Spiritual Formation

Jesus in the Dark

A number of years ago a friend asked me to visit a woman dying of cancer in the hospital. Her sickness had begun as breast cancer, and now an ugly, tell-tale purple blotch crept from the top of her night gown to her shoulder. Chemotherapy had robbed her of all her hair. As I approached her room I wondered if she really wanted a pastor to see her. Or was my visit just the result of a desperate measure taken by an over-eager friend? I did not have to wait long to find out. Almost immediately, she asked me deep questions about finding peace with God. My friend and another woman had spent hours with her reading from the Bible and sharing the good news of Jesus, yet she felt no assurance in facing death and whatever came next. 

“Is there some special prayer I must say?” she asked with a bewildered look. At that moment I saw so clearly the stark reality of our human predicament—the need for something more than this world can give, and yet seemingly facing a silent universe.  

I used an illustration with her that I got from the great preacher, Spurgeon. He talks about the difference between the words, look and see. In a dark, windowless room you can look for the door, but you cannot see it–until someone turns on the light. 

I told this dying woman that her part was to look. If she kept seeking Jesus, he would cause her to see. I came back often to visit her, but week after week she felt no abiding peace. Finally, the doctors sent her home from the hospital as they could do nothing more for her. 

One day her husband called me and said he wanted me to come to their home as he believed she would die shortly. When I got there I found her incoherent at times, lapsing in and out of reality. She would reach out to pick and try to eat imaginary fruit from a tree. At one time she started speaking to me in her native Lithuanian language, unaware that I could not understand her. She clutched a six-inch wooden cross like a drowning woman grabbing a tiny piece of driftwood with no land in sight. Her husband told me she sometimes shook so badly at night he had to take the cross away for fear she would injure herself with it. Her violent shaking compelled him to sleep in another bed.

I prayed with her that morning and read scripture to her as did my friend later that day. No one knows exactly how or when, but sometime that day she finally saw. God came into her life in a wonderful way and gave her the peace she so desperately craved. The dramatic change stunned her unbelieving husband. “Whatever you people are doing,” he enthused, “keep it up!” As it turned out, she still had a number of weeks to live and from that day onward she never shook violently again. She no longer needed to clutch the cross. She was coherent and never lapsed in and out of an imaginary world. Once she turned her eyes to Jesus and fixed her gaze on him, she was no longer worried about herself. She desired only that her family would find Christ the way she had. Shortly before she died, she gathered as many family and friends as could be squeezed into her bedroom. We sang, read from the Bible, and prayed. I then had the privilege of baptizing her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Today, perhaps you find yourself unsure, bewildered, afraid and seemingly facing a silent universe. If so, remember something else Spurgeon said, “Jesus in the dark is just as good as Jesus in the light.” Your job is simply to look for him. If you keep doing so, you have his promise that sooner or later, you will see.

Spiritual Formation

A Little Lower than God! Part 6: Cooperating with the Spirit

(Previous)

The most exciting part of the Gospel is often understated, that is, that the cross and its accompanying forgiveness were a means to an end and not the end itself. The purpose for which Jesus died was that God’s Spirit could fully inhabit human beings once again. This is the great truth of Pentecost. When we think of the Spirit coming into us, do we play any role? “Surely God is sovereign,” some would say, “and does what he pleases. We can’t have anything to do with the Spirit’s arrival in our lives.”

Yet we can and do. We are high beings with the God-like capacity of rationality. We can direct our minds wherever we choose. And when we choose to think about the Spirit’s quality i.e. the Goodness, we direct ourselves to the shoreline of heaven.

infilling

Through this process of using my mind in prayer to think about God’s Love, I tentatively walk out upon the water and sense that a meeting is taking place. God is calling me to cooperate with him in some way.

I reach out and receive; I take what is being offered, the Goodness. And I must take. God doesn’t do it all. He waits for me. I must stretch out in faith.

As the Spirit comes, the tension smooths out. I may confidently embrace the Spirit’s essence, the Christ of God. Jesus’ sacrifice makes me worthy now. I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I am a high being and able to interact even with the Creator. I breathe in peace.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

(Next)

Uncategorized

A Lesson When God Spoke Peace to Me

Recently in prayer I imagined that God was saying something like the following:

“Whatever you do, do in peace. In a peaceful state of mind you will have the opportunity to look to God for confirmation that you’re on the right track. A hurried, hectic spirit is distracted by the pressures. It cannot hear. The lions will roar. Inner voices will urge hurry and worry, but ignore them. Yours is the path of peace. “The Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psa. 29:11). In that peace you may be in constant communion.  There you may hear. There you may pray without ceasing.”

The deep peace that I entered into for the next day or two confirmed to me that indeed God was speaking. God will speak peace to his people (Ps. 85:8).

Herein is a lesson. Don’t worry too much about whether the impressions you get as you meditate on the Bible are actually God or not. Realize that we are on a journey where we’re learning. Let’s face it, we don’t hear God very well at all. But that’s all right. He knows that and yet he loves us still. Therefore, feel free to experiment. Feel free to fail. Imagine what God might be saying. Let there be a lightness in your spirit. Be open and receptive. Time often helps us clarify whether an impression, thought or feeling was God speaking to us or not.