Over the weekend just gone I have had some really joyous, God filled moments. The Presence of God tour came to Essex and the team from Relational Mission, our Apostolic Sphere in New Frontiers, led us in some really great times of worship, teaching and ministry.
On Sunday, however, I found myself slipping into a real pit of despair. After a Holy Spirit filled service where there was loads of good stuff happening, I was being attacked on all sides over every insecurity and weakness in me. I was being tempted by every little habit and weakness that keeps such a stubborn finger hold on my life and surface whenever I am under duress or feeling hurt and vulnerable. It was horrible, unexpected and very, very dark.
I did not understand what was going on and why I was feeling the way I was. I felt alone and isolated, fearful and weak, angry and wanting to swear with every word I know. So many other negative things were going on I felt overwhelmed and had to leave before I shouted at people.
Not very edifying, I know. But I share all of this because I believe that others will empathise from their own experience and, if you are in a nice light and rosy place at the moment, can pray for me.
In the midst of the darkness and hurt feelings I remembered the story of David when, as the leader of a group of rebel fighters, he found that things were not going well. The families and belongings of his whole band had been stolen and his men were grumbling about him. Things were in a dark and dangerous place. It says of David that he “found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6b).
So I turned to God. Feeling no lightening of spirit or any sense of rescue, I prayed and talked to God. I poured out my heart, telling my Father about all of the feelings and pain that were swimming around in my guts. The sense of injustice, isolation, incomprehension at my situation, and so much more.
I still felt nothing, but I talked to my Father all the same. Confessing and professing. Proclaiming the truths I know of His love and grace and power. Remembering the great mercy and grace he has shown to me and my family over the whole of my walk with him, I spoke the truths as I knew them and the thoughts as I felt them.
I felt no worse, but I felt no better. I spoke the truth but still had a bonfire of bleakness and anger in my chest.
I carried on praying for the rest of the day, trying hard to stand on the truths of the Bible and my faith even as I struggled to hold on in the storm. I prayed and cogitated late into the night. Even as I lay in our darkened bedroom, staring at the ceiling, I was seeking the face of my Father God. Yearning after His presence where everything else takes on its proper perspective and burdens are transformed.
I apologise if all of this sounds very bleak, but it is not. This is part of what John of the Cross, the 16th Century Spanish mystical writer, called ‘The Long Dark Night of the Soul”. When everything seems dark and God seems distant. Yet God is still God, my Father. Jesus is still Christ, my saviour. The Holy Spirit is still my comforter and friend. It is not the darkness that is important here… it is the reality of God! Whether I feel it or not, He is still Lord!
My desire is to be in His presence and to know Him. To know my God and be known by Him. The enemy does not want this to happen and my nature, suffering under the oppression of sin, (justified but still being sanctified) wrestles with my spirit for control of my soul – (I can’t think of another way to say it). And so I strengthen myself in the Lord my God.
It is God who rescued me from sin and a life lost in darkness and purposelessness. This God called me to follow him, wherever he might lead. He is my Father and provides for my every need, practical as well as spiritual (he has done so time and again and will this time too). It is this Father God of mine who holds my destiny, and that of my family, in the palm of His hand and will never… NEVER… let me go. He has shown Himself over the whole of my life to be faithful, loving and full of grace. My feeling may betray me… but I know the truth! No matter how many times I am distracted or turn my gaze away from His presence, He is right beside me. It is this Lord who lifts my feet out of the slimy pit and sets them upon a rock. He is the anchor in the storm, the foundation stone of my life and the Alpha and Omega of all creation. This is MY God!
I only want to be in His presence.
My soul may feel dark and that darkness may seem never ending, but I will walk with him through whatever it takes so that I can be in his presence. I will FOLLOW and I will NOT GIVE UP! This is my word and pledge.
Oh Lord… hear my cry. Please hear my cry! I cry out and I wait… Come Lord Jesus.