How wonderfully confusing it must have been to hang around Jesus. It had to be wonderful because being around him gave one access to some of the most mind boggling miracles known to man. Every time Jesus acted on behalf of some poor sick or troubled soul, the crowds gasped in wonder and amazement at the ease of his power to deliver people from the most hideous afflictions. It is easy to imagine the crowds of antiquity following to him, en masse, with blind anticipation of the next miraculous event or profound teaching issuing forth from this gloriously strange Rabbi. That was the wonderful part.
“We walk by faith and not by sight.” Eight simple words from 2 Corinthians 5:7. Like many short truths articulated in scripture, it is easy to read but amazingly complex in its execution. Faith without sight…isn’t this redundant? Can there be any other type of faith? But what does this mean in terms of my experience. Therein lies the confusing part about following the Master. Don’t misunderstand, it is still the right thing to do and doing so is the only way to follow the Lord. However, following someone down an unknown path can be very troubling to our human nature. Which I believe is exactly why God chose it!
The confusing part of following Jesus emerges when we cannot discern or control the path to where Jesus is taking us. We know that eternal life in His presence is our ultimate destination, but our present path to that place is what may produce consternation. The difficulty emerges when God actually leads us into a ‘dark place’. That’s right, I said it, God LEADS us into a dark place. By a ‘dark place’, I am speaking metaphorically of life circumstances that are beyond our ability to control. If you adhere to the prosperity gospel, you probably just fell off your chair. I am not looking to pick a fight, I just happen to believe both scripturally and through personal experience that God leads us into circumstances that He deems in our best interest for spiritual growth. Those circumstances can often be very difficult places that we would not choose to face given the option. And just as plants grow better in the valley than the mountaintop (in fact I never see plants growing on high mountain peaks), I believe some of God’s best work in producing spiritual maturity in our lives is done in low and dark places
My encouragement today is for us all to understand that this is a part of the normal Christian experience. Many times when we are led into a place where the outcome of our circumstances are uncertain, we feel vulnerable and alone maybe even abandoned. Take courage in the exhortation of 1 Peter 4:12-13 which says, ”
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
A blind person intuitively understands what it is like to have to trust something other than your physical sight in order to get to where you are going. Whether it be their heightened sense of hearing, a walking cane or another person, they know what is required to navigate their environment. When sight cannot be relied upon, something must take its place. The same is true about successfully navigating ‘dark places’ in our lives. When circumstances come upon us and we have no say in the outcome, we have to rely on something or someone who can lead us through to the other side.
Jesus told his disciples (John 14) that He was leaving and that they need not worry about their future because He had already secured a place for them AND they knew how to get there. In response, Thomas remarked, ” “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” To which Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” Thomas wanted a destination, Jesus gave Him Himself. For Thomas the answer to the dilemma of direction was a map. For Jesus, the answer was “Trust Me”.
Difficult life circumstances will almost always create a measure of confusion in our minds. We find assurance in the knowledge that God is sovereign and in control of all things. However, it is troubling to know that though He may not have authored the trouble (see Job), He did allow it and that may cause a crisis of faith. But Jesus’ nail imprinted hands will forever witness His faithful love for us, even in the midst of the darkness He may lead us to for a season. Our job is not to find the end of the path, but to walk in faith beside the One who is the destination, and trust in His love.