Treasuring What God Finds Significant
By MANDY SAELER
As I hung up the phone, it signified that I’d hung up my running shoes.
My heart pounded in my chest like I’d finished a race, but in reality I’d only finished a phone conversation with my cross country coach. I’d rehearsed what I would say to him numerous times, but there still seemed to be no easy way of expressing that I had decided to step back from my fourth year of running. Especially when this was going to be the year.
With the promising words of hope he’d spoken to me the previous season, I’d been training all summer in preparation to step into pre-season training with a strong stride. If my extra training paid off, rewarding success — in the form of my best times and the possibility of scholarships — would be on the horizon of the coming years. The prospect excited me and gave flight to my dreams, bringing the anticipation of college plans within reach. The future was bright!
But God, in His wisdom, interrupted my hopes and introduced my heart to the Living Hope that never fades. (See 1 Peter 1:3–5.) The prospect of life and eternity with Him outshone even the brightest of earthly accolades. And the only fitting response to His pursuit of my heart seemed to be to wholeheartedly seek Him in return.
As my spiritual life blossomed, I began to feel convicted that the things which claimed so much of my heart, thoughts, and time needed to be put away for the sake of focusing on spiritual things in this delicate and formative season of my soul. And it was for that reason that I dialed the phone and, with flushed cheeks and a trembling voice, told my coach I was hanging up my running shoes.
My hopes of striding side-by-side with our team’s leading runner disintegrated, the humming cross country calendar cleared, and I was suddenly on the sidelines. In some indistinct way, I felt hidden.
Looking back, I feel that I now understand why God was leading me into this season of quietness. He wanted me hidden so He could have me in whole. My faithful God was claiming every corner of my heart and every fold of my inner fabric. As He led me into my first personal experience with obscurity, He was also revealing what it meant to be hidden in Christ. (See my article in Issue No. 30, Hidden: Experiencing Eden Through the Reality of the Cross for a detailed expression of what it means to be hidden in Christ.)
Through that chapter of my life and several unique “hidden” seasons since, I’ve learned to trust God’s movements and to willingly follow Him into the hidden places. There, my heart has been trained to truly treasure that which is significant to God.
TRUSTING GOD IN YOUR HIDDEN PLACE
Have you ever been led into a hidden place? Or felt concealed in the mundane cycle of your daily life? Have you ever wondered if the work of your hands is making a difference or really even matters?
Maybe you work in a dank office with a corded phone that is older than you sitting on your desk, and you feel like you’re at a dead end. Perhaps you still live in your tiny hometown where nothing has changed since 1952. Or maybe you feel limited to the walls of your own home as you serve your young family through endless food preparation and folding big baskets of tiny laundry.
In varying seasons of our lives, we can find ourselves burdened by a feeling of obscurity. How much we miss when we wallow under the weight, rather than respond by turning our face toward the Lord. Take heart, my friend. When the feelings flood in, let the weight resting on your shoulders be a reminder to roll it off through surrender. Re-open your hands before God and reset the gaze of your heart upon Him.
As we walk with God, we can rest assured that every season of our lives is named with heavenly purpose. Our God is not wasteful, and the intentions of His will are kind. As personally refining as the hidden seasons of our lives can be, through my own experience and the pattern I’ve seen in the lives of others (including those in Scripture), I can’t help but believe that these challenging seasons are divinely appointed to sharpen our soul and add to our spiritual strength.
DAVID’S HIDDEN PLACE
The Bible records the story of David the Psalmist who, as a young boy, was assigned to the fields to tend his father’s sheep. For a time, it seemed as though David would be secluded to the fields and flocks, far away from the fray of the battle where his brothers had gone. But it was the hidden fields — and not the battlefield — that God intended for David until the appointed time.
Later, when David made his God-ordained debut on the battlefield, he recognized that shepherding in the fields had shaped his bravery, skill, and confidence in God. All of which prepared him for the showdown with Goliath. When King Saul diminished David’s ability to combat the giant, saying, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Sam. 17:33), David confidently recalled his God’s faithfulness in the hidden places of his story. For when a lion and a bear had preyed upon his father’s sheep, he chased the creatures down and rescued the sheep, killing the offenders with his own hands. David contradicted King Saul’s diminishment with a boast in the might of his God, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37).
David’s time in the hidden fields was divinely purposed by God to endow him with the practical skills and spiritual confidence for the display of God’s faithfulness in the open fields.
This stirring account in Scripture can serve to remind us that our obscurity is not a mystery to Him, but is appointed by Him. Friend, you can trust God with your hidden place. In due time, you will reap if you do not lose heart. You will see the goodness of your God! (See Galatians 6:9 and Psalm 27:13.)
In her book Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot introduces a remarkable English woman named Dr. May Powell. After meeting the “very cheerful and direct” Dr. Powell over a cup of tea, Elisabeth Elliot remarked, “There wasn’t time for nearly all my questions, but in those hours I knew that I had been with a very great woman, one of God’s hidden ones whose strength lies in nothing explainable by personality or heredity, but in Him who is Rock, Fortress, and Might … whose distant song of triumph steals on our ears sometimes and makes our hearts brave again and our arms strong. Praise to God for such living flames of His love.”
Dr. Powell served under Amy Carmichael’s leadership at Dohnavur, developing the medical aspects of the ministry. When Amy was injured and became unable to fully carry out her duties as the ministry leader, Dr. Powell stepped forward as Amy’s right hand and became the co-leader of Dohnavur. After 27 years of faithful service, Dr. Powell was entrusted with leading the ministry when Amy died in 1951.
Many of us have heard Amy Carmichael’s name and know of her pure and powerful ministry. But how many of us have heard of the ordinary woman named May who was a pillar of strength for both Amy and Dohnavur? A woman who was rather unoccupied with her status and title, apart from it qualifying her to skillfully serve others. She poured out years of her life at a small ministry compound for the sake of souls … because it mattered to Him. Dr. May Powell lived a life that treasured the things that were significant to God. What a heart-stirring challenge for you and I!
Are you willing to bear the hidden fields of preparation like David’s? And beyond the quiet fields, are you willing to be one of God’s “hidden ones” like Dr. Powell? A hidden one who supports another’s vision and offers their very best, even if it goes unacknowledged? A hidden one who serves in a humble place, unrecognized and unappreciated by the world at large?
WHAT GOD FINDS SIGNIFICANT
When Elisabeth Elliot was writing Amy Carmichael’s biography, A Chance to Die, she took a trip to India to explore Dohnavur. Although Amy was no longer alive and Dr. Powell had returned to England by that time, the work at the ministry compound had continued. Meandering the grounds, Elisabeth noticed a plaque in one of the buildings which read, “There they dwelt with the King for His work.” As she pondered those words and considered those who had offered the best years of their lives serving Him in this quiet place, she mused, “That’s the secret. They do it for Him. They ask for and receive His grace to do it. I saw the joy in their lovely faces.”
When I read those words, I knew I’d encountered a secret to embrace in my own heart amid my hidden places … and to share with you in yours. Whether we have been led into a hidden season or we simply feel unseen, it is a kind thing that the Lord would lead us into obscurity and require faithfulness of us there.
Why? Because it is in the school of obscurity that we learn to treasure that which is significant to God.
It is in the unseen places, doing the humdrum things, that our heart can be trained to live for His smile alone. In anonymity we discover the strength and joy of pouring out, truly as unto the Lord. And most rewardingly, it’s when we’re all alone that we discover how quietness is transformed into gloriousness when His presence fills it.
God places things of great significance in quiet places. In perfect wisdom, God has perfectly placed you in your hidden place and me in mine. The intentions of His will are not only kind, but masterfully fitted for our eternal good. There is beauty to be discovered and grace to be imparted as we learn to dwell in our hidden places with our King.
May we seek and receive His grace that it might be said, “There they dwelt with the King for His work” … and may those onlooking see His joy on our faces.