Not quite two years ago, during a time I was desperately seeking answers to the “what the heck am I supposed to be doing” question, a group of folks from our church in OK gathered around to pray over me. I remember almost every word spoken that morning, seeing as I tend to pay closer attention when I’m broken and in need of encouragement, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver. They spoke words of hope, of comfort. They asked God to give us clarity and direction. They pointed my head, and heart, upwards towards Jesus.
Yeah, there were tears.
All were timely and encouraging prayers, and all very much a blessing. Yet there was one, in particular, which stood out and, quite honestly, sort of terrified me. As he was praying for me, one brother said he saw me dressed like a miner, complete with the hard hat, the helmet light, pick-ax, and other accouterments of the trade. I was going down, down, down into some deep darkness, down into places filled with all kinds of ugly stuff–but in the midst of this darkness, I was digging up beautiful things: gold, jewels, precious stones.
That one struck me, not least because there was a definite dark side to it. What did it mean?
A few months later, after I started work in oil and gas, this call came to mind and I thought “that’s it!” I mean, I wear a hard hat, right? I work in the oil industry, which entails pulling dark stuff out of the ground and turning it into good things, right? Nevermind my company does all our work above ground and have nothing to do with the actual drilling. I figured that had to be what my friend saw that day.
Now, however, I’m not so inclined to believe it was. Rather than the literal, physical world, I think he saw a glimpse of what the Holy Spirit was going to be doing in my heart. I think the darkness was the stuff I didn’t want to think about nor even consider delving into, but nevertheless, it was where the Lord was going to take me over the course of the days, weeks, and months to come.
The year known as 2018 was tough, especially so during the last half. Internally, those waning days of the year were incredibly hard. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the sheer magnitude of doubt, anger, fear, worry, sadness, and depression as I did during this season. There were long stretches of…darkness. There really isn’t a better word for it. I struggled to keep my head lifted, in spite of the immensity of blessing around me: the love of and time with my family, a good job, new friends, a great church.
Many days, I did not open my Bible, and when I did, it seemed to be just black on white, words on a page. I struggled to pray, the words just not coming or, when they did, typically filled with foolish, childish ranting and complaining. When I did read and pray, silence…nothing. From the veritable mountaintop of two years ago, when every page of Scripture seemed to be speaking directly to me, to us, down to the depths of…whatever this was? The words of David in Psalm 13 seemed penned for me:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?Psalm 13:1-2
That prayed over me those many months ago came flooding back this week: I was going down into the darkness, dealing with some really hard stuff, but would end up pulling out beautiful things. Far from the lie I was believing, the lie that I was far from Jesus, the reality is Jesus was and is right here with me, even in the darkness. Did not the incarnation show us this? It tells us that He who is perfect, completely and utterly holy and dwelling in unapproachable light is willing to draw near to us, to all our brokenness, to all our deepest hurt?
So often, we despise the hard times, the valley, the shadow, and quite rightly–it wasn’t meant to be this way. And yet, so often, so very frustratingly often, in this broken world, it is in the hard times, the valley, the shadow, the depths, where we truly encounter God. I hate it’s this way. Yet it seems there is something God can do when we are in the depths which we simply can not, or perhaps will not, receive any other way. It’s an age-old truth, isn’t it? We appreciate things more when they cost us, personally. We cherish the hard-won prize all the more. As the Valley of Vision puts it, it’s in the depths that we can see Him in the heights.
It’s funny: we wrote about Jacob and Bethel quite often early in our journey. I wonder why I thought I could have the “Bethel” aspect without the angel wrestling? Why shouldn’t I have a limp to remind me of my battles with Him? Sometimes it takes the dark to show you just how wonderful the light truly is.