Have you heard of My One Word? I have a number of friends who participate in it by asking God to give them a specific word each year. I’ve been intrigued by the practice and encouraged to hear how God has used those words in the lives of my friends. This year I decided to ask God for my own “one word.” It would have been easy to simply choose one of the normal words—joy, wisdom, peace—but I prayed and waited until I “heard” my word: Release.
I knew it was God’s perfect word for me for this year and I have been savoring it, repeating it, thinking about it, praying it and anticipating all that God has in store for me as I meditate on it.
As I began to focus on “release” I realized that God intends for me to know that its implications are far deeper than the dictionary definition. Now when I think about “release” I am reminded that the only way I can let go of whatever it is I am trying to control is by choosing to trust God with the very thing I so long to clutch and cling to. “Release” leads to trust. More “release,” more trust.
Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. (Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)
Releasing my control and trusting God was gravely tested just days after I received my word. We were in Thailand at a retreat with our denomination’s overseas workers from all over Asia. It was especially poignant to spend time with our dear friends and colleagues who live and serve in a restricted country in Southeast Asia. Miriam* was just days away from giving birth to their third child and all of us were excited to see how well she was doing. Two years ago we grieved with Aaron and Miriam when their baby girl died four days after being born with multiple birth defects.
On Saturday, February 21, while we were traveling in Northern Thailand, we received this message from Aaron: Just to let you know we had a baby boy today. Miriam is recovering ok. Little Tommy isn’t doing real well though. His breathing was too fast to start and has gotten worse. He is in the NICU and they have put him on a ventilator. Please pray with us that he will get better soon.
On Sunday morning we got word that Baby Tommy was getting worse and some of us flew to Bangkok to be with the family. We arrived at the hospital at 9:30 p.m. and spent the next hours listening to, crying with and praying for Aaron and Miriam.
Those were dark hours.
The song we had sung at the retreat, Oceans, rang in our minds as we prayed through the night. The doctors did not expect Tommy to survive and as he worsened, we cried out to God, begging for his life. The news spread via social media (what a difference from when we started our overseas living!) and hundreds of people around the world began praying.
The vigil seemed never ending as we played with Tommy’s four-year-old brother Silas, wheeled Miriam down to the NICU to see the baby, and continued to pray. Our return to the States was scheduled for early Tuesday morning so my husband, Baxter spent time on Monday trying to find a new flight that would allow us to stay for whatever the outcome would be. Yet after hours of seeking to change our flight it became obvious that there simply was nothing we could do but leave the following day.
As I wrestled with God about not being able to stay, I was reminded of my one word. I had to release Baby Tommy and all my anxiety into God’s care and trust him with the results. And when I was able to release my anxiety—a real battle—when I was able to trust God, a tiny bit of hope began to grow in us, though for Aaron and Miriam hope was fragile at best.
Our hope that day was founded in our trust that God does all things well. Release results in trust; trust produces hope. Not that God always answers the way we hope he will. But he always answers in the way that will eventually be best for us and for the sake of the Kingdom.
As Christ-followers, we are called to trust God both when the story has a wonderful ending as well as when it does not. And sometimes God asks us to trust on behalf of those whose hope is fragile and faltering.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8, NIV)
Baby Tommy left the hospital on March 8 after 15 days in the NICU, well on the road to recovery because of God’s healing touch. On March 18, Miriam wrote: It really is a miracle that Tommy is alive. His middle name means “God is gracious”. God certainly has proved to be gracious to us in blessing us with this little boy.
What has God been teaching you about your “one word” for the year so far?
Is there something you are struggling to release? Does your hope feel fragile and faltering? Come share in the comments, and we’ll gather around and trust on your behalf.
*Names in the story above have been changed for privacy.