Posts Tagged ‘Dark Night of the Soul’

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RESPONDING TO A BAD YEAR – Jan. 1

January 1, 2013

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” Psalm 72:18-19

This morning I have read many optimistic declarations for the coming year.  I think that it is wonderful that people are looking forward to a “great and amazing” 2013.  However, my sense is that many of these declarations are made in an almost mystical, power of positive thinking, type of manner.

What if you are not optimistic? Will your lack of positive thinking doom you?

What if 2012 has not been a “good” year as most would define it.  Last Sunday, my Church provided an opportunity for people to give testimonies of praise for what God has done for them throughout the year.  All of the praises were for God responding in  “good” ways.  There were no praises for the God’s peace in tragic loss of a child.  There were no praises for God’s strength while a spouse has to work away from home. There were no praises for God’s provision while being unemployed. There were no praises for God’s purpose when health is not restored. There were no praises for the “bad” things of unknown purpose and I know that there were some.  I almost gave a testimony to the “bad” things but fear of extemporaneous speaking in a new Church held me back.

I look back at 2012 and I am glad that it is gone.   I don’t look at this last year with fondness even though God has been so faithful to me and my family. My year feels like a period of grinding endurance.  I think it is a testimony that many may share.

I have not had to endure anything in comparison to some in 2012.  I have not experienced any deaths in my family; I have not been subjected to any violence; I have not been separated from my loved ones; I still have a home; I still have a job; I still have good relations with my family.  God has bestowed so many blessing upon me that I cannot even count them all.  Yet, I do feel like an Eeyore about 2012.  When I look at 2013, I feel like I am leaning into a harness preparing for a long pull.

What are we to do when we are not optimistic?

What is our response to struggles and disappointments when we lack understanding of their purpose?

When we don’t have answers, we must go back to what we do know.  We remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God; we remind ourselves of the goodness of the God; we remind ourselves that our treasures are not in this world; we remind ourselves that our Father knows how to give us good gifts; we remind ourselves that we are clay in the potter’s hands; we remind ourselves that God is still on His throne.

I don’t have answers for all the hurts in the world.  I don’t have an elixir of optimism. I only have my testimony.

This is what I wish I would have said on Sunday:

“My 2012 was bad. It was bad from an economic perspective. It was bad from a ministry perspective. I don’t know the reason I am walking through difficult and unstable economic conditions. I don’t know why the Church plant that I was part of for five years did not prosper and survive.  However, I praise God for these situations because of what they are revealing within me.

Cover of "Dark Night of the Soul"

Cover of Dark Night of the Soul

I believe that struggles and disappointments are part of a process that God uses to wean us from this world and ourselves. In the book Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, a metaphor is used that I have returned to many times.  It is a metaphor of a mother weaning a child. I have yet to see a child enjoy the process of being weaned from milk to solid food. Yet, we all know that it is a process that is vital to the maturity of a child.  Consider the process that God uses to cause us to mature in our faith. When we are “young” in our faith, we drink spiritual milk and have spiritual forms of security blankets, binkies, sippy cups, etc.  These crutches of our spiritual immaturity are habits and mindsets that support us when the roots of our faith are not deep.  We can linger just below the surface in this immature, supported state.  However, there is a danger to immaturity. Those with shallow roots of faith are in danger of falling away when real trouble comes. (Matt. 13:20-21)

God loves us too much to leave us with shallow roots even though growing roots can hurt.

I know that the reason 2012 was difficult and disturbing is not because God was absent or inactive in my life. It was not because He does not love me or want to use me. The reason that the 2012 was distressing is precisely because God is working – in a powerful, deep, and transformative way.

I am being liberated from seeking my security in my paycheck.

I am being liberated from seeking my identity in my job title.

I am being liberated from dictating how God can use me.

I am being liberated from my appetite for the praise and respect of men.

I am being liberated from my attaching of joy to circumstances.

I am being liberated from my pride.

This process of liberating my soul from my crutches of immaturity is a totally loving, healing, and compassionate act of my Father.  It would be an unloving Father, who would leave His son in perpetual immaturity and danger of falling away. God loves me too much to let my physical comfort get in the way of His Spirit maturing my soul.

I know that the process is not complete. I still don’t really understand what God is doing.  Most of His work is being done in hidden ways that I am not even aware of. I am not enjoying this process.  It is uncomfortable and I like to be comfortable.

The Lord knows how often I pray for a little break from being weaned.  He knows how many times I have cried out due to my discomfort. Yet, I have faith that he knows what is best for me; after all He is my Father and He is so very good.

Therefore, I praise God for 2012 and what is to come in 2013.  I praise God for the “good” things that He has given me. I also praise Him for loving me enough to give me “bad” things; “bad” things that in His wonderful hands are freeing me from attachments and compulsions that I struggle with or don’t even realized are holding me back.  I praise Him for loving me enough to disrupt my comfort and cause the roots of my faith to grow deep.  I praise Him for teaching me that my true freedom and comfort resides only in Him.

It is a wondrous thing that only He can do. Blessed be his glorious name for 2012 and 2013; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being so good to me.  Thank you for providing for me; thank you for taking care of my family and keeping us safe throughout this last year.  Thank you for all the blessings that you have given me.  Lord, forgive me for dwelling on the negatives and allowing the cynicism of my mind to condemn the good work that you are doing in me.  Forgive me for wanting to have control of my life and not trusting you as I should. Father, complete your work in me. Liberate me from my flesh so that I might be free to love you as I long to do. Lord, continue your work in me; don’t leave me as I am.  Amen

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