I have been listening over and over again to Jason Gray’s song “Nothing is Wasted.” It touched my heart a few weeks ago, and it has been my worship song ever since. “Nothing is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.”
What a beautiful picture this song paints of God using everything—everything! The tears we cry seed the ground for joy to grow. Deepest wounds allow beauty to bloom. Glory shines from the ruins, from the ashes. God’s grace and love transform every single thing into something that can shine for His glory when we turn it over to Him.
Oh, turn it over to Him? We have a hard time with that, don’t we? I know I do sometimes. I tend to want to hang on to things (problems, challenges, confusion, tasks) so I can handle them in a way I think is best. I trust myself to handle things, so maybe I should just keep control. Less fear and worry that way. If I am holding on tightly, I know what is happening.
Sometimes I get it right. I can make something somewhat beautiful at times through my own creative efforts. I can find ways to be happy. That’s what I used to tell myself. Then I gave control of something personal to God when I ran out of options. I was amazed.
What I had called satisfactory before was nothing compared to the beauty God created from the mess. What I considered happiness was nothing compared to the joy I found in God. But more than that, I realized how many times I waste things. I waste tears. I don’t shed tears for people or situations that break God’s heart. And when I do, I don’t turn those tears over to God to seek His plan. I don’t ask if I am part of the solution. I waste money. I waste resources. I waste gifts.
I waste time when I forget to turn my days over to God. I often set my schedule, then give a few leftover minutes to God. What would happen if I prayed over my calendar before I wrote anything on it? What would happen if I asked co-workers to do the same? What would our days look like if we seriously asked if we were making the best use of our time for God’s glory? I think based on Scripture that God would give us plenty of time for rest and for fun fellowship with others along with other work to spread His grace and love. But our joy would be deeper, and no minute would be wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.
And no person would be forgotten by God. Don’t we sometimes discount the life of a person, forgetting to see gifts present? I have been the “forgotten one” before. It hurts. So this song reminds me that my life is not wasted when I place it in the hands of my Redeemer. God can use my deepest pains to bring beauty into my life. He can use my tears and your tears to bring joy. He can use my minutes for His glory. He can used the person I walked past or gave up on to change the world. He can use everything we give back to Him to transform this world—our communities—our homes—our lives into places of deep beauty and joy. May we stop holding on so tightly…that is my prayer…hold on so tightly only to God and watch what happens next.
As an imperfect human, I struggle at times with the call to holiness. We, as Christians, are being sanctified through the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:14). I Peter (along with many other Scriptures), reminds us that as those following Christ we have a call to holy conduct while on this earth. We are called in Scripture to be set apart, to be holy while still on this earth. We are not just waiting for a heavenly change. We are living the reality of holiness here.
At times, however, I don’t live the reality of being separated for God’s honor and service. I want to have things go my way rather than God’s. Often it is because I am being impatient, wanting an answer quicker than God is providing one. At other times, I struggle because God’s plan doesn’t seem logical to me. I can’t imagine how His answer or path could possibly lead to success. Then I realize that I am defining success by human (earthly) standards.
Seeking holiness means listening to God through His Word and letting Him truly be the author of the story of my life. John 14:17 reminds us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us and will guide and teach us. II Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are breathed out by God and should be our guide. In Hebrews 1:1-2, we are reminded that God spoke to us through His Son. We have the necessary answers for our life if we choose to hear them.
This same call for holiness goes out to churches, not just individuals. And the same temptations are present for churches and those in leadership positions. At times, a church may try to take or stop an action, wanting things to go “their way” or a particular leader’s way rather than prayerfully seeking a vision from God or hearing God’s vision through someone He chose to speak and work through. At times we may prefer the comfortable rather than the unknown. We may want the status quo rather than the distinction of stepping out to be set apart.
Sometimes, as a church, we also tend to define holiness by our own standards rather than God’s. All through Scripture, God has shown us that He is a God of surprises. When His people start to feel comfortable and “in charge” in our own routines, His call moves His people into the unexpected, into a new place or a new routine, or with unexpected people in our midst.
Our call to holiness means we must be willing, as individuals and a church, to let God be in charge. Let God upset our routines. Let God speak to us through the unexpected voices—the hesitant Moses, the youthful David, the forgiven David, the changed Paul, the fishermen, the women at the well, the tax collectors, the children, the lepers, the widow with only a mite. Remember all of those in Scripture whom He called to leave the expected, the comfortable, and the familiar. He asks us to trust Him as He unsettles us with plans that only He could dream of.
Do you ask yourself daily if you have grown emotionally or spiritually in the preceding 24 hours? I didn’t ask myself this question very often in the past. I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously so egotistical that I thought I didn’t need to grow, or if it was because I had become too complacent over the years, not seeing or being concerned about the deficiencies in my life. Either way, I didn’t check myself to see if I was still growing at all. But I really do want to be a life-long learner.
Growing means more than learning a fact. Memorizing information does not mean I am growing. Neither does watching the news or reading a book. Growing, to me, means I have taken the information and assessed what I am going to do with it.
If I hear new information, what am I going to do with that information? Can apply it to my life? Am I taking new information and becoming more compassionate, more just or more loving? Am I taking new thoughts and seeing the world more through God’s eyes than through my own weak and often unfocused eyesight? Am I taking ideas from a book and letting them teach me to understand life from a perspective other than my own narrow experience?
Have I learned to write better, paint better or teach better? Have I learned a healthier approach to life? Can I cook a new meal to share with family and friends? Only reading the recipe does not help me grow. Learning about new cooking techniques or herbs and then using them does.
Have I prayed a new prayer? Have I gained a new insight? Have I listened more closely to the silent cries of the world? Have I reached out because of a new found courage? Have I moved forward after a stalled period in my life? Have I taken one more step out of my grief or anger? Have I found one more thing to be thankful for? Have I learned how to better express my thanks?
Tough questions can come with a price. We may not like the answers, or we may realize that we haven’t grown in much too long. No matter our age, learning and growing can be a process we claim daily.