In the olden days before my time there was a cartoon called Lil’ Abner. One of the supporting characters was Joe Btfsplk – a poor sop who was so unlucky that a dark cloud hung over his head wherever he went. There have been days, I must admit, that I felt I was holding hands with this fellow. The last two years have been kind of an exercise in using the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale as a personal checklist. This is not a recommendation, mind you, but rather a disturbing trend. It’s interesting to have a pastor shake his head in wonderment at the calamity pile-up.
I have to say that in this same time period I have undergone a distinct change. A curious product of this equation of destruction has been a very real and permanent resolve. I have driven a stake in my faith and will not be moved. Yes, I’m weary. Yes, there are dark days (often Mondays!). Yes, there are times when I want to get in the car and just drive until there’s no more gas or money. And sometimes I wonder if the next thing will do me in. Still, my heart is with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” (Job 13:15).
Not that I invite more attack, but I’m at the place where I give a wry chuckle at the transparent nature of the plans of the enemy. By the sheer constancy of mess, it’s clear that this is no coincidence or accident. I don’t hold myself up as any great spiritual warrior or paragon of virtue worthy of all the attention of satan. On the contrary, I wonder at his bothering with me at all. Surely the pitiful efforts of this very faulty and broken person can’t be of any great impact against our great foe. Please don’t see that as a false humility. Like David, “my sin is ever before me,” (Psalm 51:3). The triumphs I have seen in my calling are not even blips on the radar.
Can it be that there is far more going on in the heavenlies than I am privy to? The thought of this gives me a thrill of excitement and anxiety. Don’t we all hope that the faltering steps we take have some sort of greater effect? That there really is a Narnia and we have a significant role there? Perhaps my shaky obedience has a greater significance than I can imagine.
At the same time the anxiety creeps around the edges of that hope with the threat of “what’s next?” Yet having survived these recent events, I’m refusing to borrow tomorrow’s troubles. “God doesn’t give dying grace on non-dying days,” so I have to trust that should greater attacks come, they will be met with greater grace. I never would have thought I’d have this kind of peace at this end of trials. It must be because He truly “hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock.”
This is why I identify so much with Corrie ten Boom, who compared her faith and patience with her sister Betsy’s gentle spirit – and found herself wanting. While Betsy indeed praised the Lord in all situations, Corrie complained and even railed against God in their captivity. But had Corrie not survived, grown, and obeyed, the story of “The Hiding Place” may never have been told. Thousands of lives would not have been touched by her strength and testimony. Her words wouldn’t have been quoted all over the world, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
My prayer is that through this fire, after all the garbage is consumed, there will be some gold left behind. Gold that God placed there and was faithful to purify. That I won’t have a cloud over my head, but a glow on my face, a song in my heart, and a word of encouragement on my lips.