This is a guest post by Elise Bahr:
A few weeks ago, I had my first $3,500 manicure . . . and it was horrible.
My sister-in-law and I had decided to get our nails done during a 6-hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale on the way back from a great mission trip in Haiti. Somehow, as we moved from the painting station to the drying station, my custom designed wedding rings with diamonds given to us by my mother and grandmother fell from my purse.
I panicked. We searched the scene for two hours, looking under every chair and behind every table. Disheartened from an unsuccessful search, we watched surveillance tape of our time at the salon. As we watched, my heart dropped as I watched a cleaning lady pass by the spot my purse had been dropped minutes before, bend down to pick something up and put it into her pocket.
I blinked my eyes with shock. Could she have picked up my wedding ring? My heart fluctuated between two thoughts: hoping she had found my ring and it would return it to me as soon as she was told it belonged to me, and fearing that she had taken it, stolen it, and there was nothing I could do about it.
She was brought into the room and questioned by the owner. To my heart’s dismay, she denied having seen a wedding ring.
I stood there in shock. I was shocked that in a matter of moments the ring I wore on my hand since the day my husband and I said “I do” was gone. I was shocked that, against what seemed to be evidence that this woman had picked up my ring, there was nothing I could do to get it back. I felt helpless. We offered a reward, filed a police report, but were left running to catch our flight without a single answer, and heavy, heavy hearts.
I would love to say that I totally surrendered my heartbreak to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty. I would love to say that I submitted myself to His will and made peace with the loss. But I didn’t. Instead of seeking the Lord in that moment, I called my Mom. Through tears I told her that the diamonds she gave me were gone, likely stolen, and that there was no hope of getting them back.
She responded more graciously than I.
“Elise, your ring is just an earthly thing. Now, if you were telling me that you were turning away from Jesus then I would be crying, but your ring is just stuff.”
Her words were a startling and beautiful reminder of the truth: Our treasure is not here on earth; our treasure is far greater! God was reminding me to not “store up treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19).
I would love to tell you that:
- I found the ring! OR
- I have made peace with this loss, released my anger, and no longer fight bitterness. In fact, this experience has left me freed from idolizing earthly possessions altogether!
But neither is true.
I think all too often, we know where we want to be in our faith, but WE ARE JUST NOT THERE YET.
I know in my heart that earthly treasures fail. I know they disappoint. I know they do not satisfy. But why then, do I feel such sadness over the loss of this ring? Why do I keep talking about how I can’t believe this happened, and how I just want justice out of this situation?
The answer is this: I am just not there yet.
I know that 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive,” and that all we have is a gift from God. And yet, I feel entitled to a ring, to my husband, and to an Instagram picture perfect life. I know the things God chooses to give me are just gifts, and yet I still cling to them more than I do to Jesus.
Isaiah 59:1 says that God’s ear is not too dull to hear. I know and believe that. I believe God listens and hears. He knows the exact place that my ring is, and yet He has chosen – at least at this point – not to give it back to me. In the midst of this waiting and wanting, He is showing me beautiful lessons about His character. Even though I still am fighting through my pain, in the midst of that pain, I know He is at work in my heart – forming, teaching, and shaping me.
Lesson one: I can’t change myself.
I’ve come to realize the freedom in saying, “God, I am trying to stop complaining, to stop this bitterness, and self-pity, but I can’t do it on my own. I have tried to turn my eyes away from earthly things and onto Jesus. I have tried to treasure Jesus more than any other thing, and I can’t do it on my own. I need the Holy Spirit to change me because I cannot do it.”
I’ve learned that the power to make myself more like Jesus is not within my scope. It is a lifelong process and I will never “arrive.” It is the slow, and painful chisel of God killing my flesh to mold me more deeply into His image-bearer (2 Corinthians 4:16). And the beautiful thing is that when Christ is your Savior, He is changing you and working in you every day (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Lesson two: I only see a little.
John Piper said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” When we ask “Why?” and “How much more can I take?” we must trust that God is working things together for our good and has a purpose in our pain (Romans 8:28; James 1). He always, always has a good purpose for our pain. Elisabeth Elliot said, “Suffering is never for nothing.” We may only seem to see a few things that God is doing in our lives, but there are thousands more that He is doing that we can’t see. Rest in that (Psalm 33:11).
Maybe you are still waiting and wanting something the Lord isn’t giving. For God’s “Boaz” for you, or for that child you have prayed for, or for clear direction with your calling in life. Rest in the truth that God is the One who is sanctifying you as you become more like Jesus. There is purpose in our pain. And we have a God who meets us where we are, but doesn’t leave us there. I’m not perfectly faithful yet. But God is changing my heart. He is helping me hold onto my earthly treasures a little more loosely by taking one away. God is still in the process of turning my gaze away from idols and onto Christ. And it’s okay if I’m not totally there yet. He is faithful to bring the good work He has started in me to completion (Philippians 1:26).
Elise Bahr and her husband, Matt lead a community group for Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. She works for Crossings Ministries, has a heart for inner-city ministries, and loves to bake bread. She can be contacted at britneyelise@gmail.