I wanted this so badly–“this” might be a job, to get into a certain school, a relationship or an object of some sort. The testimony goes on–so I just gave it to God–and then he gave it back to me.

That’s a great testimony–as long as God gives it back. But what happens when he doesn’t. How’s that for a testimony–I want this so badly–and I gave it to God, and he took it.

That doesn’t have quite the same oomph as the first testimony. We don’t have to fight our way to the front of the line to give things to God with no expectation of return.

Recently I went through a loss, actually a series of losses. They seemed to mount one on top of the other and they seemed to compound my dismay and my confusion. As the losses mounted, I found myself looking and holding onto the things that remained–until they didn’t.

Truthfully, I handled the earlier losses better than I would have ever expected. But the final loss was a real blow. It was the loss of a relationship.

Like most of the other losses this one was unexpected–but it hit me harder than all the others seemed to, even if they were combined. I just wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotion and despair that followed.

Had I made the relationship an idol? Had I sinned and was God trying to get my attention, was it spiritual discipline? Was God testing my heart to show me what I loved most? Was God saving me from some tragic mistake? I had more questions than I had answers, many more.

I struggled to shake the despair and hopelessness that followed. I prayed, I wept, and I mourned and lamented. Relief was slow in coming. Some days were better than others–but none of them were very good.

Honestly, I was tired of the dark cloud that seemed to be permanently parked over my head. I had this certainty that there was a way out of this mess–that misunderstandings could turn into a deeper, better understanding. On bad days I felt like nothing in life would ever go right–on good days I thought everything would work out perfectly. I, of course, defined perfectly as things going the way I wanted them to.

Honestly, I was tired of the dark cloud that seemed to be permanently parked over my head.

Then came Holy Week. I attended my church’s Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Somewhere during the course of the week I found myself meditating on Jesus prayer in the Garden, particularly when he asked the Father if the cup of death could pass him by.

I was struck by the words in Hebrews 12 that Jesus endured the cross and that he despised the shame of the cross. The realization that sometimes things even happened to Jesus that he, as a full human, would have preferred not to experience. I saw with fresh eyes that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem and endure the shame and agony of the cross–but only if there was no other way.

It was with that back drop that his next words, “not my will, but yours be done” brought new life to my heart.

I knew as I walked through this that God is sovereign, I knew that he is good, and I knew that he loved me. But my heart was still broken, I still hurt.

But then those words, not my will, but yours be done caught my attention.

That became my prayer. It needed to; I was convinced I couldn’t change things anyway.

Some days and in some situations, I really struggle to know my own heart. I remember as a kid doing things I thought would please my parents, not because I loved them and desired to please them–but because I wanted the rewards that I thought were tied to that obedience.

As a parent I remember chuckling at my kids as they would try and bargain and manipulate me to get what they wanted. It was as if they thought if they could get me to a certain place of comfort or a certain level of pleasure in them, I would grant their wishes.

Just as I did as a child, they practiced this from of manipulation–and like me–they got better at it. Sometimes it even worked for me and sometimes it worked for them.

Then the thought came to me–am I trying to manipulate God? Am I “giving this to God” in hopes that he will see “I only want what he wants” and then give It back to me?

I didn’t know the answer to that question. All I could do was pray that prayer, and continue to believe in God’s sovereignty, His goodness and in His love for me.

What happened next? I keep praying the prayer, I keep believing He is sovereign, good and loving, and I keep moving toward him.

If I was correct in placing my trust in God’s sovereignty, goodness and love (and I was), then I don’t have to know what comes next. I can walk into an uncertain future with those facts about God sustaining me until I see the goodness of God in the land of the living.