Nichols

    This was very refreshing and affirming. Thank you.

  • Marina Lehman

    You brought tears to my in this snatching-a-moment-with-coffee-while-the-tinies-are-quiet. Thank you, Sarah.

  • This is great – such a well-written expression of the Father. Thanks for this!

  • Kristen Marshall

    This reminds me so much of a book I’m reading right now called “From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel” by Christine Hoover. She addresses this exact same subject. The last line of the book’s description says, “Rather than serving God out of obligation or duty, you’ll be compelled to love and serve God with great joy.” It’s a great book!

  • Suzanne Lewis

    Once again, you hit the mark. Thank you for your refreshing words. You are powerfully encouraging!

  • Joelle

    Loved this so much. And I had just read this article http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/12_blessing.html on another site and they were so fitting together. It was just like having a breath of fresh air and a deeper awareness of His great love for us wash over me. 🙂

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  • Beautiful. Powerful. I’m going to keep this nearby and reread this week. Thank you. Speaks on many levels and to many issues.

  • Lisa McGugan Bowden

    Sarah–I’ve never met you or read your blog before, but the Lord used your words to love me today. I just turned in my staff badge after resigning from one of the fastest growing churches in America—and needed to know desperately that I am not being condemned, I am being rescued. Rescued to be free. Thank you for the reminder. Look forward to reading more.

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  • Tamryn

    Our family is in a stage of uncertainty and pain on so many fronts right now. This pulls out of us the question of performance and doing things that please God – and adds so much strife as we strive to trust God and rest in His goodness – even if we don’t understand it. This post is so timely with our current situation. It is really hard in all of the emotion to step outside of the situation and remember the truth – Thanks for the encouragement and offering a different angle on how we are looking at God

  • JennaDeWitt

    Every time I come to this sacred place, I wonder “now why don’t they make churches (near me) in this flavor?” 🙂 Love your words here, and praying they spread like wildflowers across our weary world.

  • “Open the gates.”
    Thank you for sharing this again. I don’t know why I need this reminder so frequently but this spoke to my heart today on week three of a single parenting stretch on very little sleep and a lot of self-questioning. Thank you!

  • Ann Billington

    My son was diagnosed with cancer at age 3 1/2, he died before turning 7. I saw God everywhere during that time. We were up against terrible odds but my son lived on and did so without pain or suffering. He was graceful and full of joy. I was so thankful to God for that but I was asking for the miracle. The miracle I didn’t get. God took my son from me. How do I love and trust Him now? I want to but I am so angry and disappointed. Other kids survive cancer but mine didn’t. My family has a hole blown through it and an unbearable amount of loss and pain. God was there for my son but I don’t feel Him here for me. If he wants so much for me, why would he allow so much loss and pain into my life?

  • We are all plagued with the “need to be better” feeling aren’t we? We strive to impress our Father but in reality He just wants us. Just us. He loves us IN SPITE of our flaws. He wants us to feel whole in Him! I just love this. Thank you for these encouraging words Sarah! The Lord knew I needed to read them today. Blessings to you!

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • Laura Unruh

    Hi Sarah,
    I would love to read the scriptures that this post is based on.

  • Kathy Forsyth

    I love what you have to say here! For most of my life, I thought my Christian faith was about doing for God. It’s only been in the last 5 years that I have come to realize that it’s not what God wants from me, but what He wants for me…freedom, peace, His amazing love and acceptance! It has made a tremendous difference in my walk with Him to finally understand this.

  • Blessed Unrest

    Yes! I started to think like this when I trained as a chaplain. I have never felt so free, light, loved, joyful, until I came to the conclusion that He is our guide not our judge. Feeling inadequate is us getting it all wrong again, trying too hard to be like Jesus rather than to simply love Him. With love all things are possible.

  • “I loved God, I wanted to please God.”

    I would say it’s a bit weird to love something you admit you didn’t even understand…but, sadly, this is all too common. And, despite admitting you didn’t understand this god, you proceed to write as though it is blatantly obvious what this god wants. (Bonus: Author describes themselves as “Unqualified theologian,” and yet writes as if they absolutely know what they are talking about.) My brain hurts so much right now…

  • Fred

    you guys think you have problems? ha ha ha. believe me i can read your minds. i has been a joy to visit this late into the night. no wonder i cant wake up in the mornings