If you’re in a hard place right now, I can relate. The last four years have been the most difficult period of my entire life. We’ve experienced relational loss, financial stress, family difficulties, personal betrayals, and times of indescribable sadness. It’s been one of those seasons where trials seem ever-present and God, well, He seems conspicuously absent. Theologically, I know He’s present, and that’s what’s most important. But existentially, I’m getting very little.
The hardest parts have been the “goodbye’s”. Goodbye to a church we loved and I pastored for 27 years. Goodbye to a denomination we helped build and enjoyed for over 30 years. Goodbye to a part of the country I lived in for over 50 years. Goodbye to a son on 3 separate occasions who was deploying to Afghanistan.
My dark night of the soul moved right into the next day.
Ministry inevitably brings suffering. By the way that’s something you rarely read on the seminary websites. Typically, there is no class called “The Hurt and Heartbreak Of Pastoral Ministry”. But if you are planning on going into ministry, you’ll have some dark nights. They’re an occupational hazard.
Maybe you’re suffering in ministry right now. You’re dealing with a possible church split or the death of a beloved church member. Maybe you’re feeling like all the life and vitality has been sucked straight out of your soul. Maybe you’re enduring a barrage of criticism and anger. Maybe you feel like you can’t go on anymore.
I want to share with you a little something that has parted the mental shades with hopeful rays of gospel promise. It was written by Lauren A. Barter Snow and appears in a devotional classic entitled Streams in the Desert.
May it encourage any readers who stagger, hopeless, through their own darkness.
“This thing is from me.” (1 Kings 12:24)
“Life’s disappointments are veiled love’s appointments.”
Rev. C.A. Fox
My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory any storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have tread. It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head.
This thing is from ME.
Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you concerns Me too? For “he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye” (Zechariah 2:8). You are very precious in My sight (Isaiah 43:4). Therefore, it is My special delight to educate you.
I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the enemy ‘comes in like a flood,’ that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.
Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people that do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background? This thing is from Me. I am the God of circumstances. Thou camest not to thy place by accident, it is the very place God meant for thee.
Have you not asked to be made humble? See then, I have placed you in the very school where this lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working My will.
Are you in money difficulties? Is it hard to make both ends meet? This thing is from Me, for I am the purse-bearer and would have you draw from and depend upon Me. My supplies are limitless (Philippians 4:19). I would have you prove my promises. Let it not be said of you, “In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1:32).
Are you passing through a night of sorrow? This thing is from Me. I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I have let earthly comforters fail you that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness? This thing is from Me. I could not get your attention in your busy days and I wanted to teach you some of my deepest lessons. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Some of My greatest workers are those who are shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all-prayer.
This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil. Make use of it free, My child. Let every circumstance that arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your weakness be anointed with it. The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things.
“This is from Me”, the Savior said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
“for One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your father knows you have need of this,
Though, why perchance you cannot see. –
Grieve not for things you’ve seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee!”
Then, looking through my tears I plead,
“Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I’ll sing, ‘Whatever be
God’s way for me is always best.'”