Have you ever cried out to the Lord in distress? Often in Psalms David is crying out to God. “Hear my cry O Lord, listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faith; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps 61:1-2). This is a call I made recently from a place of darkness and close to despair. I felt like the men caught in the mine collapse, waiting for the air to run out or for someone to rescue them. I think of the Chilean mine disaster. Psalm 20 begins, “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress.”
For me, it was an intense two years under the pressure of the collapse of a church that consummated in the summary firing of all the pastoral staff except me. The two years I served had been ones growing slowly into darkness and tension as many turned against the pastor and gossiped to cause cracks, fissures in his ministry and His church. For what? That God’s church would bleed? That individuals would despair and leave? That the church would split? I don’t know, but all and more transpired. It is the evil one’s desire for such splits in churches and his people.
During this interim period, my faith and strength waned and darkness grew, as there was not only no encouragement, but also estrangement from the familiar and all my moorings. I grew into depression, crying out to God and seeking help from a godly Christian counselor for light.
My darkness grew until I reached a place where I was despairing of my life and wanted a way out. I don’t know if any of you have been there? It is a surreal, painful passion of the heart and mind that does not find light or direction even as you seek the Lord. This is a dark and deep tunnel, a mineshaft.
In a disastrous time, all the pastoral staff was forced out except me. I was numb, overwhelmed. I prayed for guidance. God seemed silent, but also seemed to be saying, “stay for the survivors.”
Through the following months, I stayed, submitted and remained under the strain. I served in pain and anxiety, fearing for life. I preached, counseled, visited hospitals and presided at funerals. But not until Pentecost did the dark become light. As I stood in the front row of our sanctuary during Sunday services almost in a fog, I was reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit to and in us. As the words from Acts 2 were read, I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, coming down on me. His warmth and healing power filled me from head to toe. I felt enraptured in God’s healing love. I was soaking wet and trembling. The other pastor standing beside me noticed and asked if I was all right? I responded that I was in ecstasy as God had healed me.
After the service the clear presence of God’s hand on me stayed and spoke. God made clear to me as James 1:2-4 relates that I had remained under the trial, I had obeyed and submitted to him and persevered. He had tested my faith to make me more mature and complete. He did, “send help from the sanctuary and grant me support” (Ps 20:2). He remembered my sacrifices and accepted my burnt offering; he had given me the desire of my heart and made all my plans succeed. I could shout for joy in victory and lift up banners in the name of our God. He had granted my request and anointed me and answered me from heaven with the saving power of his right hand (vv.3-6). Yes, I could rise up and stand firm. He answered me when I called. Like the Chilean miners, he had lifted us from darkness into His light.
God made clear to me that I had stayed under and now I was free to leave my call to pursue new pursuits that he would make clear to me. I did resign in his freeing and healing actions. Members of the church thanked me for my being an anchor for them in a rough sea. I never felt that, but somehow God had stood within or before me to show his faithfulness. And that’s why my next assignment has been to write my book and present this blog, “Great is God’s Faithfulness.”