Saturday, July 30, 2011
(day thirty-seven) Help... it's dark in here!
There have been a few times in my life where i've experienced pockets of darkness or moments of hopelessness. A lot of those times happened to be on outreach when I was in a foreign land without the comforts, securities, and stabilities of home. Without someone's familiar words to guide me to the light, or someone else's hug to find warmth. I remember one specific time of complete discomfort and fear while I was in Bangladesh a few years ago. One particular day I felt sick and had to stay back at the ywam base alone. That was one of the longest days of my life. I vividly remember laying in my bunk surrounded by a mosquito net finding it hard to breath because of the thick hot stagnant air. It must've been a degree or two hotter than what I imagine hell would feel like; and the electricity, which kept the fans pushing hot stuffy air around the room, gave out on me. All I could hear, besides the thoughts of suffering in my head, where the repetitive and haunting sounds of the "call to prayer" blasting continuously on the loud distorted speakers no human ears could escape. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. To add to the irritating smell of death, I was having excruciating pain in my body in the form of fever and chills.
Ok, at this point you're probably thinking: "Lindsey, you are being a little over dramatic aren't you?" Perhaps I am, but this event stirred something deep within that hadn't been touched before and has only been grabbed once or twice since then. There is something at the depths of your soul that, when faced with potential death, has the choice to give up... or fight through. The fighting consists of the decision to simply stand in the face of adversity, know your purpose in this earth, and worship the LIVING God no matter the circumstances that surround you. This is the very moment hope begins to resurface... and when it does, boy... you hang on for dear life! To persevere means to: persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. No matter if we face trials or not (which we all do), we must ask ourselves this question: Who/what are we living for, and is it really worth it? I hope your answer is Jesus and if so the following answer should be yes. (If you're answer isn't Jesus, trust in God for your revelation of who He really is and He'll begin to reveal Himself to you in a mighty and loving way.) But how often do we rest comfortably at our sunday school answer before giving Him the chance He deserves to prove His worth to you?
Truth is, He proves it in His crazy love for us. (Before the cross, at the cross and since the cross) His love is proven in the testimony of thousands in the written word, and hundreds of thousands- if not millions- since then. Have we given God a chance to reveal this hope and show this love or have we given up when the going gets tough? Do we find it easy to "obey" Him when things are good and a little bit harder to follow Him in the dark? Truthfully, I found it very hard at times to find the security of His grip on my life during those difficult life-threatening situations, but that's when i had to TRUST He was there because He said He was and not because i felt Him.
I remember back in Bangladesh as I fought hard to understand through my tears and plea. I remember reaching that point of utter helplessness and inability to fix myself. At that moment, I pulled back my mosquito net (at this point the blood suckers were the least of my worries), crawled out from under my bunk, and fell face first in desperation before my King. Despite my pain; I chose to repent of anything unclean and beg for His love to consume and overwhelm me. I knew I must stand against the adversity- the very thing driving my flesh to cower and succumb- and DECLARE His goodness and promises. After a few hours of this, I used what strength I had left to pull my head up in hopes of some spiritual light or direction. The moment I did, something caught my attention through the tears. Wiping them away I realized it was a picture of Jesus hanging right above the window. I had been living in that room for days and hadn't noticed this picture before now. This little Bangla version of Jesus was God speaking loudly to me in that place. "I am here with you, and I will never leave you or forsake you." The waterworks started again uncontrollably as I recognized His gentle, loving, graceful, merciful, guiding hand on my life once again. I knew I'd never be the same.
Shortly after, my team members came in and found me on the floor in a puddle of tears. They scooped me up, showered me with His love, and helped restore my soul with His truth. I'll never ever forget that time in Bangladesh as long as I live and honestly I never want to. Something happened that awakened my soul and made my heart come alive. Extraordinary things happen when we make that decision to push through the dark place to see the hope on the other side. If a caterpillar chose to give up in the cocoon, it would never have the momentous victory of persevering nor the blessing of being able to experience the world from a completely different perspective. Not to mention the benefits of going from eating dirt to feasting on nectar! It would be giving up on it's makers intention for it as a beautiful butterfly flying high as a testimony for all of the other caterpillars to see and believe in.
I've had a small handful of dark times like that since then, but not one of them would I take back because of the sweetness of life that i gained and the majestic glory of God that I experienced. Looking back, I see how much more joy I have now because I believe in a God that rescues, restores, and redeems. George Mueller said it best, "If the Lord fails me at this time, it will be the first time." Many of you are in or have been in a "dark place" and I want to offer you courage and hope today. You may have been in this place for a short or long time, you may be taking something to numb the pain, or you may be battling with this on your own because you don't want to be a burden on anyone else. No matter your situation... I encourage you to push through with PRAISE. Especially if you don't feel it. Every time you declare His goodness in your lack, the strongholds of the enemy are retreating and releasing their grip in your life. Living in the darkness should never be a place to set up camp, but a wilderness to walk through knowing there is freedom, hope and healing on the outer edge. No matter how hard it might get; we must not undermine God's authority, deny His power, or fail to recognize His love.
I know it's tough living in this fallen world in fallen bodies where the enemy loves to play... but we cannot forget who has already won and that we have the amazing opportunity to start living in the kingdom of heaven on earth today! We CAN experience joy through the pain and sorrow. We CAN have hope and give it to others even in our darkest hours. We can live to the fullest right where we are! The enemy may have a plan of destruction, but our God has a plan of redemption... and has already caught the enemy in the very trap he tried to set for us. God is omnipresent and all powerful, the enemy is not.
B90: (Esther 5- Job 12:25) Whether you are reading along with the 90 day challengers or not, I recommend reading this whole section today. At the very least take a look at Esther Ch. 6 & 7 with me real quick. To catch you up to speed, there is a guy name Haman who has it out for Mordecai (Queen Esther's cousin/adopted dad). Because of a few instances with Mordecai and lots of pride, Haman decided to wipe out all the jews throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus. Death was literally knocking at Mordecai's (and the rest of the jews) door. Haman had the plot and was building the very gallows to hang him. So what did they do? Esther, Mordecai and their people fasted and prayed for 3 days. Ok, now here's where it gets REALLY good.
Esther invites Haman over for dinner and in the meantime the King finds evidence of Mordecai's honor. Then he ends up asking Haman how He should go about showing honor to someone he delights in. Well, Haman can't help but thing it's himself so He starts listing off all of the ways He would just looooove to be honored. Then to his surprise, the king announces his delight in Mordecai and to top it off asks Haman to be the one to show him!!! "Leaving out nothing that he had mentioned." Hilarious! I imagine he was pretty mortified. (If Ashton Kutcher were there He may have coined the term, "Ah, you've just been Mordecai'd!" Haha.) So when the king finds out Haman's plot... He ends up hanging Him on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai's death. Hmmmm, is this sounding familiar yet?
And as if we didn't have enough trouble to keep us busy tonight, Job enters the scene. I know most of us (christian or non-christian) are pretty familiar with this story, but there are several things i'd love to point out. Ok so it's attack, attack, attack... then job wishes he were never born... then his friends enter the picture. I love this little nugget of truth Eliphaz throws out there in Ch. 4, "is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity or your ways your hope?" This is one of those things that stuck out to me during that dark place in Bangladesh. And then in this moment when Bildad speaks prophetically over Job, "And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great." And as He pours hope and life into His broken brother in Ch. 8: 19-22, just like my friends have done for me in those dark places. Lastly read over a few of Zophar's words in Ch.11 :13-20. These are some amazing things to reflect on those times when you find yourself there.
We'll continue to walk through Job tomorrow, but I pray you've found some tangible hope for today :) Love you all. Goodnight.
P.s. If you truly are having a difficult time finding a way out of the "dark place", please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so i can be personally praying for you. I'd also love to share some the things that helped me through!