Begging for Release

Begging for Release

When my teammate and I moved to a new city in Cambodia, we had the awesome opportunity to house-sit for another expat family while they were on furlough for a year.

The only problem was that we needed a place to live for the four months before they left, so we found a guest house nearby that allowed longer-term rentals.

Most people thought we were crazy. We had one bedroom and a smaller side room that doubled as a mini-kitchen. We had running hot water which was a vast improvement over our previous living space in the village, but not a whole lot of room for our possessions and each other.

We were coming out of an incredibly hard year dealing with rocky hard soil in ministry, daily battles with the enemy of our souls as well as heat, never-ending dust, neighbors that cut off our water supply, and what felt like every day failure.

When I think about those months staying at the guest house, I remember walks to a nearby coffee shop to journal and pray and heal. I think of the restaurant downstairs for the days we didn’t have the energy to cook. I think of our creativity to find space for each other, space for quiet and work and fun. I found energy to gently exercise again. I found ways to connect with new friends.

But honestly, that season has another word that waves like a banner over the days and months. Stuck.

Despite so many things being better in this new city and the gifts of the guest house and house-sitting arrangement, I wasn’t sure I could keep going, and I wrote these words over and over.

“Why won’t God just send me home for good?”

These are not the words you would expect to find penned in a Kingdom worker’s journal, are they? I was so ashamed to even write them.

I was supposed to be in Cambodia forever. There was no exit strategy, because this work took dedication and sacrifice and time. There was no option in my mind but to stay.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking a similar question over the hard months of 2020. God, why won’t you open up the borders again? When will we be able to start ministry safely? What good could possibly come from this? God, why won’t you change things?

God didn’t send me home for good in that season. To be honest, things got worse in my heart and mind before they got better. Being stuck is hard and uncomfortable, even painful. We can fight it, wriggling in our souls and wrestling in our spirits to be free from the spaces that feel confining.

I’m not going to preach to you about learning the lessons God has for you in the stuck places. I won’t tell you that it will all get better, or that you can count on getting unstuck in just a matter of time.

I don’t know what places have you feeling stuck, or what questions are bubbling to the surface or flowing out of pens on paper. I do want to say that you are not alone. We join countless saints of old who flung their questions to the heavens as they wondered when God would show up again.

“How long, O Lord?” David and the other psalmists cried. Daniel had prayed for deliverance for his people, but harder days were coming and he was “overcome and sick for days” (Daniel 8:27). Isaiah said, “Lord, in distress we searched for you.” (Isaiah 26:16)

What I did learn in those hard weeks and months of feeling abandoned, stuck in a place I didn’t want to be, was that God was there. I was angry with Him for a long time, but He met me and loved me anyway. He didn’t answer my prayer for release in that season, but He gave me rest. I was still in the same place but when I stopped fighting, I didn’t feel so trapped.

So be honest, friend. Bring your questions and sorrows and let God meet you in the stuck places in your life. Acknowledge that it is hard and painful. I pray you find rest and release, even right there where you are.

What questions are on your heart in this season? Is there a cry from God’s Word that reflects your own heart cry right now?

Photo by Naseem Buras on Unsplash

13 Comments

  1. Harriet Phiri August 18, 2020

    I really identified with this article. There have been moments I have thought a clear closure of the door to be in my adopted country would be the perfect answer. Yet I know I am in the place where I know God wants me to be. My heart right now is crying for change. Change in so many areas. In the relationships in my community. Change in my heart. Change and a renewal of dreams. I hear God say he is doing a new thing but right now my heart and my of feel too stuck to grasp it. I think I am afraid to dream again! Thank you for this honest article.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 19, 2020

      “Afraid to dream again.” My heart resonates with that so much, Harriet! It can be hard in those seasons of feeling stuck to trust that God does want to do something new, that it is even possible. Praying for you to hold tight to Him as He brings rest and release to your heart.

  2. Bethany August 18, 2020

    I have been back in my passport country for 3 years now… it’s hard to believe it. I see fruitfulness in everything I touch, and the Lord has abundantly blessed my current season, but I have been completely ripped out of every piece of my heart culture that I had managed to hold onto while here. I have been going through a lot of heart healing and radical change for what seems like 3 years straight (and more like 7 years straight if you count the 4 years in Honduras) and the Lord has been confronting me time and again about my unconscious refusal to be vulnerable. Again, not something you would expect to hear from someone who has devoted her life to ministry, but here we are. My eyes are still stinging from my outpouring of grief hours ago that leapt out at me unexpected from the page of a book on disunity in the Body of Christ. I could have brushed away the pain of a lifetime as an outsider. That’s what I’ve done a thousand times before. But this time I let myself feel the full force of it – because I know without a shadow of a doubt that once the Lord breaks through my barrier of self-protection, the empathy and compassion for those who have also been left outside will be released to function in its full power through me. It’s messy. And it’s painful. But something’s gotta give. I want the next level of intimacy with Jesus and his Body. I want the next level of ministry in the gifts of the Spirit, but right now, the love it takes to fuel them is locked up inside my shell of self-protection. The Lord gave me a simple set of 4 sentences months ago, and he keeps bringing them back to my mind:

    Don’t be afraid of the breaking.
    Locks must be broken for doors to open.
    Walls must be broken for paths to be cleared.
    Chains must be broken for slaves to be free.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 19, 2020

      Thank you so much for sharing honestly, Bethany! My heart aches for the painful journey you’ve been on but I also see the hope in your desire for breakthrough and healing. May He bring it about as you keep running after Him!

  3. Corella August 19, 2020

    Sarah, this is so perfect, and I can relate in way too many ways! I love how you wrap it up with the reminder that we can bring all our questions and frustrations to God. He’s not wearied by them. In fact, He loves our honesty! And I think it’s those stuck, desert-type places that often cause us to move into the next level of vulnerability with God. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Corella August 19, 2020

      Gah! I did NOT mean to upload a giant image of my face! LOL! Sorry!!!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann August 19, 2020

      Thank you so much Corella! When I look back at that place of feeling so stuck, I do see the ways God held me tight and helped me learn to be more honest with Him. It’s something I need to remember as I feel rather stuck in this season too!

  4. Bayta Schwarz August 19, 2020

    Thank you so much for your honesty, dear Sarah! Right now, life feels somewhat like being stuck on an endless rollercoaster. So much change, so many ups and downs. It’s exhausting! Your words of understanding and encouragement were very timely!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 19, 2020

      Bayta, that’s such a hard place to feel stuck! Thinking of you, friend, and praying for ways to feel God’s comfort and rest even in all the ups and downs. May He steady you right now!

  5. Stephanie Clarke August 19, 2020

    Oh my! This is so good Sarah. And can I ever relate! I have been asking the Lord so many questions over the past three years, but especially over these last five months. Pleading, waiting for answers that have yet to come. And even as the years are traveling on, I feel like I’ve not moved at all! That’s what I feel. But this is what I know – God IS working behind the scenes to move me out of this stuck season into something greater than I could have ever asked for or imagined. But there are necessary lessons to be learned while I’m here. A deeper trust that is required. And a complete surrendering of what I thought my life would look like. It’s a thorn-in-the-side kind of hard, and yet, His grace – His marvelous, right-on-time, dry-your-tears, amazing grace – is still sufficient. Note to self, Stephanie: It’s always sufficient.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 19, 2020

      Thank you so much for sharing, Stephanie! The seasons of feeling stuck are the hardest for me to remember that He IS working still. I so easily gravitate to feeling abandoned and unseen. I love your reminder- to yourself and to us too- that He is so sufficient. I need to have that on repeat today. 🙂

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