2017 was a year of incredible change — and it was easily the most difficult year of my life.
In my pursuit of God, I let go of a lot of things. I let go of habits. I let go of others’ expectations & I began to see myself the way God saw me.
I wanted to live a life worthy of the calling I had received (Ephesians 4:1). To do that, it meant that I had to reposition myself for the work that God needed to begin in me.
I needed to be broken. It all started as soon as 2017 came rolling in — it’s quite humbling that as I look back, I can track what God was doing.
Past participle of break. adj.
1. having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order.
God breaks us to position us; to promote us. He breaks us but doesn’t destroy us — He molds us with grace.
The kind of spiritual brokenness He requires leads us desperately to Him, with contrite and repenting hearts. The type of brokenness that leads us to realize that we can’t just fix it on our own. We need Him.
I wanted to share seven things that I learned this year — things that have completely transformed me and have renewed my thinking for the new year ahead, and for the rest of my life.
7. The things of this world that can be shaken, will be shaken.
The Bible tells us that the things of this world — the created things — will be shaken. And what cannot be shaken — God — will remain (Hebrews 12:26-27).
God will shake everything that can be shaken in your life until all that remains is of Him. Much like a strong wind blows the dead leaves from a tree, God will blow away all the unnecessary distractions that have nested in the branches of your life. — Lisa Bevere
For most of my adult life, I placed my hope in things that could easily be stripped away at a moment’s notice — things like my relationships, my finances & even my career.
One of the most important lessons I learned this year was to remember the purpose behind the process. I may not have liked the discomfort behind the transition I experienced, but knew that what existed on the other side would be greater than I ever imagined.
God does not shake us to hurt us. He shakes us to use us.
6. The true definition of success
A few months ago, I took a last minute trip to Italy — stripping myself of distractions so that I could get back to the basics. There was no internet, no nearby main roads, farm-to-table meals and silent dinners.
It was my chance to escape the noise & connect with God.
A month before, I attended a conference with my church and will never forget Bro. Victor Jackson preaching the most powerful message I had ever heard.
Here was a man who had been completely consecrated to basketball. It was his entire life. He was defined by it. He spent all his time honing his craft. And he was on track to head to the NBA.
But then he heard God’s call. A call to something greater. A call to something that would impact the eternal.
Worldly success is often measured by riches, fame & position. It’s measured in buying more things, graduating to nicer things, starting new businesses, owning bigger homes & fancier cars and keeping up with the latest trends.
What I learned this year was that Biblical success is measured by what you’re willing to give up. It’s measured by sacrifice. It’s measured in obedience and surrender.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
For me, 2017 was a year of sacrifice. What was I willing to give up in full pursuit of the Kingdom? What did I need to let go of?
Abraham surrendered Isaac when he went up the mountain to sacrifice his only son. Rahab surrendered her life when she hid the spies who were sent by God. Moses surrendered his insecurities to lead God’s people out of Egypt.
According to Romans 12:1, we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, willing to give up the things that are important to us.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
God forbid that we become saddened by the things we have to give up. God has so much bigger and better for us than what we’ve lost — if we only trust Him.
In sacrificing the very things that you thought you needed, you are making room for your destiny.
And you won’t need to fight for what’s meant to be yours. You don’t need to be in the room, or at the right place at the right time. Jehovah-Jireh. God provides.
5. The beauty of the harvest.
Seasons. We all have them. Seasons of abundance. Seasons of silence. Seasons of planting & seasons of harvest. The Bible says that there is a time for all things under the sun. There is a time to toil, a time to wait, a time to move forward & a time to delight (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).
Seasons happen for a reason — and there is equal beauty in sowing and in reaping.
These days, social media paints the picture that in order to stay relevant, you should always be gathering your harvest (ie. winning); that your life should look picture perfect; that you should always be reaping all that you’ve sown.
But you know what? It’s ok to be silent. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to be hidden.
God promotes in public what He prepares in private.
And being prepared in private requires being stripped of the unnecessary. It requires a level of brokenness. It requires humility & an openness to change.
There are seasons of overflow where you are able to give more & then there are seasons of brokenness, of vulnerability & of pain where you may not have a lot to give.
And in my season of brokenness, He sent people my way to hold me up. Thank you to those who became warriors on my behalf.
I had been more quiet this year than in others. This year, I was on an intimate journey with God. I saw Him move mountains & shake foundations. I experienced His divine providence and protection. I heard Him & saw Him at work.
And in the midst of every season, He’s been there. He’s never left me. His will reigned supreme.
And in every season, He’s there with you too. He will never leave you — He’s there on the mountain and in the valley (Psalm 139).
Over your life, I pray for wisdom, for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading & for a burden of understanding that Biblical greatness is measured by sacrifice, not by abundance.
4. All the world’s a stage
In Luke 5:1–11, we see Jesus near Lake Gennesaret, stepping into Simon’s boat so that he can address the crowd of people near the lake’s edge.
Jesus was looking for a stage. He didn’t ask Simon to use his boat. He needed a stage so that those crowding around the edge of the lake could see & hear Him.
Simon’s boat was in the right place at the right time because of one reason: he didn’t get what he thought he wanted.
As we later learn in Scripture, Simon spent the entire night trying to catch fish, but was unsuccessful. Later that day, when Jesus came to Simon’s boat, Simon was properly positioned to be used.
Had Simon caught fish the night before, he wouldn’t have been available for Jesus as I’m sure he may have been selling fish at the market or preoccupied with something else.
If God gave us what we wanted when we thought we needed it, would we still be an available stage for him? Would we be preoccupied? Would we corrupt what He gives us?
As believers, our lives, our relationships, marriages, etc. should be stages from which the world can see Christ.
Sometimes that means removing us from the things that we think we want so that we can actually be available to Him.
After Jesus’ message to the crowd, and after telling Simon to drop his net, Simon received the very thing he wanted (a catch) but it only came at the right time — after he was obedient & after he was available to be used.
Only this time, there were so many fish that Simon had to call on extra boats for backup. And their boats were so full with fish that they started to sink. What an incredible blessing!
Remember that your life is a stage. What are you going to say?
3. Breaking up fallow ground.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
We often want the Lord to bless what we haven’t submitted to him. This year, I learned the importance of breaking up fallow ground.
Fallow ground refers to uncultivated, unsown & inactive ground. It is often uncultivated for a season (or a few) in order to restore it’s fertility.
If rain falls on fallow ground, nothing grows because the ground hasn’t been tilled. Fallow ground needs to be broken up in order to prepare it for growth.
Many people desire growth, but haven’t prepared their hearts, or other areas of their lives to be transformed.
We should understand this: All growth comes from rain.
I learned that yielding every area of my life was the only way I’d break up my fallow ground in preparation for a season of harvest. I expected the rain to produce the harvest even though the ground hadn’t been prepared.
And while I was waiting for the rain to fall, God was waiting for me to get the ground ready.
It was difficult — I let God into each area of my life, piece by piece. Into my relationship with my boyfriend, into my friendships, into my career. I desperately needed Him.
This year, I only listened to Christian music — and it opened up a whole new world of intimacy with God. It removed me from lyrics I knew were displeasing to God.
I learned that what you listen to & watch shows up in your lifestyle. Whatever you allow to occupy your mind will soon determine your speech or actions.
The Bible tells us to think about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable things (Philippians 4:8).
When we listen to songs, we develop subconscious patterns, which is why you sometimes sing lyrics you weren’t consciously thinking about.
I broke the fallow ground of what I listened to, and God released the rain.
Now that I’m at the tail end of 2017, I look back at this year with tremendous awe at God’s providence. I hadn’t gone through a good storm in years & my oh my — the downpour brought tremendous growth.
In the thick of the storm, while I cried often — tormented and crushed in spirit, I told God to keep me there as long as He needed to use me. And He honored that faithfulness.
I had to say goodbye to so many things this year. And it was painful. But get this: while our wounds may not be our fault, our healing is our responsibility.
We can stay down, or we can get up. Our choice.
God doesn’t waste pain. His plan is to grow beauty and purpose out of that pain. Always remember that there is ministry in your misery.
My Bishop always tells us that The Word will prove you.
The Bible, which is complete, inerrant, living & active, is God’s provision for men and women to know Him, serve Him, and grow in relationship with Him.
And it will show you where you lack. It will show you the sinful nature of your heart. It will prove you — needing of a savior.
So long as our hearts are prepared & ready for rain, God will provide the increase. But we have to do our parts.(1 Corinthians 3:6–9).
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
2. Rushing through the wait
This was a big one.
And I’ll go ahead and be honest — I don’t like waiting. I’m quite impatient in that way. I like to have full control to do the things that I want to do, on my time.
This year, I had to ask myself about all the ways I was rushing through the wait. In so many areas of my life, I was ready to be in another season. I was ready for a dream fulfilled.
I learned that not only does God do all things well, but also that His timing is perfect. Much like the little boy in the image above, trying to do something before you’re ready means that you’ll have a difficult road ahead.
And like the child, some things just won’t work out for you until you are in a different, more graduated stage of life.
Habakkuk 2:3 shows us that a vision waits for it’s appointed time. There is a time for everything — a time for growing and a time for waiting.
And until my time comes for the things I’m waiting for, my job is to continue to be busy about the Kingdom, trust the process and stay hidden in the Word.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
1. Some people try to bring something but nothing is best.
Pruning is the selective removal of plant parts and can involve the removal of living, dying or dead plant parts. There are numerous reasons for pruning plants:
- Maintaining Plant Health:
God is faithful and will keep forever those whom He has called.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
2. Training a Plant:
We are God’s prized possessions — we were made in His image. We are sons and daughters of Christ. And whom a parent loves, they discipline.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
3. Improving Quality of Foliage and Stems:
As we trust and obey God, we are transformed more and more into His likeness. This process is called sanctification, and it is the intended result of salvation for every man and woman.
I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
4. Restricting Growth/Hazards:
And then we get too proud. We rest on our own laurels. We tout our success as our own. We trap ourselves. We lose ourselves. And the Lord is still there to guide, correct and direct us.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:2–5
God wants us to be more fruitful, more productive & more like Him so that we can be more effective for His kingdom. So we need to be pruned.
Pruning may be one of the most painful things we will experience. It often times brings discomfort and pain. It takes us totally out of our comfort zones. Without pruning, we’d never reach our purpose, destiny, our calling, etc.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. — John 15:1–3
John 15 is one of my favorite Scriptures. It says that God even trims branches that bear fruit so that they may be more fruitful.
God wants us to live not just any life — but an extremely abundant life!
Transitioning into new seasons, we often try to bring relationships, friendships, careers, patterns of thinking & habits from our their past into the future, mostly because it’s what we’re comfortable with.
But what I’ve learned this year is that bringing nothing is best.
Sometimes people, patterns of thinking or habits have no place in where God is taking you.
When God prunes you, He does so to elevate you. And it often means leaving behind the things that hinder you from fulfilling your calling in Christ.
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Following God wholeheartedly means that we are constantly looking forward with our eyes fixed on Christ.
Back in the day, when farmers plowed their fields, to keep their rows straight, they would fix their eyes to a tree or an object in the distance. If they looked back, they would never be able to plow a straight row.
Similarly, by following, submitting and keeping our eyes on God, He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)
Looking back at the lives we’ve left behind or continuing to surround ourselves with people who served our old (unpruned) lives means that we cannot look forward and focus on where God is taking us.
My prayer for you is that you continue to deepen your relationship with God. Find a church home if you don’t have one. Stay hidden in His Word. Keep the faith.
To my God, who saved me from the depths of my own shame, worthlessness & anxiety and turned me into a warrior for Christ — you have my life. Keep me.