“For apart from me you can do nothing.”– John 15:5
I had many serious health problems last year. During the summer camp, I was rushed to the hospital due to a terrible stomach pain. Then a few months after I had a bout with flu for about a week which wasn’t normal for me. Then in November, I had a miscarriage. The following month, I was rolled to the OR for a major operation of gallbladder removal. 2019 had brought me pains not just physically, mentally and emotionally, but all those health dilemmas crushed my spirit and tested my faith to a whole new level. But then despite all the blows of life, God sustained me. I knew Him on a much deeper level that I desired to seek Him more. And yet if there is one lesson that had truly inculcated in me that year, that is “to number our days because no one is guaranteed of tomorrow.” I was determined to be a good steward of the time lent to me by God. I longed for a purposeful life, and to avoid a life that is being wasted. So before the year ended, I committed to change my ways and be very intentional in 2020.
I loved the Lord. I desired to seek and love Him with all my soul, might, heart and mind. I’d dedicated my life to God wanting to glorify Him. I knew that without Him, everything would be meaningless. I wanted to honor and bear fruit for Him. Hence for the desire to make plans and change. The newly-adapted routine was making sure that God is part of everything I do. I’d started the day in prayer and read His word and journaled daily. I served when I could and was available for the Kingdom’s work.
But then as 2020 began, I started feeling nauseous and I was tired all the time. While I no longer experienced any stomach pain after my gallbladder removal, this time, I was feeling something odd in my tummy. That was when I found out I am pregnant. No one expected that I’d be pregnant just right after a major surgery and a miscarriage. And because of all the pregnancy blues, all I planned out for suddenly just became part of a daydream. I failed to execute the plans I had for the Lord, for my family, for the ministry and for myself. I felt dejected and began to lose hope as days passed by. I felt weaker and weaker that I chose to wallow in the deep pit of self-pity.
I began to shout at my kids over slight mistakes and would pick up a fight with my husband over petty things. My mind was defiled by malicious thoughts about others. I didn’t want to share burdens with anybody, nor be a part of the ministry. The “intentionality” that I was hoping for didn’t happen, not even in the slightest bit. I hated myself for not being able to do anything, I felt I was a total failure. But even after being miserable, instead of running back to God, I would turn to Netflix, binge-watch and get drowned by earthly entertainment. In the mornings, I would feel the same misery and emptiness again. Unlike before, instead of reaching for the Bible, I turned to my phone, checked messages and notifications on my social media accounts. Since I learned I am pregnant, I steeped into my helplessness so well that I decided to delay reading and studying the Bible and setting aside my quiet time with God altogether. The inevitable happened. Since then, my life was empty.
It lasted for weeks and no one knew other than my husband and kids that I was living a defeated life. With others, I would simply give an excuse– an excuse too simple, too obvious, no one dared to question. The excuse was that “I’m pregnant and that it is just a season.” I couldn’t admit to the fact that I was sinning, that I was choosing everything but GOD.
There were many nights that my husband cried as I shared my faithlessness and hopelessness. My husband patiently listened when I told him the reality that I might depart from the faith. I complained about my failed plans and God’s inability to help me through. But my husband never ceased to share how loving God is, that despite my unbelief, God will pursue me. My husband always reminded me about God’s promises. He chose to love and serve me, unconditionally even though while he, too, was having struggles on his own.
Then one day, I finally admitted that I no longer want to live apart from the Lord. But this time, because I distanced myself too far from God, I was clueless where to begin. I called my husband and he said, “Go back to your first love. Open your Bible.”
So the very next morning I did. When I got up, I asked everyone to give me time and space to spend with God. At this moment, I was still a little unsure of whether God would reveal Himself to me. But I said, there’s nothing to lose, I was already at the bottom of the pit. So I boldly asked God to reveal Himself to me. My plea was to experience Him and be filled by His presence. Then I opened my Bible and started reading.
The first thing that immediately happened was that the Lord revealed my heart. My turning back from God was rooted from not fully trusting His character, from being discouraged by circumstances of life, and from my limitation. As I confessed my disobedience and repented, here’s what the Lord told me:
“Sarah, I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”
— Exodus 6:6-8
I began my year with the best intention. I wanted to honor God in my life. So I made all these plans thinking they were the best. I wanted to be intentional in every single thing because I didn’t want to waste my life, the life that God redeemed. Sadly, when nothing of those plans happened, I also fell apart. As I processed my situation, here are things I asked myself:
- What does true intentionality mean for me? Is it trusting my plans, or trusting God?
- Will I only obey the call of intentionality when it is convenient and comfortable?
- Is being intentional dependent on the circumstance, or on God?
As I answered these questions, I saw the dire need for knowing the reason and object of my obedience to be intentional:
What is my one thing for being intentional? Is it to have a worry-free, perfectly laid-out life? What if when things go wrong, will my one thing sustain me? Why do I obey God when He told me to be intentional? Isn’t it to honor Him and isn’t it because I love Him?
Trusting God wherever He takes me is the true meaning of intentional living. It is not based on the carefully planned-out activities and well-thought out routines. All these can be gone in a snap of a finger. Being intentional is knowing why we live and who we do things for. Without being fully aware that our plans are simply our plans and do not always represent the plan of God for us, we can easily fall to schemes of the enemy. We will doubt God, be discouraged and make excuses to disobey Him.
As I studied the word of God that day, here are what He showed me. My disobedience was resulted from the things that occurred in the first few chapters of the book of Exodus.
1. Disobedience of Pharaoh- disobedience from NOT knowing God
““Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.””
— Exodus 5:2
2. Disobedience of the Israelites- disobedience from being discouraged by struggles
“So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.” — Exodus 6:9
3. Disobedience of Moses- Disobedience from using one’s limitation, life’s circumstance and incapability as an excuse.
“But Moses argued with the Lord, saying, “I can’t do it! I’m such a clumsy speaker! Why should Pharaoh listen to me?”” — Exodus 6:30
I thank God that even when I stumbled, He helped me get up so I could grow up. My story continued as God embraced me and opened my heart to believe and trust Him. He pursued until I came running back to Him. And then He sealed it with a promise to release me from the slavery of sin, from the bondage of self-pity and hopelessness. He reminded me that my plans could be great, but without Him as my One thing, I will not be able to do anything.
I wouldn’t experience and know this hadn’t it been for Him- He pursued, He called. And finally, now I said, “Lord, here I am. Not my plans, Lord…but Yours.”
Sarah Carpio is a follower of Jesus Christ. She is a loving helpmate to her husband Cio. They are blessed with three daughters. She is now pregnant with baby number 4. They now serve the Lord by ministering to young families and disciple them to be Christ-committed families who will make Christ-committed families.
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