“God has not being trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t.” C.S. Lewis
It has been awhile since I last sat down to write. I guess I felt like I had nothing of any real importance to share or maybe it was a bit of a pity party as I navigated these dark waters, often introspective. Trying to draw close to Him while also wandering off the path looking for other ways to self medicate. In that, the depth of a long buried brokeness becoming ever more apparent to my conscious mind….
A year ago this month, I unknowingly entered a season in what I like to call the “Shadowlands”. If we live long enough, we all enter her gates at one time or another. These seasons can often be related to love, loss, work, school, family, marriage, illness and death. The “what” of my time in this place (I am still here) is not as important as the “why”. God, in His sovereignty, love and grace has chosen to keep me here, for now. Some days are oppressive to the point of a real struggle against the spectre of depression, while others I am able to find refuge. I noticed my prayers have often gone from “big plan” prayers to “Lord, give me the strength to get through the day.” My simple goal was to get to bedtime and sleep, allowing me a brief respite….that is until sleep wouldn’t come. God would continue to remove crutches or illusions of security that I had put in things, relationships or individuals.
So what have I been learning through this season you may ask?
Where to begin?
You know all of the concepts that we the faithful followers of the Way will intellectualize lightly over coffee or a beer? I’ve learned how to implement those tactics in raw, moment by moment ways. I have voraciously thrown myself into the book of Psalms. Praying them out loud both for myself as well as a witness to the spirits that might be within earshot. When I discerned them, I rebuked demons in the name of Jesus. More often than not though I learned to sit in the midst of it, waiting on the Lord….By His grace, I have never lost trust in Him or what it is He is trying to accomplish through this.
Disrespected, set up, invalidated, unjustly accused. In the midst of this, no evidence to any wrongdoing ever appears. God has given me the wisdom and discernment to see traps being set for me. Even when I’m left to stand alone before those that would plan my exit, like Daniel before the lions, God silences them and shuts their mouths. I have long declared God Himself to be my refuge and strength. He fights for me, I just need to be still. In that, I cannot be broken….
I had lunch with my mom recently while I was in California and she said, “This is the strongest I’ve ever seen you.” A small but significant validation to me, of His purpose and a glimpse into what He continues to develop in me…in each of us who walk with Him. The Lord is a warrior after all (see Exodus 15:3). This is often an overlooked character trait of His and we being made in His image….shouldn’t we also expect to be trained as such?
“There’s a wildness in God’s mercy; I cannot find in my own.
And He keeps His fire burning, to melt this heart of stone.
Keeps me aching with a yearning; keeps me glad to have been caught;
in the wreckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.
Joy and sorrow are His ocean; and in their every ebb and flow:
Now the Lord a door has opened; that all hell could never close.
Here I’m tested and made worthy; tossed about but lifted up.
In the wreckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.” Rich Mullins
Depression and struggle combined with understanding and faith. He doesn’t always calm the seas and bring us right to the shore, but like a coach He’s there through the struggle, developing something deep within us. It may be something so far down that we would have a hard time understanding, describing or even truly perceiving it ourselves. So what do we do while we’re here? We’re honest in our prayers….“How long O Lord?”(Psalm 13:1). “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue…a strong fortress to save me.” (Psalm 31:1a and 2). We apply those intellectual faith concepts that we have in our heads…in real world ways and we learn to wait on Him. It may be days, months or years but we trust His ever-loving purpose. We pray for our enemies. This is tough but nevertheless we persevere in it. “Save them Lord. Create in them a clean heart and renew a right spirit within them.”
“You cannot comprehend the deepest love God has for you until you realize that He has that same love for the person or people you most despise.”
So here I sit. Maybe this season ends tomorrow. Maybe not. Through it all, I am not abandoned. He is with me even when He is silent. I trust. I love others. I refuse to allow bitterness a foothold. I push on. I am faithful. And if you find yourself in a similar place? You do the same, my friend.
“The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 118:6