The Resolve of Staying

The Resolve of Staying

September 4th, 2001. Just 10 days a newlywed, I sat on that plane with my hand tightly sandwiched between by his. I could barely breathe. My mind was somewhere in between the unknown adventure ahead of us and the known of all that I was leaving behind. All of a sudden, a year’s worth of planning had felt like a whirlwind and I wasn’t ready to go. But the cabin door was already closed. The safety instructions already reviewed. And our departure gate was no longer visible. This was it. It was time for takeoff – and, I assure you, it wasn’t for our honeymoon.  

I stared out the window, watching the blur of the landscape become clear as we lifted off the ground. I just kept staring until every landmark I recognized was no longer in plain sight. My tear-filled eyes met his and I muscled up the courage to at least give him a quarter-smile. He was excited. He was going back to his island home with his new bride to join him in the ministry and Kingdom work that God had called him to within the region. He was going home, but I was leaving – giving up the safe and familiar, everything that I had identified with my whole life – with meager support, immense uncertainty, and untapped faith. 

Ask me then and I would have told you that one of the most difficult sacrifices in obeying the call to serve in this overseas life was in the leaving.  But some eighteen hard-pressed, tear-stained, joy-fortified years later and I say it’s no longer in the obedience of leaving – it’s in the resolve of staying. Yes! It’s in the gut-wrenching, self-denying, even-when-no-one-else-gets-it resolve of staying put. 

Staying put on this foreign soil where God is cultivating me – still – and calling me to a deeper trust. Staying put, where my exposed vulnerabilities of anxiety and fear are being met with His all-sufficient grace. Staying put, where I have humbly learned to walk in step with the distinct rhythm of the people so that I can be more effectively used by God. Staying put even when things back home are in disarray; even when the waiting on God is hard and long and super uncomfortable; even when the barrenness from the years of sacrifice has left me numb. I put it on repeat so that my mind is in sync with my heart: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Indeed, the resolve to stay has tested me, I dare say, almost daily. It has stretched me beyond comfort and has grown my faith in deliberate measures. It continues to draw my attention to the cross, the place where Jesus painfully stayed, sacrificing even His final breath to finish the redeeming work that He had been sent to do. And it continues to draw my attention to Gethsemane where Jesus prayed those eight pivotal words in the face of the unthinkable: “Not as I will, but as You will.”

“Not as I will.” There’s the sacrifice. The denying of self.

“But as You will.” There’s the surrender. The dying to self.

In the face of this season of long-suffering, Jesus’ prayer bids me to whisper the same, “Not as I will, but as You will.” Louder, “Not as I will. But as You will.” Still louder, “Not as I will. But as You will.” The slow, intentional reiteration begins to subdue the bitterness of the sacrifice.

As You will, oh God – that I may rejoice always, combating the sacrifice of staying with the sacrifice of praise. 

As You will, oh God – that I may pray continually, so that, from the moment of address, the eyes of my heart are fixed on the One to whom I cry out, “Abba Father!”

As You will, oh God – that I may give thanks in all circumstances, this being fueled by the joy that is set before me and exemplified by the One who sacrificed all – Jesus. 

As You will, oh God – a place of total dependence; a place of total surrender.

Some eighteen years into this overseas life and I am gradually learning that without the sacrifice there would be no surrender. And without the surrender, the transforming power of Jesus would not be evident in my life. So I am learning to rejoice always. I am learning to pray continually and to give thanks in all circumstances. For the will of the Father is being accomplished in me. And that is always for my good.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  ~ 1 Peter 1: 6-7

One way to navigate the despair of sacrifice is to put on a garment of praise (Is 61:3). Praise is a powerful thing. So when the weight of the sacrifice is overbearing, I start to render praise through song – of recent “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music has been on my lips.

Do you have a go-to song that you offer up as a sacrifice of praise, even in the midst of your own despair? 

Photo by Henry Gillis on Unsplash

12 Comments

  1. Linda K. Thomas January 26, 2020

    Wow. What a sobering message, yet you’ve spoken the truth, THE REAL THING. Your message reaches so many of us who still struggle to surrender AND praise God. Thank you for finding words for what you’re experiencing. Thank you for mentoring us. I’m going to save your post for future use and plan to share it with others. Again, thank you.

    1. Stephanie Clarke January 27, 2020

      Hi Linda! What a gift it is to know that 1. we serve a God who sees, can relate to, and cares about our struggle; 2. we are never alone in the struggle; 3. we have various platforms in which we can encourage each other through the struggle; and 4. we can know with surety that, because of Jesus, we already have victory over the struggle! So keep putting one foot in front of the other, praising God! He will work for good! Peace and joy to you!

    1. Stephanie Clarke January 27, 2020

      Wow! Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing this song! Will be putting in my playlist! Blessings on you and your ministry!

  2. Jenilee Goodwin January 27, 2020

    This was very good, Stephanie. So powerful to know that we are all one this road of staying together

    1. Stephanie Clarke January 27, 2020

      It is indeed, Jenilee! And what’s even more powerful is that God is staying the course with us! Never forsaken. Never alone! Peace and joy be yours today!

  3. Ruth Potinu January 27, 2020

    Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing. This life really is stretching at times. Today, for me, was one of those particularly stretching days; but I know it is worth it and good to hear you say it is still worth it 18 years down the road.

    1. Stephanie Clarke January 27, 2020

      The stretching indeed fine tunes our character, and rather uncomfortably I might add 😉. But I have come to know that as uncomfortable as it is, the stretching always fine tunes it for good! And you will be amazed how God uses that stretching to bless someone else in the place you are serving. Stay faithful, Friend, and trust He is doing a good work in you! Blessings on you!

  4. Vikki De los santos January 27, 2020

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and vulnerably. After 24 years on the field my heart resonates with what you shared. One of my go to songs to focus my heart and mind on my Creator and Sustainer is You are God Alone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xPzTSpbYmk
    In the good times and the bad-You are on Your throne You are God alone!

    1. Stephanie Clarke January 27, 2020

      HI Vikki! Thanks so much for sharing your go-to song! I love that song! It’s a very powerful reminder of His sovereignty and presence! We often sing it in our congregation here but to a reggae beat! May God continue to use you for His glory!

  5. Michelle L Heed February 2, 2020

    I have had this painful conversation with God. Leaving is adrenaline filled and amazing. Staying takes sacrifices that I didnt expect to make. The cost is higher but the intimacy is greater still

  6. Stephanie Clarke February 2, 2020

    Yes! So true Michelle. It’s an every day lifting our eyes to the hills, trusting in His promise that He keeps us, and thanking Him that He does!

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