Making Your Way Through a Blackout

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Today I ventured out to a popular mall on the Las Vegas Strip.  Upon my ascent up the escalator to the main entry hall I was met by a lady who seemed frantic as she explained to me that there was no power anywhere in the mall.  I tried to assure her that these sometime occur here and not to worry as I maneuvered into the main corridor.  Well, she was right.  There were no lights, the restaurants stopped all service, the stores had the roll cages pulled down for security and you would think we were there after hours by mistake.

I couldn’t help but notice the people seemingly lost.  Some paced back and forth nervously, others just sat quietly in the darkness and still others had their noses pressed against the store front windows as if they might see something if they looked intently enough. For a bunch of tourists on vacation, it was a very somber mood, almost like a zombie apocalypse movie.

Rather than sit with them I decided to walk the halls just to keep moving.  There was a heavy security presence at every turn guarding stores and merchandise. The fountains were silent as I rounded another corner but still I walked.  And then, a store with power, and another followed by others.  Turning another corner it was clear that this part of the mall had power and was fully functioning with food being served and cashiers ringing up sales.  Only half of the mall was without power but I would have never discovered that had I simply sat in the darkness with the others.  And all those who sat there this afternoon may be under the impression that the whole mall was dark because they never ventured out to discover otherwise.

That’s a bit the story of my life this past year.  Many of the things that brought light into my world have been removed leaving the feeling of navigating through darkness.  Perhaps you are reading this and can relate.  And like those people in the mall the tendency is to just sit and wait out the darkness or to feel helpless that there are no source of light anywhere within your immediate view. I can freely admit that at times I stopped moving and just stood there wondering what’s next, do I keep moving or just fade into the background.  When you are exposed to prolonged darkness it becomes a familiar place if not a familiar friend, almost comforting if that makes any sense.

But with time you learn that your surroundings or circumstances may never change, and your only recourse is to change your location, that is keep moving.  A popular Psalm says “even when I walk through the valley of shadows…”.  Its a journey that compels us forward even when we sense little direction, motivation or benefit for doing so.  And it’s a path that we truly never travel alone even though the isolation is at times overwhelming.

I’m so glad I kept walking through the dark halls of that mall today to the well-lit portion full of lively people enjoying their day.  It was one of those “a-ha” moments, a real life lesson.

God’s Deafening Silence

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When I was much younger I heard stories about the 30 day nights that parts of Alaska experience each year.  I couldn’t in my wildest dreams fathom how a person could withstand 30 days of cold and darkness, even knowing that the darkness was temporary and that soon the morning sun would be seen again.  Now I know all too well what long periods of still darkness feel like and it is no less easy to cope with. All believers have been there-the periods of your faith journey when God seems to take a hiatus from leading us and leaves us to our own vices.  We may cry out to God in despair-we may dig deeper into The Word-we may fast, light candles, rise boldly with harsh words, fall on our face in submissive humility, and still nothing.  We knock with no answer, we seek but don’t find, we ask but are left with no answers.  The long periods of God’s extended Winter silence is cold and deafening.

When Mother Teresa passed on to her reward she left behind some letters that she had written in her 50 years of service.  Who among us could boast to have the heart of God that she spent her life displaying. One might believe that for someone to accomplish what she did in her life of service to the poor and needy that God must have been an ever present guide and companion. But her letters surprisingly reveal quite the opposite.  Listen to her heartfelt despair in some of her letters; “I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul, . And another, “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation. And again,  “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” And finally, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves but does not speak.” The are the words spoken by one of God’s true saints.  At no time in her journey does she ever confess a true disbelief in God, but in the silence she wrestled with the knowledge of His existence and involvement in her life against the tangible evidence that indicated otherwise.

As I read the Psalms I can hear in David’s voice his own personal agony as he sought God in his most desperate of times only to hear the sound of silence.  Does this sound like you?

“Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever”. “LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?” And even Jesus, as He hung on the cross cried out to His Father, “why have you forsaken me?”

There is no recording in scripture of God answering even His own Son.  Are we to demand more than He gave His own Son? these times in our lives are the most trying, the most painful, the most difficult times of our journey.  And it seems like the times that are the darkest are the times when God seems to be the most distant. So how do we cope.  How do we tone down the deafness of God’s silence when we can’t sense, find or hear Him?  Don’t believe for a second that I have this figured out as I have been seeking God’s voice over a situation for many years with no clear response.  Yet as a long time believer these are the things I try to rely on to get through each dark day.  First, I have to disconnect my heart from my mind.  We all want to “feel” our faith, but most times we have to choose to recall and believe God’s Word and the promises He left for us.  Hebrews says that faith is believing in things not seen-I might add things not felt or heard as well.  We have to go by our knowledge that God can’t go back on His promise to love us, to guide us and to work all things out for our good, even when we can’t see Him doing so.  Second, I have to learn how to navigate the darkness.  Those who are blind and live by themselves learn how to navigate their dwellings by recalling where objects are and assuming they remain unmoved.  I can’t always see god but I know He’s there because He’s always been there before and I must navigate under the belief that I am not alone and that God has not been moved.  Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult, even though I can’t hear His voice, I must continue to communicate with Him in prayer. It may seem like more of a monologue than a dialogue, but through prayer the line of communication remains open and things are brought to mind that compel us to keep moving forward on our journey.  Once we stop communing with God, the darkness will overcome us and leave us vulnerable and defenseless to enemy attacks.

How I wish God taught us things using any method but silence.  To those like me it is the most excruciating experience imaginable.  Earnestly seeking God but not finding Him where we think He should be leaves us feeling much the same as it must have Mother Teresa.  But even when we can’t hear Him, we know He hears us. I exhort you today to keep fighting, keep believing, keep studying and keep praying to a sovereign God Who has already displayed His love for us in ways that requires no further response.