“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I can’t tell you how many times I have turned to this scripture when I have felt that the ‘waters’ would overwhelm me! Those times when I felt like I was emotionally, physically, or spiritually sinking beneath the surface. I expect most of us have experienced similar sensations.
Like the time you find out that your spouse is unfaithful to you. The times when you have been without work and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. The times when you have no place to live so you’re literally in a tent. Times when a wayward child ends up in jail, their life is threatened, or they overdose on drugs. Times of abuse and violence. Or perhaps your child has been diagnosed with a serious illness or disease. The loss or a loved one. Times of living through a disaster, or for some of you a war.
Life is filled with times of trial and discouragement. It is how we navigate through these times that builds reliance in our lives. I used to resent the line: “What doesn’t kill you makes you strong.” I found it offensive and insensitive. But, you know, looking back on my life at the many times I’ve been sinking and felt like I was dying, either physically or emotionally, I can see how those challenges have made me stronger, more resilient. It’s not just the challenges themselves, but rather how we perceive them and how we choose to deal with them.
I have been through at least five dark nights of the soul; the first during a time in my childhood; the second in my mid 30s; the next in my late 40s; then in my mid 50s; and the last when I turned 60. Most of these times were years in duration.
I’d like to say that I handled each one well, holding on to God’s word, never wavering from the truth of His love and remaining steadfast, but I’d be lying. Some of these storms I weathered better than others. The first one, I questioned: “was there a God” and even as a child, He answered me. The next one I leaned on Jesus for strength and understanding and felt His great peace in the midst of my pain. The third dark night of the soul I quarreled with God – a lot – before I realized the more I did that, the darker it felt: I couldn’t find peace in the quarreling.
But the next one, was the longest. It was the one where I chose to become angry with God. I had been faithful, I had prayed, I had fasted, I had done everything I could do, and yet He allowed the very thing that I had begged him not to allow to happen. Something that I had absolutely no control over. For three years, I struggled. It was a challenge to read my Bible or to pray. My relationship with God and others deteriorated. I was in the middle of completing my Ph.D and it just didn’t seem fair that God would allow such sorrow and heartache when everything I was doing was in answer to His call on my life.
The last one, just a few years ago, also involved deep emotional pain, rejection as I had never known it coming seemingly out of nowhere. I could feel myself swirling the vortex of the riptide. It was threatening to pull me down, but this time I refused to let go of God. I held tightly onto Him. Only in Him could I make sense of it all. I kept my head above the water and chose to deal with my hurt and pain. It was in this place that I found the ‘secret’ to success when the waters threatened to swallow me: give up! Quit struggling, learning to rest in His peace; learning to float.
I can truly say that each of these experiences, while not welcomed, were indeed steps to greater understanding, wholeness, and maturity.
So this brings me to the present day. I find I am again struggling, but this time in a different manner, and it is by no means a ‘dark night of the soul’.’
I am struggling with the cultural mantra “Stay Safe!” In fact, if I’m honest, I feel angry about the slogan. As a Christian, I have looked for a place where scripture tells us to “Stay Safe”, but alas, it is not to be found. Life is not about being safe – it’s about taking risks, from infancy to old age. I believe that you’re not really living if you don’t take risks. You take a risk every time you get in your car, walk to the corner store, fall in love, or try a new sport.
Life is about taking personal responsibility. About making choices and being accountable. For the Christian, we are called to be Strong and Courageous. We are called to the fight for righteousness, holiness, and wholesomeness. We are called to expose the works of darkness by walking in the Light of Jesus and to make disciples.
We are challenged to Fear Not, in any circumstance, yet I am finding that in these days, Christians are filled with fear. They have allowed themselves to become hooked on media distortions rather than the truth of God’s Word. Whenever we look to the circumstances surrounding us, we will go into fear. It’s time to look past the circumstances – the fear of Covid 19 – and look to Jesus for peace. We have become so afraid of disease and death, we no longer know how to live. It’s time to once again place our faith in Jesus.
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die,
we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord,
May we all Stand Firm Walk Cautiously & Live Courageously