I’m learning a new lesson in God’s love and grace. It sucks.
For the past few months, I’ve been experiencing what some would refer to as “a dark night of the soul.” My mind and emotions are in deep turmoil. I often struggle to function at normal tasks. I’m constantly cycling between periods of anger, grief, and utter blankness. I can’t pray, can’t see more than an inch in front of me. It’s like I’m standing in a raging cyclone of snow, rain and hail. And in this time of desperate, extreme need, God is almost completely silent.
Except for these two words: “Just heal.”
“What does that mean, God? How do I do that?”
If you’re thinking that sounds like hell, you’re right. It’s hell of the worst kind. But…
In this hell, something is happening in my relationship with Christ. Something new and intimate and almost beyond words. I’m drawing close to Him in a new way. I’m discovering just how much He loves me–not because of what I do or say or feel or avoid, but simply because I am His creation. I’m coming to understand how much He suffered to redeem mankind, how deep His love goes, how free His grace is. It’s stunning. Beautiful. Unsettling.
See, I initially thought if I prayed hard enough, Jesus would just take me out of the cyclone. He would sweep in like a knight in shining armor and save me from such suffering. After all, this is what my faith tradition has taught me for years: if you just trust enough, everything will be ok and happiness is guaranteed. Instead, Jesus has stepped into the cyclone with me and taken me into His arms. So far, He hasn’t promised a thing: that the cyclone will cease, or that I will find healing, or that there will be a ministry for me after this. He’s just holding me while my heart hemorrhages with pain. In my darkest hours, I can feel His arms around me, cradling me, sustaining me with a strength I thought had been exhausted long ago.
This cup isn’t going to pass, but I don’t have to drink alone.
I’m currently going to counseling to help me sort out the chaos, and one of the sessions recently forced me to come face-to-face with a part of myself that I thought was dead and buried. It was a part of me that I had repeatedly crammed down into a little box and hidden away, a little piece of my heart that didn’t fit nicely with my theology or the identity I had created. And when I finally opened that box and saw what was in there, and that it wasn’t dead after all, I felt anguish. I asked God why–why He had allowed this. His response?
“So you can learn grace. I made you, and I love you–all of you. You will never be separated from my love. Learn to walk in my love and grace.”
Here we go. Wobbly steps. With hands high and tears streaming down.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)
Since entering this time of darkness, I have learned to worship like never before. Before, worship was almost a chore. Something I had to work up to. But now, my heart is wide open. I go to the throne to embrace the One I love and the One who loves me. I go thinking, “I just want to show you that love you, Jesus, for the next 20 minutes.” I reach out for Him and find He’s closer than arm’s length. His presence floods my heart. There’s no direction, guidance, visions for the future, prophecy, goosebumps, or anything else generally associated with a life-altering encounter with Christ. Just the vast, constant flow of His love into this shattered vessel.