HOLDING NOTHING BACK
by Eric Elder
Like many of my messages, this one is very personal. But I hope that giving you a peek inside my heart will be helpful. With that preface in mind, here’s what I’d like to share.
About a year ago, I fell in love. It was quite unplanned and quite unexpected. I was talking with a dear friend from long ago and far away when all of a sudden, I was smitten. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly I was captivated, and I couldn’t let it go.
I didn’t tell anyone about it for two months, and I didn’t tell her about it for three. I just kept it all close to my heart, talking to God, asking Him what He wanted me to do, and asking myself what I would want, if I could really choose to do what I wanted.
After three months of praying on my own, I felt like I should tell her. I sent her a note and asked if we could talk. She said, “Yes,” she’d be glad to, so we picked a day to get together.
The night before we met, I asked God what He wanted me to tell her, and I felt like He said, “Let her know your heart, your fears, your prayers, your requests. She will be able to help you straighten them out.” I would have loved to do that, but it seemed like that would be way too much to share, way too early, and way too risky.
But it also felt like this was what God really wanted me to do. I asked Him, “Is there any scripture to confirm this?”
I opened my Bible and began to read a conversation between Samuel and Eli, as recorded in the book of First Samuel, chapter 3. Samuel was hesitant to tell Eli something that God had spoken to his heart, but Eli told Samuel to tell him everything, word for word, holding nothing back. The next words seemed to jump off the page:
“So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing” (1 Samuel 3:18, MSG).
Again, God spoke to my heart: “Hold back nothing, Eric. Hold back nothing. It’s important for her to hear it and you to say it. Hold back nothing.”
The next day we met and, over a cup of hot chocolate, I shared with her everything that was on my heart, all that I had been praying about during the previous three months, holding nothing back.
In the months that followed, we talked and prayed, exchanged emails and texts. We never dated, never kissed, never held hands. In fact, I didn’t even know if she had any feelings for me at all beyond our mutual friendship. All I knew was that God wanted me to share all that was on my heart, holding nothing back.
Six months later, I had finally finished sharing all that I could think of that was on my heart. I felt like I was a campfire that had been stoked with firewood continually until there was no more wood to throw on the fire. I had shared everything; there was nothing left to say; I had held nothing back. All I could do now was pray.
Not long after this, I was on tour in Israel and found myself standing on the Temple Mount, that hilltop in Jerusalem where Abraham once stood as he laid his son, Isaac, on the altar before God. I felt like God wanted me to do the same with this relationship. I had poured out my heart and said all I could say. Now He wanted me to lay it down before Him. So I did.
Months passed, and I heard no response. Then, during my three-day personal prayer retreat last week, I got a call. My friend had had time to process all that I had shared, and she was ready to respond.
As much as she felt honored by our friendship and appreciated all I had said, she felt that she wasn’t the one I was really looking for–that she was a placeholder for the one who was to come. She was glad to be that placeholder–to prepare my heart for that person in the future–but she couldn’t see herself as being that person.
I was disappointed, of course, but I somehow agreed with her! Completely! I knew that what she was saying was absolutely right. She really had helped me to straighten out all of my thoughts and feelings, fears and prayers. I was so glad I shared with her all that I had shared. While I could have been tempted to see her response as a rejection (and if it was, it was the kindest rejection I had ever felt), God spoke to my heart to say that it wasn’t a rejection, but that it was an acceptance–an acceptance of God’s will, His perfect will, His BEST will, for both of our lives. God’s will is always goodwill, even when it doesn’t come in the form we might have expected.
As the ancient writer Epictetus said: “I am content with what happens, for I know that whatever God chooses is better than what I choose.”
I also could have been tempted to think that I had just wasted months of energy–mental, physical, and spiritual energy. But God stopped me in mid-thought saying, “Time spent seeking My will with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is never wasted. It’s always invested, and it will pay huge rewards for years to come.”
It made me think of another quote, written by an unknown author, that says, “Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies beyond the will of God.”
I believe that with all of my heart. I am thankful that I sought God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I am thankful that I shared with my friend all that I shared, holding nothing back. And I am thankful for the answer which has come.
While I was hesitant to share this with you as it is so personal and so fresh, I know that the fruit often tastes sweetest when it’s fresh off the tree. May we all enjoy it together.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You that we can come to you anytime in prayer, seeking Your perfect will with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Thank You that our time in prayer is never wasted, but always invested, and that it will pay rewards for years to come. Thank You for friends who let us share with them freely, and thank you for their gracious responses. And Lord, thank You for the reminder that Your will for our lives is always goodwill. In Jesus’ name, Amen.