Dealing With the Darkness: Remaining. Remembering. Choosing.
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15 NIV
Victory’s Waiting on the Other Side
It’s tough to be where you are right now. Your life has come to a halt; maybe a slow dragging stop or maybe a screeching halt. Now you’re in the dark days of life’s doldrums and you want out. God’s people have always wanted out of hard times times, but He’s got a purpose for you there.
Israel spent forty years in the wilderness wondering around waiting on God to move them to the Promised Land of Canaan. David spent years waiting to be king while being hated and pursued by a passive-aggressive King Saul. Elijah ran to a cave and felt he was the last man standing. Even our Lord asked His Father, “Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me.” Paul was in the desert preparing for ministry for, some say up to thirteen years. Biblical characters were no strangers to life’s doldrums.
And you’re not either. Now. The loss of a child. A marriage failed. A partner unfaithful. A church split. Bankruptcy. Downsizing. Sickness. Bill collectors. Or the death of a parent. All can put us into the doldrums, and no matter how hard we try to get out, we seem stuck. We feel destined to live a life of solitary misery while others move forward with their lives.
But just as was the case in each one of those Biblical characters lives, God has a reason for you to be where you are right now — in doubt, struggle, pain, and suffering the heat and breathlessness of the spiritual doldrums.
But you don’t have to stay here forever. Three days after Jesus prayed the prayer I mentioned above, Our Loving Father raised Him from the dead. Paul went on to serve God faithfully and wrote most of the New Testament. Elijah was and is known by all, Jewish and Christian, to be one of God’s choicest prophets of old. David is far and away the greatest king that ever ruled in Israel.
How can you go on to serve God victoriously? It is indeed possible. Let’s look at some steps that you can take to find God’s way out.
Jesus said in John 15, “Abide in me.” The word translated in the New American Standard as “abide,” really could be translated “remain.” Jesus is saying, “Remain in me and I in you, for apart from me you can do nothing.” “Stay in me, don’t run off!”
Right now you may be thinking that God is a million miles away. I know the feeling. This is the time for what Brennan Manning called “ruthless trust.” This is a trust that is “ruthless” because everything within you says, “Give up! You’ve failed! You’re useless! Your worthless! Your finished!”
The Devil is known as a liar, a deceiver, a blinder, a devourer, and an accuser. He will lie to deceive you. He will blind you to God’s grace in the midst of your struggle. He will devour you with his accusing attacks; and, as Father Richard Rohr mentioned recently in a video that The Work of the People recently posted to Facebook, we always lean toward believing the negative over the positive (see The Work of the People’s Facebook page. The post is dated March 31, 2015 and is entitled “Avoiding Resurrection and Choosing Hell.”) There’s just something about us that leans in the direction of darkness. It’s simply easier.
I plead with you — Remain! Ruthlessly trust God! Commit you way to Him even when He seems to be no where in sight. In time He will come to you. At times He will grant you consolations. Before too long you’ll be in the light of day once again!
Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are repeatedly called by God to “remember.” Over and over again the Hebrew word for “remember” appears as a command to Israel. We are to recount God’s past engagement with us, so that we can express confident trust that He will work now — even through the tough days.
Paul said it best I think. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rm 8:28 NIV). And again in 2 Timothy 1:12 “…I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (NASB).
What are the four most significant words to you from these two verses right now? Here they are: “we know” and “I know.” Knowing brings positive assurance of God’s love and your worthiness of it.
Undoubtedly, knowing brings great confidence, especially in the worst of times, that God’s love will not allow anything into our lives that will not work for good. Then, knowing brings great assurance that He will guard us through it as we entrust ourselves to Him.
Remember not only how God worked in your past, but that He will bring good to you through this painful time, and that you can entrust yourself to Him without question.
In the passage that I quoted at the beginning of this post Joshua challenges Israel to make a choice. He gives them a choice. You’ve got a choice right now.
Some of you are considering the choice of divorce because your spouse has been unfaithful. Some of you are considering leaving the church behind because of the constant undercurrent of ungodly backbiting, gossip, division, jockeying for control, power struggles, and sometimes just plain meanness. There may be a few who are even considering suicide. You just want the pain to be over and you can’t think of any other way out.
As Israel had a free choice to pick a god from the surrounding nations, or to pick Yahweh, the God is Israel; so you have a choice right now. Your choice will either put you in a place where God can give you tremendous victory, or you can go your own way and try “to find life apart from God,” as Dr. Larry Crabb put it when I studied under him in seminary.
The Road Less Travelled.
Remain or Go? Remember or Reject? Choose God or Choose Your Own Path?
To be honest with you, today most choose to go not stay, to reject not remember, and to do their own thing rather than choose God. It’s just easier in our post-Christian culture, just like it is easier to think negatively. You may want to think about this too: It may not be God who’s put you where you are now. It may be that you’ve put yourself there through your own poor choices.
As Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The road “less traveled” will make “all the difference!”
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Pastor Mark Booth
Copyright by Pastor Mark Booth