I set my alarm this morning, determined to have a few quiet moments with the Lord in His Word before Jamie gets up. Even as I type that, the anxiety swells inside me. I used to be the type of person who spent at least an hour every morning pouring over the Word and prayer. After my older kids left for school, I had hours before my young daughter woke up. Perfect time to spend with the Lord. But that was then, this is now. And things have changed.
I’ve blamed this change on Jamie – my energetic rooster of a boy who rises well before dawn. But, in truth, Jamie is only one factor. Albeit, a bossy one. This morning, he woke up (as usual), and I put him back to bed. I reset my alarm to give him a little time to fall back to sleep. As I lay there, contemplating (and possibly pouting) about how difficult it is to slip past Jamie, I sensed the Lord’s presence. The words of a song arose, and without realizing it, my spirit was already in worship. God made it clear to me that I’ve been too easily defeated by my rambunctious son. Too often, I’ve taken the lazy way out, conceding all is lost once Jamie is awake. Today, I felt the Lord impress me with my need to be more authoritative in carving out time for Him. I need to stop using Jamie’s strong personality as an excuse, and letting him steamroll me.
Why was I allowing this? I started to sense there were deeper reasons for my retreat from God. Maybe I feared going further because the way had gotten steep, narrow, and painful. Very painful. I definitely had skin in the game, and the scars to prove it. God was revealing all this to me as I lay in the dark, waiting for the chance to turn on the light, hoping Jamie would fall back to sleep before I lost the desire to truly see.
There are treasures in the darkness when we are willing to search them out. I was grateful this morning for my newfound willingness to ask the tough questions, and wait to hear the response. God rewarded my perseverance. Jamie did sleep, and I got to read a whole selection of passages, including cross-references and study notes. Oh, the riches of His glorious grace!
In my reading, I discovered the disillusionment of another follower of Christ. John the Baptist faltered in his faith. The study note said this was “surely aggravated by his being in prison”. John was alone, in the dark of a prison cell, when he began to doubt. This was not how he had envisioned things would go with the coming of the Messiah. He was having a “how did I get here” moment. He must have wondered if he had gotten something wrong, which I totally identified with. He questioned so much, he sent a couple disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:18).
Hard question, don’t you think? He was pretty much confessing his lack of faith….to Jesus. That took courage. But we get desperate in the dark. We need answers, and quickly, because our spirits are fainting.
Jesus did not admonish John. He didn’t rake him over the coals for asking the question, or being honest about where he was. Jesus simply pointed to the evidence. “Tell John the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear……blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Luke 7:22, 23).
Wait, what does that last part mean? The ESV says it this way, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me”.
To take offense means, “to feel hurt, angry, resentful, insulted”.
John clearly could have taken offense. Had he not been faithful to his calling? Why was he in prison? Why did Jesus not protect him, or rescue him from the situation? Hard questions. Even harder when the answers you wanted don’t come. Let us remember John the Baptist was beheaded shortly after this. Lost his head, and his life, to gain the eternal life that cannot be taken. Because John believed in the evidence, and in the One who had come. John believed in God’s Kingdom come, even as He waited in the dark for its final fulfillment.
John is not much different from us. We also profess our faith in Jesus and His coming Kingdom. We also sift through things not happening according to our plans, and are left with the hard questions, few answers, and this continuing darkness.
What I learned this morning in my darkness is that the True Light is already shining. If we are willing to ask the hard questions, to make an honest admission, He is quick to shine His light of truth. He reveals us to ourselves: where we are struggling, stumbling, faltering; and the deeper reasons for it. No one who truly walks with Christ does so without skin in the game, and scars to prove it. We might lose life and limb, but only to find the life that is truly life. This is what it means to be a partaker in Christ, the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. This is what Jesus meant when He said he must “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood” (John 6). And this is the point when so many take offense, and turn back.
Don’t fear your darkness, or let it become an excuse to distance yourself from God. Press into Him in the places you don’t understand, the places where you are tempted to doubt, or fall in defeat. Persevere, knowing that “we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:14). Be amazed when your spirit rises quickly to worship, and you hear His welcome whisper, “I give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).
Then, be swift to turn on your light and do what your faith requires. This is the essence of going deeper with God.