Something was really wrong with me…
I believed I was going to die. Every night as I laid down to go to bed, I was afraid that this would be my final night on earth. I was tethered to this idea that something bizarre was going to happen, like maybe my heart would simply stop beating while I was deep in my sleep. Then would come the worrisome thoughts flooding my mind, driving me deeper into an already anxious state. Who would take care of my children? Do they know I love them? Have I done enough for them? Who would love my wife? What would happen to her without me? What would it be like for my family to experience my sudden death?
Those were dark times marked by sheer loneliness and painstakingly sleepless nights. Then they discovered there was actually something wrong with my heart. Without getting into all the medical jargon, they discovered that I had a heart valve that wasn’t functioning properly. Suddenly the fears that fueled my anxiety were materializing in the form of a real problem. The problem wasn’t just in my head, but in my heart as well. If I wanted this situation to change, then I had to choose to make some serious changes in the way I cared for my heart, mind and soul.
Up until this point in my life, I really hadn’t given much thought to caring for my body. One of my favorite mottos was, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Little did I know I was riding in the express lane to this self-prophetic destination. I mocked, mostly quietly and to myself, those who made wise food choices while I enjoyed the rich, sweet, and fatty food delights readily available to me. And exercise… don’t get me started. I tried that before. No thanks. The only running I wanted to do was from my couch to my cupboard for the next treat that would bring me a moment of pleasure.
Finding my way forward
But the way forward was clear. I had to change, beginning with my mind. Making new decisions, at multiple points throughout each day, literally taking it moment by moment. My new motto was God help me! The first couple verses of Romans 12 directed my focus and allowed me visibility to the grace filled work of the Holy Spirit that would lead me to lasting change.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 MSG
You see, God invites us into a different way of living. As people who put their faith in Jesus, we’re not subject to the slavery of our society. No! We have the Holy Spirit who’s taken up residence in our soul. He’s not just some helper that comes and goes with an inconsistent fashion. He’s not some friend that sometimes responds and sometimes not. He’s not some sort of older brother, distant father, or self-serving boss that we think cares about us. He’s God in us. He’s the Holy Spirit, always ready to guide us into freedom from our trappings, emancipating us from that which slowly deteriorates and finally destroys us.
Lord I’m willing, help me to want it
The challenge we often face is we don’t always desire that which is good for us. Sometimes, like in my story, we have our heart fixed on those things that actually famish instead of refresh our soul. We allow ourselves to become tethered to ideas that rob us of the joyful life in Christ, empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 11, Jesus scolds the religious leaders for placing burdens on the people that were impossible to keep and ultimately damaging for their relationship with God. He then turns to the people and invites them into the sweet intimacy of friendship with him. He says,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
We have to be willing to give God full access to our head and heart. We have to change the way we think, making new decisions steeped in God’s way of living. We have to practice walking in obedience, allowing the Holy Spirit to change our heart so that our actions become effortless.
So my practice became rather simple. Every day when I would lace up my running shoes, I would pray, “Lord I’m willing, help me to want it.” Every moment I was faced with making a good and right decision about what I would eat, I would pray, “Lord I’m willing, help me to want it.” Every night as I laid my head down to sleep, and the thoughts started yipping at me, I would pray, “Lord I’m willing, help me to want it.”
Finding your freedom
This is our way forward to having a heart that is free and a life alive in Christ. Free from the burdens of this world that bog us down. Free from the trappings of life that destroy our dreams and shatter our soul. If your life is in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is alive in you and calls out to your soul, inviting it to resonate deeply and intimately with him.
God’s will for our us is that we would have lives that are filled to overflow with joy and that are abundantly fruitful. Because this brings God great glory. Put off that which captures your heart, binding it to choices that lead to its detriment. Instead, commit to allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart and it’s desires as you walk in obedience to him. “Lord I’m willing, help me to want it.” Make that your prayer as you walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, following and waiting patiently for him to change your heart and so change your life for good.
Reflect on this…
- Consider whether or not there is something that God is calling you to do. Something may pop up immediately, or you may need a few minutes to allow the Holy Spirit to ransack the dark corners of your heart where the messy things get shoved.
- Read back through Matthew 11:28-30. Is there an extra burden, anxiety, or misplaced desire that is holding you back from feeling like you are free to move forward? Picture yourself offering this to God in exchange for his gift of grace.
- What would it look like, not to finish what you want to do, but to be willing to move one step forward with God’s help? What would that step look like? Can there be joy?