Yancey interviewed lots of people facing extremely difficult circumstances. With some, their faith grew deeper and stronger because of the struggles. With others their faith hit rock bottom like a ship broken apart struck by the turbulent waves of their circumstances, the weight of pain and heartache sent their faith to the depths of the sea along with their dreams. What is it that keeps one tenaciously holding on to an unseen God, believing He is there in the darkest night of the soul, and others who let go of the rope that tethers them to Him?
I found the book to be very thought provoking. The first part of the book was written from God’s point of view. I had to stop several times just to reflect on the reality of God’s plan, his desires, his longings that brought him to a place to create us when he knew exactly what we would do, turn our back on him, reject him and do things our own way. We seem to think we know better. How foolish of us. And remind me…what is forgiveness? “The willingness to accept the consequences and pain from another’s actions and not hold it to their account.” And he offered his body on a cross to make this a reality for me!
I forget that I have a limited and short sighted perspective. It was the end of July, and I was riding in the back seat with my 11 year-old grandson sitting next to me. We were at the coast and the conversation turned to how many more houses are on sale this year than last year. Grandson, says, “I know why there are more houses for sale now; it’s time to go back to school!” “Okay,” I think. I suppose I could try to explain to him the tedious endeavor of buying and selling a house, and/or the reality that houses typically are not bought and sold based on school ending or beginning. I further reasoned that he would not really grasp all this information anyway, and I would probably not enlighten him at all about the process. My thoughts continued: I could, as he matured, expound on the process of buying and selling a house. I continued to sit, having this conversation in my head, when God interrupted my thoughts and said, “Carol, do you realize there have been times when I didn’t give you information because you could not possibly comprehend what I am doing, or what I have in mind. But at a later time when you could understand I did impart information to you, but in the meantime, You, my dear, are my 11-year-old daughter with a limited and short-sighted view!” Whew! And I think sometimes I know! How many times have you thought you were grown, mature and capable? I am pulled up short when I realize I’m not. I am only capable in the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells me and makes all other things come to “life,” in my Spirit. He reminds me more these days that from God’s point of view, I am indeed the child; He is Father God…and I am not.
Then I must go back to what it is he is trying to teach me in the dark. There is a parable of a prisoner, sentenced to die. The captors took the prisoner to a cave and told him there was a way out if he could find it and freedom would be his. The cave was 100 yards by 100 yards. The man was blind-folded taken inside the cave and left. His only food would be bread and water, enough for 30 days, and they would lower it through a small hole in the ceiling at the south end. The man felt around and discovered some large boulders and formulated a plan. He began stacking them on top of one another, thinking he could make it high enough to get to the opening in the ceiling of the cave. He worked and worked and managed to get, what he thought was high enough. He climbed the tower he built, but it was not quite tall enough, he reached but fell; collapsed on the floor of the cave and died two days later. When his captors came in to retrieve his body the light that flooded in revealed an opening to the left of the tower the man built. It was a hole in the wall, an escape route, a tunnel of about 200 feet that led to the outside world and to freedom. This was the passage his captors told him about. Freedom was only 200 feet away! The man focused so intently on the light, and what he thought was right, that it never occurred to him to look for freedom in the darkness. Freedom was there all the time. Where the focus goes the energy flows! When we get so fixated on one idea and the one and only thing we think will make us feel better, we flounder around in the darkness of our pain never realizing the possibility that if we surrender and embrace the dark night of our soul, freedom of a different sort, might arise out of that darkness, just as when we walk into a dark room, our eyes must adjust to be able to see. Likewise if we sit and peer into the darkness, because we can't change out there, we can only change what is within. We might actually see the stars since they only shine in the darkness. It never occurs to us that we must embrace the darkness to find the light. Seeing the stars requires darkness as God’s ways are not our ways! Do you perhaps get so focused on your second order desire crumbling before your eyes, as sand through the hourglass, that you can’t see God wanting to give you something you may not even be aware you need or want, your first order desire…Himself?
So, back to our hard questions: what to do when we are up against a wall, and there are no options? The verse “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) comes to mind. God has a plan and a purpose for everything. If we know He is in the fiery furnace with us, but we continue to focus on how to get out (our second order desire) we miss out on our greater first order desire of our hearts…God Himself. Where the focus goes the energy flows. We are our own worst enemy.
I have been in the dark night, alone. When I’m lying on my back, and there is no place to look but up…then there is hope...
Romans 5:3-5 says: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and this hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
When we stop long enough to rest, yes, even in the dark, God is working to give us…proven character and hope that does not disappoint…Himself.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, for the help of His presence. Ps 42:5
Freedom comes in our surrender. Surrendering our second order dreams, and all that they embody, knowing that he is working to give us what we really long for, our first order desire which is far greater…Himself…the Great I Am.
Thanks for keeping me on the straight path...not building idols out of second order dreams.