I am notorious for coming home with a car full of bags and addressing the situation in one of two different ways. Either I leave everything in the car and go inside, or I over-commit myself and determine to carry every single bag in with one trip. Unfortunately, there are flaws with both of my methods. One choice leaves my hands empty and uses no skill or talent; it is an unwise use of my time and energy. However, the other choice is just as mislead. In order to even have a pretense of success, I must overload myself and grip each bag so tightly, my hands hurt in just the short distance to the house and I usually come crashing inside.
Neither way is a good demonstration of what my hands were created for.
I find that my hands behave like this with my circumstances too. Some days I am tempted to be emotionally loose with my circumstances because if I pretend not to care, I will not be hurt. My hands are held open, but are limp and helpless. Or, events will come and I grip them so tightly because I am convinced they are my key happiness. I form an identity around this new opportunity. I choose my own way and I refuse to let go. My hands hurt from squeezing, closed to anything different.
We can usually be confident that when we respond in extremes, either way, it will lead to a negative outcome. Extreme responses most often come from the flesh; they are a reaction.
We learn a little more about this lesson when we read about our sister Sarah in Genesis 16-18. She was originally called Sarai, before God changed her name. And while God promised Abram (soon to be Abraham) that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars, Sarai doubted. She thought it had taken too long and she was holding the idea of a child too tightly in her hands.
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:1-2)
When we hold an event or idea in our hands too tightly, it causes us to be impatient and act rashly. We resort to any measure we can find to fulfill our goal, and we fail to trust God. Sarai was intent on having a family. She held it too tightly and made bad choices when she tried to accomplish the task with her own, limited resources. She sinned, and the consequences followed closely behind.
Following the story, we see a different side of Sarah in chapter 18. She is told once again that she will have a son. Filled with doubt, she laughs. She, in her limited resources, has no idea how this will happen in her old age.
“Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)
Okay. So, she learned not to hold the idea too tightly. But, now she’s so limp with doubt that she laughs at the Lord. When we “recover” from one coping mechanism, we are tempted to switch to a new tactic. A new way to get what we want. A way that will still lead to destruction.
Praise to the God who does not leave us to ourselves.
Fast forward to chapter 21. Sarah becomes pregnant. God fulfills His promise, just like He said He would.
“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (Genesis 21:1-2. Emphasis added)
At the very time. Not a moment sooner and not a moment later. Fulfillment came.
If we trust God, we will learn to open our hands. Not in a limp, useless way. But rather in an open submission, cupped just enough to carefully hold the things we are entrusted with.
God made Sarah’s family whole. He birthed the generations, beginning with a woman who was of old age.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Allow God to open those precious hands, then you will know they are not too tight or too loose. He will fulfill at the very time He promises.