a secret worth sharing…

May I tell you a secret? For those of you who know me personally and do life with me on a regular basis, it won’t be fresh revelation. But for others—those of you who only know me as the woman who writes these words in this public place—my disclosure might come as a surprise. Are you ready?


I’m here today, writing these words, out of obligation—an allegiance to a gift that once flowed so naturally through my heart and my pen.


Obediently, I take to the task, not because of some burning desire to engage with my words, but because I owe it to the woman I once was—a woman who easily and willingly penned the thoughts of her heart. That ability was shattered by the rigors of cancer treatments. I want it back. Life would be so much easier (or so it seems) if desire was here to fuel my “want to.”


Obligation—the driving force behind most of my decisions these days. Obligation, not emotions, keeps me connected to my world . . . to people, to work, to faith, to God. I do what I must do—what I know is the right thing to do—in order to keep moving forward, believing that somewhere down the road my emotions will kick in and supplement obligation with a healthy dose of desire.


For now, my emotions remain unpredictable, yet another surrender that has been made in the name of health. I chose this, gave my good “yes” to the doctors when they asked for my consent regarding chemo, ovary removal, and a long-term drug that would block any remaining estrogen produced in my body. It was a good decision back then, the best one to prolong my life. But today, it seems too costly. In eradicating the cancer, I’ve eradicated most of my desire, and I find that a life based on obligation and void of desire is a very difficult life to live at times.


So be it. I’m not the first person to let go of desire in order to take hold of lasting life.


Why the confession? Why plead for your understanding and make it all about me and my woes today? Because in doing so, I believe there is a truth that surfaces for us all—a holy undertaking that typifies the life of an earnest believer.


Good health, optimal health, is often the result of hard surrenders. A choice for life is usually preceded by a choice for death . . . letting go of and stripping away the weight that keeps us tethered to the fleeting and unconfirmed desires of our infancy.


The life of a saint is a life of work, despite desire, emotion, or a lack therein. To grow up in Christ is to stay near him, move with him, lean into him, and learn from him. The life of a saint is a life of obligation. Once you give him your “yes,” you tether your forever to his. It’s the inescapable reality of salvation. God never promised us a life of ease. Instead, he promised us his presence in the unease, in the struggle, and in the sometimes torturous releases that best enable us to dig into, hold onto, and live unto his glory.


So what do we do when desire and emotions aren’t around to fuel our obligations?


We keep going. We base our choices for survival on good health, on previous faith, and in the truth that what is not always felt by us is felt by God. Knowing that he holds my desire—knowing that he hasn’t forgotten the woman I once was and the gifting I once felt—is enough to push me forward. I don’t have to understand it all; I just have to keep obliging my feet, my heart, and my mind to the faith that has carried me thus far. It will assuredly carry me home.


Obligation. It keeps me connected to God. It keeps him doing the same. We are holy, certainly, and beautifully obliged to one another, now and forever more. And that, sweet friends, is a secret worth sharing . . . one I won’t make you keep to yourself. Go ahead, tell everyone. You have our permission.


Peace for the journey,


How are you living out your obligation to God despite the difficult surrenders along the way? I’d love to come alongside you in prayer.

34 Responses to a secret worth sharing…

  1. I have felt and still feel much the same as you. When I was simply far too weak to do an “ought to” (by former standards), I gave myself a pass until my strength returned. Now that I am stronger, I find I do some things out of a knowing that it’s a “good thing.”
    But still there are some activities, some “shoulds” or “oughts” that I simply dismiss as unnecessary tasks these days.

    • Me too, Melanie. Just recently I declined an invitation to be involved in a project I dearly love and support. I just couldn’t take it on, and I felt guilty afterward. Thankfully, my husband absolved me of all guilt and gave me the needed permission to draw some boundary lines. You bless me by being here.

  2. It’s interesting that some “obligations’ are really privileges in disguise.
    When caring for my alcoholic mother during her last four years of medical challenges seemed unbearable, I had no idea how much I would miss the “obligation” after she passed.

    It was indeed a privilege to be Christ’s hands and feet in her life.

    • You’re right, Jess. Even the obligations of my today have served the kingdom and my family well. We should never underestimate the value of a single, difficult obedience. Blessings!

  3. You inspire me, Elaine.

    It’s a painful truth, but a truth no the less. Thank you for writing- for pushing through undesire. We are all better for it. Blessed by you!

    • I so need to catch up on your world, Jennifer. I pray you are well and that you know the favor of love of Jesus in your life. I’ll check in later.

  4. The road to recovery is a long hard one. Your statements ring true with me.

    Two years out from active treatment and I still struggle to find joy or even a “want to” in my days. Obligations and fatigue and fear are my daily journey instead. Without the obligations I would not move at all. Fatigue and fear would rule my life. I assume this is part of the journey to wholeness.

    Yet, there are moments. There were even moments during active treatment. ……. Moments of happiness. The five good things that I try to find each day…. I force myself to see them. Today it is goldfinches at my feeder, a delicious piece of chocolate, lunch with a friend, my hair, and my Mickey Mouse watch. Tomorrow I will try to find six good things.

    “Life is a shipwreck but we must learn to sing in the lifeboat.” Voltaire

    • I resonate with everything you’ve written here, Joan. I have to find my praise; it doesn’t come naturally for me. Today I’m thankful for a phone call from a blogging friend I’ve never met, for a $25 Walgreens gift card that allowed us to get a few necessities at the end of a budget-stretching month, dinner our with my family using a gift card my husband earned for walking so many steps (an incentive for preachers in our conference to stay in shape), for air-condition, and for the capacity to walk three miles without passing out from the heat. Overall, it’s been a good day. I’m continuing to learn how to live within the parameters of a 24 hour time frame. Looking much further down the road keeps me from enjoying the moment.

      Thanks for being here today.

  5. Thank you for your honesty Elaine. Surrendering all to Him certainly doesn’t guarantee a life of ease and comfort. Sometimes I don’t always FEEL like obeying. But I know it’s right. So I keep on and in time, I begin to realize that I do have joy deep in my heart. And there are some days when I look around and find myself smiling.

    Blessings and love,

    • Deep joy… oh to recognize it for what it is. Lord, uncover my joy and surprise me with contentment!

  6. Such a truth! Thank you for putting it into words. I have felt that way many times… too numerous to mention, right? And it ties in with the study I am doing now. Lysa TerKeurst’s “When Women Say Yes To God.” We come to a place when we say, “Yes, Lord!” And He hasn’t even told us what He is asking us to do.

    You are in my prayers. I feel as though a part of you is on your way to Portland. Since Susan has met you and now will meet me… it is as if we are one step closer together. Much love to you.

  7. Elaine, this post brought tears to my eyes. I have read your blog before the cancer came, and also after. I can see and feel the difference in your words in the before and after. Your words now seem to me more weighty, substantial, but it doesn’t mean they were not so before. I can’t explain it.

    But knowing this, that it is written out of a sense of obligation – to the person you know you still are, but just “scarred” by the aftermath that cancer brings… gives me more admiration for you. You are not asking for admiration, I know that. You are asking for connection. But still I must tell you, you are a woman greatly admired for fighting back, and living life with a vengeance.

    I love you, Elaine. And it is an honor to know you and read the story God is writing through your own words. I am grateful for the connection between your life and mine.

    Much love

  8. I treasure your “secret”, Elaine. I find reassurance in doing so, for I find that many of my personal decisions and choices flow out of a certain degree of obligation. It’s not “in” to do things out of obligation these days. Obligation is quickly abandoned in pursuit of one’s bliss and fulfillment. And to confess “obligation” as motivation even seems un-Christian somehow…

    But then I’m reminded of our Lord who “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross….”

    So let us continue by His grace to count our obligations as “all joy”. Not denying our feelings (or lack of them), but yielding them to the transforming grace that enables us to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

    As reluctant as you might have been to share this, I am SO relieved that you did!

    • And I’m so glad you said so, Rebecca. Your words are wise and always filled with grace. I love learning from you and hearing your heart on a great many matters. Keep to it.

  9. I always learn so much from you, friend. After reading this post a couple of times, it’s given me a lot to ponder. I’ve been thinking about how obligation is a stepping stone toward obedience. I know one thing…I’ve never felt happier or more at peace than when I’m living my life in true obedience to God. I need to keep on going in order to experience that again. This part of your post really challenged me:

    We keep going. We base our choices for survival on good health, on previous faith, and in the truth that what is not always felt by us is felt by God. Knowing that he holds my desire—knowing that he hasn’t forgotten the woman I once was and the gifting I once felt—is enough to push me forward. I don’t have to understand it all; I just have to keep obliging my feet, my heart, and my mind to the faith that has carried me thus far. It will assuredly carry me home.

    Thanks for your inspiration, encouragement, and love.

    Big hugs…

    • They go together, obligation and obedience. I think you’re right. As a Christian, I’m obliged to live a different way… to bring all things unto Jesus and to allow my life as a crucible for his. We don’t get a pass on our refining when we say “yes” to God. Our “yes” is a beginning point–a beautiful, glorious initiation into the life of a saint. I’m so glad I said “yes”! Love you, sweet friend.

  10. Elaine, so sorry you’re still struggling with this lack of desire. I believe, like you, that one day it will return as you are faithful to keep to the tasks the Lord has called you to do. I think we all face periods like this at times, though the reasons may be different. I’m living out my surrender in a couple of different situations right now. It can sure be hard to keep going, huh?

    • Yes, it can be hard, Cheryl. It’s a daily choice to be faithful, at least it is for me. Praying that God gives us both the strength, willingness, and courage for all surrenders we face.

  11. ‘A choice for life is usually preceded by a choice for death . . . letting go of and stripping away the weight that keeps us tethered to the fleeting and unconfirmed desires of our infancy.’

    Oh Elaine, how true this is….It is true in every area of our life.

    You are walking out your obligation beautifully, my friend and our Jesus is pleased with you. Stay faithful to the last word you heard from Him. Love you much.

    • “Stay faithful to the last word you heard from him.” Now that will preach, Leah. I love thinking on this. You’ve probably written a post about this before, but if not, why not? Love it.

  12. For more reasons than I can name, you’re a better woman than I.

    My circumstances have sapped my creativity–both literally and figuratively. And while I’ve managed to get through much of my Christian walk by following through on obligation and obedience, this time around I haven’t been able to apply it to my writing life. Which is evidenced by my unattended blog, the book proposal requested but unfinished, even my unwritten posts for other sites which I managed to fulfill longer than other obligations.

    I appreciate the challenge today. Even before I read it I undertook to put some thoughts down in “drafts.” Progress.

    May God continue to bless you as you bless others by meeting your “obligation.”


    • My “sapped” seasons come and go, Mary. Today, I’m barely breathing, but I’m encouraged to keep going. Obedience is what I have left to give. God assures that is enough for now. Blessings, sister-writer!

  13. Elaine, thank you for this post! It both grieves me and encourages me! Grief that you are going through this time of suffering from the scars of your ”choosing life” …and encouragement in seeing you deliberately keep moving forward one day at a time!

    Another reason this post has touched me deeply is that just a few days ago in my homework for Beth Moore’s “James: Mercy Triumphs” I read this sentence: “One of the signs of deep friendship is that we tell each other secrets.” So thank you dear sweet faithful Elaine for believing in us as friends enough to tell us a secret!

    My spirit longs to meet you ”face-to-face” someday but if not here on this earth, we still have eternity to look forward to together.

    Love you much faithful Elaine!


    • I don’t suppose this is much of a secret for anyone who’s been following along for a while now; still and yet, it is because of the friendship I’ve found in this place that I’m able to share my heart. Thank you, Marilyn, for sticking around as long as you have and for being faithful in your everyday life. Your example serves as an encouragement to all who know you. I know it certainly has been the case for me!

  14. It saddens me to hear that you are struggling so with this, but I also have to say that for me, rather you write from “desire” or “obligation” really doesn’t matter much, as you have blessed and encouraged me more than I could ever begin to explain, and I am soo grateful for your obedience to continue. Your ability to express your wisdom, insights, and struggles IS truly a gift, and it always makes me think and ponder LONG after I have left.

    Much of what I do recently comes from that same place of “have to”…not that there isn’t any “want to” involved, but much more comes from a sense of obligation. Which then produces guilt because I FEEL obligated and not happy over my new responsibilities. I find myself on my knees searching for a better attitude, and a bigger heart. I find that it is fleeting if I do find it once in a while. But I have decided (like you) to be obedient to what I know I am suppose to be doing, believing that God will give me the strength to endure, AND the joy and “want to” feelings in His time. Maybe for now He is busy teaching me something I haven’t figured out yet..(smile).

    So for now I thank you for your obedience and perseverance, and pray that the Lord might flood your heart with His joy, and that soon the desires you felt in the past might be restored. I honestly believe that while you might not be able to find that old gal from which the words just flowed off her pen, you WILL find the new STRONGER than ever before woman He is making you into.

    HUGS, Debbie

    • Debbie, you have a lot on your plate right now. It’s hard to find our “want to” when situations force the issue. I’ll be homeschooling this year, not something I want to do, but out of necessity, something I feel I must. I’ve asked God to grow my desire in this direction, and slowly, it’s all feeling more acceptable to me. I’ll be praying, friend.

  15. Disciplining ourselves to choose the hard thing is never easy but doing so in an attitude of submission testifies to the sufficiency and supremacy of the Lord. He Himself is our reward and He is worth any and all that we may lose or deny in this world! I’m thankful for your humble surrender to Him and for your unwavering faith in His goodness and sovereignty. He is enough! He is everything!

  16. “Once you give him your “yes,” you tether your forever to his. “

    Amen! This is such an encouraging thought to remember during those seasons of heartaches, difficulties, and the “unknown” that we all share in our journeys…

    Whether taut or loose…that line….that connection….remains…and like an electrical cord…that current flows….always…sometimes strong and swiftly…at other times, slowly and steadily….but never stopping completely…because, hey, He conquered the circuit breaker….

    Blessed…as always…by my visit here, Elaine…

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