Christian, Faith, Fear, God, Health, Prayer, Trust, Uncategorized

Trusting God in the Dark

 

ultrasound machine

It felt like the walls were closing in. A dim, recessed bulb cast a faint ray of light from the ceiling. The only other illumination was the eerie glow from the high-tech machine just used to perform a test on me. I was alone, lying on a paper-covered exam table. A white towel covered the suspect part of my body and a medical gown barely covered the rest.

The unsmiling technician had routinely performed the test without emotion, lending neither comfort nor revelation. “I’m going to get the doctor to discuss the findings,” was all she said as she closed the door behind her.

I knew the specialist could walk in and announce that I had a deadly disease. I had waited weeks for this test after an earlier exam revealed something suspicious. Only in my thirties, fear clutched at my throat as I tried to brace myself for what could be the worst news of my life. I instinctively began praying: “God—where are you? Please help me not to be afraid. Please help me feel your peace.” Fear’s grip didn’t loosen, and I felt utterly alone. I prayed with more determination. “God, you say that you will never leave or forsake us. Please take away this fear!” Still, the calming sense of peace I cried out for refused to permeate the sterile environment.

The doctor arrived, and though he delivered good news, joy escaped me. I was exhausted from feeling as if I had borne the stress alone. And I was hurt and confused because God had not responded the way I thought he should. For several days afterward my faith was shaken. But gradually I began to see that the rattling was for my own good. My concept of God was being jostled right out of its tiny box.

After being a Christian for many years, I thought I knew God. I thought I could predict how he would respond to my cries for help. My experience in the exam room reminded me that God is much bigger than my understanding. While I rest secure in His goodness, faithfulness, and grace, His ways will always be higher than mine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and does what he deems best, even if at the moment it might not feel comfortable or “safe.”

C.S. Lewis captured this aspect of God in hisAslan portrayal of Aslan, the character who represents Christ in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver describes Aslan to the four children: “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

As I grappled with the dual concepts of God’s goodness and his untamable nature, some of the peace I craved in that dark room showed up. I learned that I cannot approach God with a vending machine mentality (insert prayer, immediately receive the answer to my specifications). I now realize that even though God didn’t instantaneously take away my fear when I asked Him to, it didn’t mean he wasn’t there. Psalm 34:15 confirms that “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.” He was there even when I couldn’t “feel” him.  He was there even when he didn’t act the way I thought he should. He heard my cry for help—but in his wisdom he allowed me to experience a situation that stretched my faith.   I learned the important lesson that I can never control God—only trust him.

In his book, “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer states, “We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing and what he is after. Always, and in everything he is wise. We shall see that hereafter even where we never saw it here. Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust his wisdom even when he leaves us in the dark.”

Like he did with me, in that exam room. It was right where I needed to be.

6 thoughts on “Trusting God in the Dark”

  1. Thanks again for sharing. Very well-written and expressed. Thank you for your vulnerability here. I “amen” what you’ve shared–it is the difficulty of living by faith and not by sight. And, erroneously thinking that God should “fix” all problems and difficulties. So thank you for sharing that He won’t necessarily fix them, but He will always be with us in them, and walk with us to deeper understanding of who He is. Thank you for sharing this reminder of such a foundational truth to walking in this life with God.

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  2. these kinds of thoughts and struggles give me a deeper appreciation for Lam 3:19-36 in the Message Bible.
    In one way, it’s scary for me…but I’m thankful for Him…and Him.

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  3. Kelly C, Thanks for sharing the reference to the Lamentations passage. I love the part about “keeping a grip on hope.” Here it is for readers who may not have access to the Message paraphrase of the Bible:
    “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope,quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take,go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.” Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way: Stomping down hard on luckless prisoners, refusing justice to victims in the court of High God,
    tampering with evidence—the Master does not approve of such things.”

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  4. I really like how you used the concept of the vending machine. Yes, I’m guilty of that as well. I’m struggling with a couple unanswered prayers (not life or death things by any means) but still puzzled why these prayers haven’t been answered to my liking yet. But I’m sure whatever HE has in store for these prayers is way better than I imagined and I’ll say then what a great sense of humor the Lord has!

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