When my husband, Justin, approached me to plant a church about ten years into our ministry and marriage, I was less than thrilled. In fact, after years of disappointment and hurt in ministry I was teetering on the edge of giving up. That is not the place in which I thought one should be to launch a church and become lead pastors. As I wrestled with this, and kept saying 'no' to God and Justin, I heard God gently nudge me saying, “If you will just be willing, I will do the rest.” God gave me the strength in that moment to say yes. And I have watched Him “do the rest” that I couldn’t do.
For the first three years of the church planting, I had been happy to sit back and let God “do the rest” as He promised to do. He had done everything we had not known how to do, didn’t have the money or resources to do, and hadn’t even thought of doing.
As I watched God do all of this, I should have been able to enjoy all He had done, but I didn’t. Instead, I became very aware of how far we still needed to go.
Rather than celebrating how far we’d come, I focused on all there was yet to do. In fact, it actually felt like there was more to do each week than there was at the very beginning of starting the church. I began to stress about how we were going to do all the things left undone. There was all this wonderful ministry growing, yet I was focusing on all that needed to be done—all the holes left to fill. I began to panic because we didn’t know how to get to the next level and complete what was incomplete. And just like that, I took the burden off of God and put it back onto myself, and the church staff, to accomplish God’s vision for the church.
It took a while for me to realize what I was doing, and when I put my focus back on God’s ability and not my own, He let me know, “I said that if you would be willing, I would do the rest. That doesn’t just mean in the beginning—that means permanently.”
God often reminds me that I need to let things go. I need to stop telling Him what I need Him to do, how to do it and when to get it done. There are many times I stop trusting momentarily that He will do the “rest,” and feel it’s up to me. That is a difficult balance for us to find.
We waiver back and forth between operating in our own strength and then stepping back and trusting God. We pick up the burdens and we lay them down, only to pick them up again.
Last week I was once again panic-praying for all the things I felt the Lord should be doing and He reminded me that I needed to surrender again. He said to me, “put it down." In fact, He told that I need to actually be on my face with Him—like on my carpet—out loud surrendering everything I was holding so tightly to. So, every day I have been laying out (literally) all of those things I feel the need to control and offer them to God. I surrender my will, my plans, and my control over to His. The first couple of days I did this were hard for me because I wanted to hold onto some things and still ask for my way. While I continued to do this, God kept saying, “put it down.” To me, the tone in that came across like I would say to my girls when they were little to put something down they could break.
He kept saying it over and over. “Put it down.” He told me that I was surrendering daily and then picking it back up. As I listened, He began to remind me that He was telling me to put it down--not just because it was disobedient for me to hold onto all of the things, but He wants me to put it down because I can’t hold it. I can’t handle all of the things in my life. I can’t cause anything to happen. I can’t change situations, but He can. When I put it down, He can pick it up. And oh, when He picks it up, that’s when He can do far more than I can ask or imagine in all of the areas I am surrendering.
I share all of this because I don’t think I am alone. As women, in general, we tend to hold tightly those things so important to us. But added to that, as ministry wives, we also hold our callings, our people, and churches very closely as well. We have so much to be concerned with, such a heavy burden to hold—ours and for others.
I encourage you to put it down. If you have to, actively choose to put it down every single day because our nature is lay it down and then pick it right back up. And remember that when we put it down, our Heavenly Father picks it up and He can do miracles. He makes smooth our paths and gives life and peace.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
“Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Casey Graves is a wife, momma to two girls, and co-pastor/planter of Foundations Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She enjoys a good cup of coffee with a friend or a family date day when she finds some spare time. Casey recently published her first book, Perfectly Weak, and blogs at We Are Perfectly Weak.