“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Phil 4:12
Story time about how God showed me I was setting myself up to be spiritually starving and living in continuous spiritual hunger.
My mom said as a baby, I would sing myself to sleep. In High School, I was in choir, musicals and sang the national anthem at the football games. I majored in musical theatre in college. Twenty years later, I was still living the dream by touring the country and acting in commercials. I loved performing and never imagined doing anything else.
After I came to Christ, I became a worship leader and loved serving the Lord with my gifts. Seeing people come to know and love God through music brought me so much joy.
I was all in when I was offered a role with a mission agency to start a new department that combined my love for music and scripture! I partnered with Christian artists by sharing the need for Bible translation at their concerts. It combined my favorite things in life — music, the Bible, and traveling!
I hadn't worked in corporate America before, so some of the politics of reaching quotas and goals conflicted with me. I loved Jesus and wanted indigenous people worldwide to have the opportunity to know him too. Yet, fundraising started to feel like an unspiritual hustle.
The Christian music industry surprisingly didn't care for helping people as much as I expected. In addition, I was growing disillusioned as I was required to work longer hours. I had a hectic schedule with lots of travel, including flights, rushing to the next venue, late nights, little sleep, and limited days off. After three years, I knew it wasn't sustainable physically, and I felt spiritually empty.
As I was praying one day, I sensed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to fast and pray. Fasting wasn't something I truly understood, but I knew the Bible talked about how men and women of the faith did this before making big decisions when they needed wisdom.
Did I hear God right? Surely he understood that fasting wasn't something I could do in this season of my life. I was already sacrificing what seemed like the most worldly comforts for the Gospel. Running this department required me to die to myself daily. Wasn't that enough?
Have you ever ignored the Holy Spirit for so long that you started to believe you made up that prompting in your head? The idea felt inspired the first, second, and third times it came to mind. But you wanted to pray about it more, to be sure. Then, after days or weeks, it didn't seem weighty anymore. Just a fleeting thought quickly dismissed. Life goes on.
Then when you've moved on, someone you trust speaks into your life quickly yet unexpectedly.
I arrived in Nantucket for a much-needed vacation. I was burned out and exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually. Finally, my best friend picked me up and welcomed me with open arms. I couldn't wait to escape all the demands and soak in the sunshine, shops, and shoreline.
As we grabbed my bags, she said, “Jill, I feel like the Lord wants you to fast for 40 days.”
The walls I put up around my heart fell in an instant. I sensed how I'd been grieving the Holy Spirit for weeks. “I know you're right, I replied.”
In the past, I had hated every second of a church-wide Daniel fast. I barely made it through a three-day fast. There wasn't a good time to go through the headache, tiredness, or detox phase. I couldn't imagine going without food for 40 days. Yet, the confirmation from my friend gave me the courage to say yes to the Lord.
On day 35 of my water and juice only fast, I landed in the next city, quickly got my rental car, and rushed to the venue. I desperately needed some nutrition. I prayed to find a place to get something to drink. The road out to the country was long and rural. The hum of the road started to irritate me. I began to get “hangry.”
In my frustration, I complained, “God, how can I do the things you've called me to do without food to sustain me?”
Before I even finished my thought, I heard in my heart, “Jill, what you're experiencing in your body is what you've been experiencing spiritually, but you haven't been able to discern it.”
I knew God was speaking, and he was right. I'd been living in a way that put an unsustainable demand on myself. I was physically hungry and felt unable to keep going without nutrition. In the same way, I was spiritually starving and not getting what I needed from the Lord. I had been trying to do the Lord's work with my talents, gifts, drive, and determination. But, unfortunately, I wasn't working from a place of the Holy Spirit's fullness and overflow.
Somehow the hum of the road turned into music to my ears. Finally, I had a full hour to enjoy God's presence and talk to him without distractions. For the next hour, I noticed the beauty of the winding roads, the canopy of trees, and peace in my soul.
I understood 2 Corinthians 12:9 in a whole new way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I was so grateful that God sustained me physically through those 40 days. I know I couldn't have done it without his power. I learned how to press into him with praise when I was in lack and appreciate him more when I had plenty. He never called me to do things without His presence. The most loving thing He could do was show me that I need him more when life is full and the pressure is on.
That weekend in church, the worship time was so sweet. The weight of God's presence was so heavy that I felt my knees buckle, and I had to hold myself up by clinging to the chair in front of me. This time it wasn't hunger that made me weak but His presence that reminded me of His strength.
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