The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!'” Lamentations 3:55-56
I remember one conversation during a dark time with a dear friend. She kept reminding me to wait patiently for the Lord and to remember his faithfulness and put my trust in the promises of His unchanging Word. She kept encouraging me to wait, but to wait with intentionality and to fight for joy in the midst of the darkness. She kept gently calling me to faith and directing me to Christ. John Piper says it like this, “Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don’t mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ.”
So, what exactly does living and waiting with intentionality in the midst of great darkness actually look like? I mean how do wait and fight for joy when we can barely see the light? Well, I can’t say for sure. I don’t know that it looks the same for everyone, in fact I am pretty sure that it won’t. God uses the unique situations and people that we know and places that we live in unique ways in our lives. I do know that it means trusting and affirming that God’s wisdom and sovereignty and realizing and understanding all that He has given us in Christ. I think that means reading and meditating on scripture and trusting and hoping in his Word. I once heard a sermon on prayer and the pastor said that “persistent prayer is our regular demonstration of faith filled hope in God,” this I believe is another way to step out in faith and fight for joy in the midst of spiritual darkness, pray often.
I know that in times of darkness one of the greatest things was having a dear friend of mine just a phone call away to pray for me and read scripture and remind me of the truths that I had temporarily lost sight of — I like to call these friends, “John Newtons.” I call them this because of William Cowper and his dear friend, John Newton. William Cowper was severely depressed most of his life. John Newton was a faithful friend and encourager throughout Cowper’s lifetime. I hope that I am also a “John Newton” to my friends. One of my favorite hymns was written by Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”God Moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm Deep in unfathomable mines Of never-failing skill, He treasures up his bright designs and whorks his sovereign will Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace: Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face, His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower. Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, and He will make it plain.
I also think that, as Ed Welch pointed out in “Does Thin Equal Beautiful?” as we reflect on the greatness and gloriousness and beauty of Christ we finally get to stop looking at ourselves. In looking at Christ, we aren’t focused on ourselves; not our problems, not our accomplishments, nothing, we are just seeing the beauty of Christ and what a relief it is to not have to think about ourselves for a little while. Anyway, I know that it is not so simple and that darkness is real and it is hard and painful. But I do know that Christ is sufficient and that He has promised to finish the work that he began and that he is faithful to hold and sustain you. John Piper in his book When the Darkness Will Not Lift, gives us this wonderful quote and reminder from Richard Baxter
Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can. You have not the power of your comforts: but have you no power of your tongues? Say not, that you are unfit for thanks and praises unless you have a praising heart and were the children of God: for every man, good and bad, is bound to praise God, and to be thankful for all that he hath received, and to do it as well as he can, rather than leave it undone…Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.
I will leave you with this Of First Importance Quote of the day, “One thing is past all question; we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace.” CH Spurgeon