Wrestling Ego to the Ground: An Interview with Anne Ortlund – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Leslie Basham: We’re all tempted to blame others when things go wrong; but according to Anne Ortlund, we tend to do the opposite when things go right.

Anne Ortlund: And our ego keeps wanting to take the credit. Well, if we will just take the blame instead and give God the credit, we will be on the way to the sweetest, most powerful life that we could possibly live.

Today is Tuesday, February 24; and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today we are going to hear about a book that every woman needs to read. You can get a copy by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. Here’s Nancy to introduce the book and our guest.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our guest this week is Anne Ortlund who many of you know as an author and a speaker. God has used her life in a very significant way over many years. She is a wife, the mother of four, she was at one time, well, I was going to say she was my pastor’s wife; she’s still the wife of the man who used to be my pastor. She and Ray Ortlund have been married for 56 years. Anne, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts. Thank You for sharing in this week with us.

Anne Ortlund: Well, thank you for letting me do it, Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re offering this week, all this week on the program, a book that is really a compilation of three of your best-selling books. The compilation is called The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Beauty.

I’ve been reviewing this book again this morning and it is so practical but it is also so inspirational. In fact, I was reading it in preparation for our conversation more quickly than I would like to. I’m going to go back and read it more carefully because it’s so filled with rich insights about what it means to be a woman of God. It combines the works that you wrote Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, Disciplines of the Heart, and Disciplines of the Home.

We were talking yesterday about some of the external disciplines: of our schedule, our closets and the clutter in our lives. But really to have a disciplined environment, it needs to begin with a disciplined heart. You talk about having a serene heart. I have to tell you, Anne, that there are days when I think I’m not even sure what that word “serene” means. You challenge us about the danger of becoming what you call “gray Christians.” Tell us what you mean by that.

Anne Ortlund: Blah, dull, mediocre, average. When we say those words, the listener is saying “Oh, I don’t want to be that, surely God made me for more than that.” That’s dead right. I think many times women are so frustrated and upset and stressed because they feel they are not in control. Well whoever said they should be in control? They need to surrender to the Lord and let Him be in control. I think the sovereignty of God is the most comforting doctrine that I know.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: But it’s humbling, too, because it says, “I’m not in control.”

Anne Ortlund: Exactly and if we will deliberately relax and yield and say, “Lord, not my will but Thine be done” for the first time the burden will be off of us. We’re not trying to play God after all and we can let Him be God and to take over what we cannot do. And then His strong hand of power will be on us to work in us and through us and be with us. Oh, it makes all the difference.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know I remember a good friend, and it takes a good friend to say something like this, saying to me at one point over some series of circumstances in my life, I can’t even remember what now but at the moment it seemed so overwhelming and I was just ticking off all these things that were stressing me out and she just said very calmly on the phone, “Remember, Nancy, you’re not God.”

You know it took me back for a moment. But I needed to hear that. Of course I know I’m not God, but I was acting for the moment as if I kind of was God. You know I was kind of trying to control this and fix that and change that. And, as a result, I lost my peace; there was no calm or order in my heart. But when I stop and say, “God, You are God and You don’t make mistakes”¦”

Anne Ortlund: The reason it is hard for us to surrender to Him, I think, is this matter of ego. We’ve got to wrestle that to the ground. There is a chapter in here that says that we are both weak and wicked.

Until we realize that”¦let me give you an illustration”¦this little book tells about a woodpecker who was just pecking away on his tree and nothing was happening. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck that tree; split it straight down the middle to the ground and he discovered that he’d been blown off that tree like 20 feet away.

He picked himself him and he said, “I didn’t know I could do it.” Our ego keeps wanting to take the credit. Well, if we will just take the blame instead and give God the credit, we will be on the way to the sweetest, most powerful life that we could possibly live. That’s really how you define “meekness,” which it was so helpful to me; it’s becoming released from the burden of ego, humbling ourselves. Meekness is not being a wimp. It’s strength under God’s control.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you’re saying that first if we are going to have this internally-ordered heart, this serene heart, that we first need to get clean; get rid of the ego; commit ourselves to purity where necessary; repent, confess, grieve over our sin, just get rid of those hindrances to God’s presence and power in our lives.

Then you challenge us to get rested. Now I thought that was really interesting because I don’t know very many young women today certainly who would say that they are living rested lives. But you say it’s really possible.

Anne Ortlund: Well, that’s what Hebrews chapter 4 [:11] says “strive to enter into that rest” which means we don’t naturally do it. Satan is so subtle he even makes us proud of ourselves, that we’re achievers.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: that we are committed.

Anne Orlund: Oh right, and this too is ego. When we take on only what God wants us to take on, we do get rested because He says to us in Matthew 11 [:28] “Come to Me all you that labor and are heavy-ladened and I will give you rest for My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” He does lay a burden on us but it’s nothing like the burden the world lays on us.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When it’s His burden, He carries it with us and it’s not going to stress us out or overwhelm us because it’s His Spirit energizing, enabling within us. We need to come to Jesus not only to have our sins forgiven but just to lay our burden down on Him. He’s so ready to take it.

Anne Ortlund: He’s the only one that can manage it anyway.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Talk to us about abiding in Christ.

Anne Ortlund: I love that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How do you do it?

Anne Ortlund: Well it’s a command for one thing so it’s not something that every Christian automatically does. John 15 tells us to abide. He wouldn’t command it of us if we just automatically did it.

So what it means is, against our own natural impulses, we are to seek to, as you said earlier on a program recently, to live and move and have our being in Him to say, “Lord, I am in You and You are in me” John 14 [:20]-15. “I will do what you want me to do. You do Your works through me.”

Interesting that in John 14 Jesus says “I and my Father are one. He is in me and I am in him” and he says that a number of times. You think well sure that’s the Trinity. That’s the way the Father and the Son operate.

But then He says in verse 20 of John 14 “I am in Him; He is in Me and you are in Me” and He says that our relationship with the Lord is exactly like the relationship within the Trinity, He uses exactly the same words to describe it. That blows my mind.

But if I just nestle under His wings, as the Psalms say, in Him abiding in the place of safety away from the storm, in the place of calm, there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.

I am in Him; He is in me and that is a relationship that He has created as surely as He created the heavens and the earth and it cannot be dissolved.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Anne, are you just naturally a calm, resting, abiding woman?

Anne Ortlund: Are you kidding? I’m not naturally anything good in myself; that is, “in my flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18)

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Could you be an uptight woman?

Anne Ortlund: Ooh, not only could be, I frequently am. Then I repent of that because I know that’s sin. What I’ve been doing is concentrating on myself. Last night I had so much to do and I was getting all uptight about all I had to do and crossing off my list.

Ray called me on it, God bless him, and I apologized to him because I’d been expecting him to take more of the load than I was carrying and I was doing a Martha thing, Lord, make him help me, and I realized I was concentrating on me.

I wasn’t abiding in Christ deliberately by a conscious act of my will and I went back to him again and there was immediate peace. It’s a continuous process, isn’t it? It’s not a once for all time thing. But oh I know the more I do it, Nancy, the more calm and peaceful and joyous my life is.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, here’s the invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-ladened, burdened down and I will give you rest for your soul. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and lowly in spirit and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28, 29).

Do you need that rest today? Are you that uptight woman? Nobody at church knows it because you can control it there, but in the four walls of your own home maybe you are living that frazzled, frustrated and frenzied life.

Anne has said we need to repent and she’s right. I just want to invite you to stop right now; take a deep breath; lift your heart to the Lord and say, “Lord, forgive me for trying so to be in control, for trying to manipulate and control my environment, for not casting my cares upon You.”

Right now I’d just do that–lift up your hands to the Lord and lift up those burdens to the Lord, those concerns and say, “Lord, You are God; You are sovereign. I lift these concerns up to You. I rest in You.”

“Father, how I pray that You would cause our lives as women to reflect to our world the gentleness, the meekness, the graciousness and mercy of Christ and His beauty; that our ordered lives may reveal to the world the greatness and the goodness of who You are. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

If you just prayed that prayer with Nancy asking God to take hold of your life, would you write to us and let us know because we’d like to pray for you. We have a group of people on staff that pray for our listeners every week.

It would be a privilege to include your prayer requests. Would you pray for us? We can’t provide this program without the prayer support and the financial support of our listeners. You can write to us at Revive Our Hearts.

One of the topics Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Anne Ortlund discussed today was the way our ego resists God’s help. We’ve posted an article from Nancy on our Web site to help you learn to keep your ego in check.

It contrasts proud people vs. broken people. This list has been used in powerful ways in the lives of many women and you can read it by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also get a copy of Anne Ortlund’s helpful book The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman. It’s three books packaged in one volume. When you read it, you’ll feel like Anne is speaking right to you. Again visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1-800-569-5959.

Are you worried about growing old? Well, you don’t need to be fearful. In fact, you can be excited about it. That’s what Anne is going to talk about tomorrow. Please join us on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministry.

Used with Permission

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