My first born baby is a senior in high school. At our house, he is in the throes of college applications, college entrance exams, and all other manner of preparing for his future. It is an exciting season where the possibilities become clearer and require saying good-bye to the familiar.
So just imagine this. What if my son got up on the first day of school next August and decided to go back to high school? What if he was so sad or scared about moving on, that he simply attempted to continue a season of life which had clearly come to an end? What if my angst about what comes next was so great that I forced him to just continue as if his high school graduation had never happened?
We serve a God who is doing new things all the time. He is the God who created all that is from nothing at all. He continually specializes in recreating, redeeming, and renewing all that is — including us. Yet, we stifle his work when we live in the past and refuse to release things that he intends for us to surrender.
We pursue longings in our lives that God is telling us to let go in order to make room for something else. He desires to lead us to new seasons, but we first must be willing to leave the current ones.
As I read through the book of 1 Samuel, I was struck by how this topic was addressed through the admonition of the Lord to the prophet Samuel:
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 16:1a, NIV)
Samuel was the obedient servant of God who grew up in the temple serving Eli the priest. Samuel was the long-awaited child of Hannah, given back to the Lord as a youngster, and answering God’s call since childhood. Samuel had carefully carried out the Lord’s instruction to anoint Saul as king over Israel. Yet, here, we see that Samuel is wrestling with the idea of ushering in a new season. And so, God asks Samuel HOW LONG he will mourn for Saul whom God had rejected?
It paints a vivid picture for us about stepping into new seasons and struggling to release former things.
Indeed, how long will we mourn for relationships or pursuits or places that God intends for us to surrender?
Many of us struggle with seasons of change because they require letting go of one thing in order to embrace the next thing. We are in good company when we wrestle with the idea of a cross-country move, a new job, a new school, or new endeavors.
Genesis 12 tells the story of a beautiful promise from God to Abram. Abram was not only to become a great nation but his very name would become great. In fact, God told him that all the people on earth would be blessed through him. That’s quite a lofty promise. It came with one initial directive. Abram could not receive the fulfillment of God’s great promises until he actually left his home and set out to follow God.
We, too, have to be willing to step away from the things to which we hold so tightly when God has called us somewhere else. We have to take the scary step forward to leave where we are before we are led into the new things of God.
If you’re anything like me, you are not a risk taker. Leaving the comfortable and familiar is hard. This leap of faith can be even harder and more confusing when we are called to step away from something that was once ordained but is no longer so.
Where do we summon the courage for such bravery in surrender?
The roots of boldness take hold when we preach the truest things of God’s character to our quaking soul. In these seasons of transition, we must remind ourselves that God can be trusted in the new season. We become undaunted when we tell and rehearse to ourselves all the new things God has done before and all the ways he has been faithful. We bring to mind the track record of our dependable God who brought the Israelites through the battle of Jericho in order to possess the Promised Land. We remember how he provided manna and quail and kept the shoes of the Israelites from falling apart on their desert wanderings. We proclaim to our uncertain selves that this is the God who was unprecedented when he sent his son to become a man in order to love us to death and bring us new life.
That’s the God who is calling us to let go of one thing in order to take hold of the next thing. He is the God of new things! He is the God of next steps.
Choosing these unknown next steps can be scary enough. But when the new things involves some known risks and threats, we might be tempted to abandon the plan altogether and hightail it back from whence we came. Samuel’s angst was rooted in this kind of fear.
“Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me” (1 Samuel 16:1b-2)
We cannot operate out of fear; we must trust our Father’s sovereignty and goodness. We must, in these moments of risk taking, trust that God is not baiting us but beckoning us and battling for us. He is not ensnaring us, but launching us into his kingdom plans.
God was calling Samuel to quit mourning for Saul because he was raising up the mighty King David (1 Samuel 16:13). Of course, if you read the rest of 1 Samuel 16, then you will find that at this point, David was the son whose father had forgotten and overlooked him. A young shepherd boy, David was certainly not what Samuel expected for Saul’s replacement.
From the vantage point of history, we know that David became mighty and faithful and a man after God’s own heart while Saul was prideful, selfish, and vengeful. We know that God was calling Samuel to quit mourning over Saul and to quit fearing him because he had a much bigger and better plan ahead.
Listen, dear Daughters, let me tell you. This is the same God with the same faithful Father’s heart who may be calling you to dry your tears and move forward. This is the same One who knew all the days ordained for you, before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And if he is asking you how long you will mourn for a plan that he no longer ordains or anoints for you, then it is because he has something new ahead that he working for your eternal good.
If you need a foothold of hope to use as a life preserver as you step into the ocean of possibilities, then tie your rope to this promise. “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
To everyone on the precipice of what has been and what might be, take a deep breath. Pause and be still long enough to answer God’s question to you.
How long will you mourn for that position, relationship, or place that God intends for you to release? What are you working so hard to make happen that maybe God is actually asking you to surrender? What is stealing your joy and peace and consuming your emotions because maybe God is no longer anointed it for you?
Prayerfully ask yourself these hard questions. And then, remember Samuel. Remember that God was telling him to leave Saul behind because the House of David was being ushered in.
Remember as you grief forward into the new seasons that he is the God who does new things. He is the One who makes ways in the deserts, and brings streams in our wastelands.