It’s funny how sometimes we build things up in our minds. We have our preconceived ideas of how something is supposed to happen…and then, more often than not, we watch as God completely crashes through them. The past few years have been, spiritually speaking, something like walking through a long dark tunnel; at a point in which I could no longer see the light from the opening behind me, nor the light at the end before me. Step after step I could see no end. I had supposed that when I did escape the darkness that there would be something like a dramatic symphony of revelation, and that I would see it coming from miles away to let me know I was almost there. I supposed that, upon stepping out of the tunnel, a multitude of heavenly hosts would surround me singing the hallelujah chorus and that I would emerge enlightened, and maybe spiritually elevated. I supposed.
So you can imagine my surprise then when the freedom came not through an act of grandeur, but rather a swift whisper. From the abyss of darkness I had taken one small step, the same way I had so many days before, and found myself blinking, suddenly blinded, beneath radiant sunlight; the mouth of the tunnel almost out of sight behind me. No gradual dawning or subtle prelude, but from pitch dark to fervent sunlight. Just like that. Triggered by one small blog post; a blog post that wasn’t even that profound, but that reminded me of the joy that can be found in getting back to basics. Rather than enlightened I felt reminded, and rather than spiritually elevated I felt spiritually grounded.
I believe that, over the course of the rest of my life, the Lord will continue to reveal the things He began to work in me during that period of silence and desperation. Today I want to share with you what He has chosen to show me now; the empowerment and joy that comes with choosing.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis wrote: “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Choice. It is a fiercely powerful gift.
There were many moments while in my tunnel where I crumpled to the ground in a near-hopeless heap, tear-stained and world-weary, and a voice in my head demanded that I make a choice. “Are you really going to keep doing this? You see how futile it is. There is no end. Maybe there was never a beginning. Maybe this is really all there is and you’re just being naive. Maybe you just imagined the light; maybe it was all a fabrication. You could always just quit now and stop begging for someone to answer you; someone who clearly isn’t even there. Are you really going to keep doing this?”
And when the sobs quieted and my legs steadied, against my common sense and my academic mind-frame, I whimpered “yes” and began to walk again. This occurred not just once as I had been hoping; hoping that my resolution, no matter how pitifully abashed, would result in my passing the test of faith and would be rewarded with the ending of the trial. It seemed that the test was, in fact, whether I’d continue to press on even after saying yes and still facing deafening silence. Over, and over, and over. Yes… yes…. yes.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord(…)?” (Romans 11:33-34)
I may never, in this world, know why the Lord chose the time He did to deliver me. Maybe He was teaching me to choose Him when all my feelings advised against it because I needed to learn that faith is not an emotion. Maybe it was because He wanted me to experience the amazing joy that comes with a solid, unmovable faith. Maybe the reason He had me endure those years of silence hasn’t been revealed yet. Maybe it won’t be for decades. I am simply trusting that His ways are better than mine, and I am reveling in the joy that has been unstopped in my heart, and putting feet to the wisdom the trial has afforded me. I am going to make my life one of intentional choice.
The enemy hates this new-found ability of mine. I know he does because he’s been pulling out his bag of tricks. He tried and tried and tried over the past week to steal my joy. Fear, worry, panic, distraction, pride (ouch), anger; one after the other he hurled them at me trying to loosen my grip on this beautiful treasure. My emotions have always been my weak spot, and so I almost expected that it would be the first place he attacked. After all, who would have thought that I would be able to look him dead in the eye and say “No. You can’t have it.” But I can. And I did. Instead of succumbing I chose joy. I choose to believe that He loves me, and that He will protect me. I refuse to allow myself to indulge in the what-if’s of life because they only breed anxiety and, for all its effort and energy, anxiety only serves to siphon life from me (and you), so I choose to love, and smile, and pray, and believe, and hope. Those choices beget joy, and joy in turn enables those choices.
So many people I love are stuck where I was. I hear the despair and desperation in their voices and their actions, and I want to cry to them “Choose Him!” No matter what the world tells you, or your emotions tell you, continue to choose. Deliberate and intentional – no matter how feeble or unstable you feel. It is our choice to continue to follow Him that will pave the road in our lives. When your soul is downcast and you begin to wonder, “what’s the point?” do not allow yourself to wallow there. Choose to act. Say yes, and then keep moving. Continue to obey, continue to serve, and continue to walk; even if the world and/or your emotions tell you not to. Though we may not see it yet joy and reward are being cultivated through our obedience; especially when we don’t feel like we want to.
Maybe that’s why it’s so dark; so that we learn that we cannot walk ourselves out of darkness, but that only our God can deliver us. And He will, because He promised He would.
If you aren’t in a season of darkness, Praise Him! Praise God for the light by which you see! All the more reason to choose a life filled with joy, and I encourage you that in doing so you will help sustain those close to you who are in a harder season. And if that’s you today, hang on, dear friend; the light is coming.
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:11-14