Just last week, as I have done many times in the past, I sent a letter to someone per the instructions of the Lord. I was completely clear that the Lord had wanted me to write a letter, I was clear that He had given me the words to write, and I was clear about the very day He wanted me to send the letter. But more than anything else, perhaps, I was clear that my flesh did not enjoy the process. That is an understatement, more precisely. My flesh so resisted sending the letter that the Lord had to give me a big push to go to the post office.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the long line at the post office that went clear out the door. But what truly did surprise me was when the postal clerk spoke these words in front of the entire line of people.
“Do you just have that one envelope to mail?” he said to me. “If all you need is a stamp, give it to me. You can come back some other time and pay for the stamp. I’ll put it in the mail for you.”
My God. Yes, my God. The Lord had made His already clear instructions not just clear to me. He had made them clear to the whole line of people standing in front of me.
I handed the letter to the postal clerk, thanked him, wondered on my way out how the people in line would think about the favor I had received, and off I went. But not so fast.
I figured I was finished with my act of obedience. But in fact, I had just gotten started. The emotions that have flooded me for the days since have come on an unexpected, and quite consuming, tidal wave. If I obeyed, why does it hurt? I asked the Lord today. Obedience hurts because the flesh has a mind of its own. And, quite simply, my flesh had had other ideas about how to handle my situation.
Needless to say, my flesh has been screaming just about ever since. My flesh hates what I had to say in the letter. My flesh hates that I sent the letter. And my flesh hates the circumstances that preceded the letter. To top it all off, I have another act of obedience that waits before me.
The Lord, not to mention my loved ones, have been waiting for quite some time for me to yield another area of my life to the Lord. And though I would say on the whole I am extremely submissive with the Lord, and though I do my best to love, honor and cherish Him in the way I live my life, I fall extremely short in one particular area. And, surprise surprise, this is the exact area where I believe the Lord is waiting for my submission. More aptly put, He is waiting for my obedience.
Obedience? Will it hurt? Of course. It already does. It hurts just to think about. My flesh has fallen head over heels in love with one area of my life that is blatantly wrong – but feels gratifying to the flesh. So what will I do about it? Considering the crowd of loves ones standing around me praying for my freedom from bondage in this area, I will undoubtedly hit my knees sometime in the near future and obey the Lord. But most importantly, considering the depths of my love for the Lord, I know ultimately I must obey.
Why, one might wonder, should we obey the Lord when it hurts? The answer is simple. Love. The Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for Him in our obedience to Him. And, while our flesh only sees the pleasures of the moment, the Lord sees the whole picture – of our lives, of the lives of those around us, of the lives of the whole world, and of the building of the Kingdom of God. God does not want what is bad for us, nor does He want just what is good for us. He wants what is best for us. In fact, He does not just want what is best for us. He wants what is best for His Creation.
Obedience comes with a high price to the flesh, but it also comes ultimately with a blessing that far outweighs the dissatisfaction and mortification of the flesh. For those of us who live to love and serve the Lord, our hearts get to rest at the end of the day with the knowing that we have pleased our Father in our act of obedience.
“If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land…” Isaiah 1:18 NKJV
Lord, please help me with this hurt. And please help the recipient of the letter with that person’s hurt. Please help us both to see beyond what we see with our natural, human eyes and our hurting flesh. Please forgive us our disobedience until now. And please help us to walk forward in obedience. Please help those reading this Father to see where you are calling them to obey. Please help them to obey. Please help us to not be caught up in the pleasures in the moment, but to be caught up in your everlasting love, grace, and mercy. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.