The start of the year began with a bang! Reality check. My start of the year began with a thud as I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed to face off with insurmountable challenge and oppression. Looking out my bedroom window, my life was as unpromising as the weather. This metaphor shouted in my ears and flung despair in my face. Barren trees, snow and ice covered a beleaguered earth. Soot, rocks, dead sticks, and leaf litter carpeted what once had been a glorious scene.
Yep. My life. The view. Same thing.
In hopelessness and defeat, in failure and rejection, in quiet desperation I remembered that this Christian thing is a walk of faith. Eugene Peterson warns us not to make experience our bible. We can’t walk by experience, giving it greater importance than the Word. We walk by faith. It’s a strange feeling to stand in the midst of utter ruin, no money in sight, no answers, no palpable understanding that God is even listening, and yet to stand on His Word and reject experience. Reject what your eyes tell you. Reject what your emotions tell you.
No bells and whistles to tell me I’m being heard. No goose bumps to assure me that I’m on the right track. The conviction that set me on this path was a determination to engage in full time ministry no matter what it cost. I knew I was called to ministry and I had prepared for it, but God used my circumstances to take me to the limit of my faith. Will I trust God no matter what? No matter what my eyes tell me? No matter what other Christians tell me? Will I trust in His word whether or not I feel His presence?
Against all odds. I love that term.
With God we’re never against all odds but it does feel like it sometimes. But feelings aren’t the bible, experience is not the text. Day after day, I’d open my Bible and read, I’d pray the promises He’d made to me, and I’d wait. Day after day, the gloom settled in like fog drenching me, blinding me. I refused to rely on what my senses told me. I chose to go to the Word, whether I felt like it or not. I would pray, whether I felt like it or not. I would continue to serve others in love, whether I felt like it or not.
But life, like the stinging January cold, grew harsher.
Ugly questions pierced like darts into my soul. Had God forgotten me? Was I forsaken? Was God angry with me? I came to the end of myself. Pounded to the floor and then ground like powder, I came to the end of my faith. I cried out to God and refused to give up. I rejected these ugly lies. Feebly, I picked up the Bible and encouraged myself in the Lord. And I kept doing it, day after day with no visible sign that He’d even heard me.
Then, spring came.
Warm gentle breezes blew away the ice and snow. Sunshine kissed the earth and Sonshine kissed me. God reassured me. He’d heard me—in the darkest night—and stayed there in it with me. Lessons in spiritual maturity aren't easy. They’re not meant to be. It’s like body building. Muscles are built by resistance to force. The process is long and soreness comes with the territory. It’s interesting that we’re willing to go through all sorts of pain to gain a toned body, but are we as willing to go through emotional and mental pain to grow lean and mean spiritually?
We’ll all have to answer the question. As unpleasant as going through that dark time was, it has brought me closer to Christ. I know something of what it means to suffer with Him. If we’re ever to reign with Him, the privilege comes through suffering with Him. You’re not in it alone. Determine that you are willing to do whatever it takes to grow closer to Him. It is an act of your will. And remember, He will not fail you even when experience tells you otherwise.
Tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life. I start as the Director of Development at Cup of Cool Water, a ministry outreach for street kids. The sunshine is blinding as I step into the world of full time ministry.Thank You, Father for lessons, even the tough ones. Thank You, Father for remaining true to Your character and to Your Word.