Summer can get me feeling nostalgic. Humming cicadas, a certain song, the smell of hamburgers on the grill, and a slice of cold watermelon can bring me right back to when I was five. I remember careless days spent lying in the grass watching puffy clouds changing shape in a big blue sky, talking to God, chasing twinkling fireflies in the black-velvet night. No agenda. No to-do lists. Just surrendered and free.
When was the last time you felt free like that?
I don’t know about you, but these days, I’m more like a frazzled air traffic controller than a free spirit. My summer to-do list gets me all balled up in a knot, anxious, and overwhelmed. Can you relate?
There is hope though. Surrendering our plans (and our to-do lists) to God brings freedom – and significance. But, what does that look like practically? Here are four ancient lessons from a woman in Scripture to help us live surrendered and free.
4 Practical Lessons from Deborah
The lessons begin in the book of Judges. In one generation, the Israelites had forgotten all the things that God had done for them. The nation was embroiled in political and religious turmoil. People were infighting, rebelling against God, and doing whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Seeking God and listening to Him would have been a counter-cultural practice (much like today.)
Lesson #1: Be Listening
In this setting, we find Deborah, a female judge in a nation in rebellion against God. In Judges 4:5, we learn that Deborah “held court under the Palm of Deborah…and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.”
Her job would have come with bucketloads of pressure and responsibilities. Yet in that stressful environment, purposefully listening to God gave Deborah the freedom to stand her ground in difficult circumstances.
Could purposefully listening to God like that help us, too?
Lesson #2: Be Still
Deborah’s nation was in turmoil. The Israelites were beaten down after decades of slavery. In Judges 4:6, we read that Deborah summoned a man named Barak to tell him, “The LORD, the God of Israel commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men..’.” to battle. Don’t miss this. She called 10,000 men to fight at a time when no one was even thinking about it.
Imagine the conviction Deborah would have needed to summon Barak and share this radical news. Only by being purposefully still before the LORD and listening could Deborah recognize and trust God’s voice and His plans – plans she could not have imagined on her own. This made her free to boldly declare what she heard from God. And Barak listened!
Lesson #3: Be Surrendered
I don’t know if I would have done what Deborah did. My pride and fear of what people think might have kept me from summoning Barak. I might have second-guessed hearing God’s voice. Maybe I would have been filled with anxiety, wringing my hands, and wrestling with the LORD, like “This is too hard. My reputation is on the line. What will people think?”
But Deborah didn’t do that. She was being still and listening to the LORD, so she knew His voice. She surrendered to His plans. That gave her freedom and boldness to say and do hard things in His power.
Lesson #4: Find Significance
If Deborah hadn’t been pursuing God, listening, or surrendering to His plans, the nation of Israel might have been in captivity for another decade a two. Instead, the land had peace for 40 years. (See Judges 5:31.)
Deborah could have been consumed with anxiety in her role. Instead, surrendered obedience brought her freedom and significance in a time of turmoil. Interestingly, people sought her out because they knew she was listening and hearing from God.
Surrendered and Free
Could you do what Deborah did? So often when life keeps coming at us hard, our human instinct is to hunker down and power through. And that just leaves us cranky and overstressed. It seems counter-intuitive to carve out time to be still and listen, so we can surrender to God. Yet the fuller life is, the more we must do it. Deborah shows us why. When we are purposeful about seeking God with all our hearts, we’ll find freedom as we surrender our plans for His.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” – Psalms 119:45