Is this a day of trouble for you? Are you about ready to quit? Has your heart grown hard and cynical? Have you made mistakes that cause you to think you cannot survive? Are the armies of hell at your door? The Lord God is your hiding place! Jesus will not allow the evil one to destroy the good work He has begun in you. Ask Jesus to plant a new seed in your heart. Let go of all your distractions and read God's Word. Pour out your soul to Him in prayer."
These are the simple words of a letter I received the other day. It immediately made me think of our world family of pastors and their families and how, now and again, things seem to fall apart for us amid the battles of daily life and ministry.
For all of us there come times, and even extended periods, when we are shaky and vulnerable deep in our souls. Perhaps a personal crisis or family pressure, or a series of negative events, lead us, at first almost unaware, into darkness. Or perhaps we have come to see or feel that much of our struggle is a result of our own mistakes and failures, either personal or professional. At other times our days of trouble come when someone has said or done something that has hurt us deeply. At such times our troubles are especially potent if that someone has a high profile and the thing has been made public. Still we have had to carry on with the positive functions of everyday pastoring, despite the turmoil. And going on can be difficult indeed.
During these times I have found that it is amazingly easy for us to turn to every source of comfort, support, and strength that we can find, neglecting the wonder of a Father who is all there for us. Perhaps it is in the name of practicality that we have come to a point at which we take His help for granted. Instead of dealing with Him directly, we turn to other intermediary agencies.
If this is a dark day for you, is it not at the heart of all that ministry is about to be able to say with potent assurance that there are those things, or there is that One who is of ultimate reality and who is a very present help in time of trouble? Familiar as it all may be, it is our privilege to hold up and to hold on to some of these basics here and now:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1).* Pressed from all sides, David knew where his strength was. He was clear on what he needed and wanted above everything else: "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple" (verse 4).
David also knew why he wanted it: "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock" (verse 5). Isaiah says the same: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isa. 41:10).
I rediscovered another letter the other day. It was the last letter written by a very wise woman who knew her Lord and had seen and experienced all the rigors of life and ministry. Although this letter was written to a woman friend, it speaks volumes to anyone pressed from every direction. Here are a few excerpts:
"His word to you is, 'Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.' ... He is waiting to take you into a harbor of gracious experience, and He bids you, 'Be still, and know that I am God.'You have had a time of unrest; but Jesus says to you, 'Come unto me, . . . and I will give you rest.' ... 'Then are they glad,' because they are privileged to rest in the arms of everlasting love. Put away your distrust of our heavenly Father. Instead of talking of your doubts, break away from them in the strength of Jesus, and let light shine into your soul by letting your voice express confidence and trust in God. Do not talk of your inefficiency and your defects. When despair would seem to be sweeping over your soul, look to Jesus, saying, He lives to make intercession for me. Forget the things that are behind, and believe the promise, 'I will come to you,' and 'abide with you.'"1
Is there anything more cleansing than an all-out encounter with God, a time of no-holds-barred confession, when we take up the Book of books to hear God's voice in our being, and when our souls break through to Christ Himself and we humbly claim the mercy, grace, and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit? The times of pressure and darkness are the times that call us to just this!
* All Scripture quotes are from The New King James Version.
1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923), pp. 516, 517.