the Water of Life comes only from Jesus

Archive for February, 2017

The Valley

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time now, but I’ve been putting it off, because this post isn’t pretty. It isn’t happy. It will be honest, and that scares me. I don’t know if anyone will find inspiration in it, but here goes.

I’ve been in some very dark places lately, darker than any other time in my life. And the more I talk to others, the more I find I’m not alone. One dear friend of mine explained it as going through a dark tunnel; before, when they had experienced these times of darkness, they were always able to see the light at the end, to hold onto hope. They were always able to remember that everything has a purpose, and to eventually find that purpose in each trial and season. But this time, the tunnel seems to just go on and on, with no light, no reprieve, no hope; only darkness, only questions with no answers. I found myself heartily agreeing.

I have spoken to others who, like me, have found themselves in a storm like no other storm before. This season in my life, this storm, has threatened the very foundation of my faith, shaking everything within me down to rubble until I am left wondering what I was building in the first place, or why. I am left holding onto words which seemed so helpful and hopeful before, but which now seem weak and flimsy in the face of this much torment. In this way, I have become like Job.

And Job said,
“Let the day perish on which I was born…
For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water…
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.” (Ch. 3, ESV)

I have even been angry with God, as have many of the Psalmists (see Psalm 13). Many Christians are familiar with Lamentations 3:21-23, but I am lately more acquainted with the preceding verses:

He has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long…
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:2-3, 17-18, ESV)

Some days, it’s a chore to continue reading until I reach the hopeful verses. Despite my misery and my fear, I am holding on with the last shred of my strength to this one truth: God is still God. Some days, I believe He’s good. Other days, I believe He’s there. But today, I remember that I’m not alone.

“In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world. [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.” (John 16:33, AMP)

Jesus promised there would be tribulation. I like this version because I think most of us typically view this familiar verse in terms of persecution, but here it seems Jesus is talking about all kinds of trouble. Emotional distress. Physical suffering. Fear, anger, depression, confusion, uncertainty. These things will happen. Jesus himself experienced these things; in fact, he said these famous lines not long before his betrayal and arrest. Some days we have great faith; we can walk on the water in the midst of the storm, as Peter did (Matt. 14:29). And some days, we are like the disciples crying out to Jesus in the midst of a great storm, “Don’t you care that we are dying?!” (Mark 4:38). The storm always breaks, and the sun always returns. But some days it’s bitter trying to believe again the words of hope that were so sweet in the past.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam. 3:19-24)

There are numerous stories in the Bible about people who wanted to quit, people who didn’t understand, people who were downright angry with the way God was doing things–Jeremiah and his scribe, Elijah, David, Jonah, Moses, Abraham, Thomas, Paul–and God did not forsake them. Often, He was gracious to them, as when Elijah fled into the desert (1 Kings 19).  We can be honest with God, because He can take it. He knows our hearts. He doesn’t give up on us, even if we give up on Him. In the modern film adaption of The Count of Monte Cristo, the main character laments that he can’t fill the request of his dying friend because he doesn’t believe in God, to which his friend replies, “That doesn’t matter; He believes in you.” God always has hope for us, even and especially when we don’t have it for ourselves.

Some days I do have hope for this life. But most days lately, the hope I cling to is the only eternal hope: Jesus is king. He’s already won.
One day the darkness will pass away.
And in the meantime, we are not ever alone.

tolkien_hope

For further reading, I recommend Psalm 42.

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