I’ve always liked formulas, checklists and neat little to-do lists. They keep me focused on my goals and have often helped me to master a large and intimidating task. I guess you can say that I’m organized and like to go by a list of instructions if I ever find myself in a difficult or stressful situation.
But while formulas can be helpful in the day to day stuff of life, they can never be much help in a crisis. I think that’s why many pastors or Christian writers tend to steer away from talking about their walk with God in this way. They offer no formulas for success, no go-to advice for the challenging stages in life and no checklist for growing your faith. They can’t do that because formulas can’t be applied to matters of your faith. Each one of us has a unique path in life set out before us by God. We’re expected to follow His plan and to know how and if you can’t well maybe you aren’t connecting with God the way you should. Maybe you can pull out your bible and study it more in depth or maybe you have fallen away from your faith without realizing it. There could be so many reasons why as Christians we find ourselves in a dark place. We struggle to find the words to express exactly how we feel and why, but we know that something is amiss in our hearts and we long for restoration.
I have experienced this recently and I still can’t find a way to shake how I felt in the early morning hours of an unexpected crisis. Yes, I confessed my sins and cried out to God but it was still a very dark time for me. What caught me by surprise is that I didn’t see it coming. It was a trial that I thought I could handle much better than I actually did. I was shocked by how little I had progressed.
Only the words of Psalm 116 could describe what I experienced.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
And so here I was, saved by grace again. And all I could think about was how I wanted other believers to not despair when darkness came to visit them.
And that is where my list comes in. It’s not a formula. I know that each of us is different and that the circumstances of our dark times vary greatly, but I also know that we need encouragement during these difficult trials.We need something to lean on that is easy to understand in those moments of deep despair. We can cry and pray our guts out, but having a battle plan is also a great way to refocus when things are chaotic.
So I offer up this list in the hopes that it will help when the inevitable darkness comes your way.
- Recognize that you are not alone. Although physically you may be without a support system or someone to lean on during this difficult time, it is important to really grasp the promise that God has given to all believers: He will never forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). If you are having trouble really holding on to this promise, then open up your bible. Read the stories of David, Esther, Ruth. These people went through times of great darkness in which they were forced to go it alone and yet they held on to God. They called out to Him knowing deep in their hurting hearts that God was there and listening.
- Understand that God is not done, only He can have the last word on what will happen in your life and in this situation(James 4:12). Despite what some people may say, there is no greater power than that of our heavenly Father. So instead of giving up entirely, give yourself and your life over to Him. He will finish what He started (Philippians 1:6) and one day you will look back and know that He allowed you to go through this trial for a great purpose
- Pray with great faith. 1 Peter 4:7 says:
The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled, so that you can pray.
This is easier said than done, but the apostle Peter was right to remind us that when we get caught up in our feelings and allow our emotions to cloud our judgment it also causes us to lose sight of our great faith in God. It keeps us from being able to pray in the Spirit and that is when our problem becomes larger than it actually is. We miss out on seeing our situation through God’s perspective and on allowing Him to lead us out of the dark and into His light.
When this happens, we must turn towards God again. Remember how faithful He is and that His love is never ending. Thank Him for his grace, even in the midst of this darkness, and pray for His presence to usher in His light and grace once again.Walking in Grace,