I’ve heard from several of you how this past weekend’s message resonated with your experience. For one of you it was the inevitability of tragedy. For another, it was recognizing the preparedness that God gives. Also, of course, there were many of you who have experienced the joy (gladness) that comes on the other side of the valley of sorrow. What I didn’t hear was anyone tell me that they can’t relate to anything that came out of the message. I wonder, today, if there isn’t some who heard the words of Jesus, listened to my explanation and application of them, and then left without being able to relate at all. I suspect so, and that’s what I want to write about today.
I believe that there are some of you reading this who are right in the middle of the valley of sorrow, doubt, pain, dismay, anger, or just numbness. You don’t see how God has prepared you, and it doesn’t seem to help that you are a child of God, a friend of Jesus, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. For you, the emotion of the present is too powerful to be overcome by understanding. In other words, truth isn’t enough right now. Now, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that truth will never be sufficient. I’m certain there have been times in your life in the past where a revelation about God brought you through a difficult time. I know, also, that this will be the case at some point in the future. It’s just that right now knowledge is not cutting it. What do you do when you read, understand, and apply the truth of God, but find yourself unchanged in any way, outside or inside?
Before we go there, some of you are asking how this could even be the case. How could someone ever genuinely encounter the revelation of God and not be changed, not be moved? I’ve even said from the pulpit that we should not, and need not, ever leave a time in God’s Word unchanged or unaffected. And yet it happens. I believe it happened this weekend with some who are reading this. No, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular, don’t worry. I’m just operating on a hunch; I believe it’s a God-given hunch. You came to worship, you were open to what God wanted to speak to you during a difficult time in your life, and you left with a sense of unchanged despondency.
The first thing I want to say about this is that I know it happens. I’ve talked to people in this place. It’s important to acknowledge that this situation exists. Perhaps those of you reading this who aren’t in this place right now can remember a time when you were. This is where Job spent the majority of the time that we read about in Scripture. God is generally not silent, true, but sometimes He is. Sometimes He doesn’t speak to us. Sometimes He doesn’t answer with a yes OR a no. We can call silence an answer, but it doesn’t really feel like one when you’re the recipient of it.
The second thing I want to say is hang on. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t relent. Keep pursuing God until He does answer. Keep knocking; keep seeking. Be like the impudent friend whom Jesus used as an example of how we are supposed to relentlessly beg God for what we need:
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? -Luke 11:5-12
The final thing, and this is the crux of the matter, what is it that you need? What is it that you could possibly lack? You have been born again; you are a child of God, you have forgiveness, eternal life, and all the promises of Scripture. What else is there? Perhaps, what you are lacking is power. Maybe you need a personal Pentecost. Put another way, maybe you need the Holy Spirit to move you with His power.
I don’t think its coincidence that Jesus ends the above dialogue with his disciples concerning persistent prayer by saying:
13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” -Luke 11:13
Of all the things that Jesus could use as an example of what the Father is wanting to give, He points to the giving of the Holy Spirit. For those of you who are in the valley of confusion, and you find yourself perplexed, pray for God to pour out His Spirit on you and, like David, lift you out of the miry clay.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Notice that the only thing David did was cry out patiently to God. Why would patience have been required if God turned immediately? It wouldn’t have. Yet once He did turn, He also did all the work. God lifted David out of the slimy pit. God set his feet on a rock. God gave him a firm place to stand. And God put a new song in his mouth. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, only He can lift us, stand us up, and put a new song in our hearts.
Maybe you need to get on your face today and beg God to send His spirit and do a supernatural work in your heart; a work that only He can do. Maybe you need to keep getting on your face every day until He turns to you and responds. Maybe.
To God Be the Glory, great things He has done, is doing, and will do.
In the battle with you,
P.S. If there is unconfessed sin in your life, God may reveal it to you as you cry out to Him. Don’t ignore it. Deal with it immediately. Nothing hinders the power of the Holy Spirit like sin.