Can you think of moments or seasons when God?s purposes for you seemed quite unmistakable? And have you been walking with Him long enough to encounter seasons when your confidence is tested through long seasons of lesser certainty? I know I have.
I read the following word from Jean Blomquist in an edition of Weavings and found it helpful.
?Most of the time, my path is circuitous, and the movement of the Spirit is subtle and difficult to discern. Occasionally I experience epiphanies, or moments of truth, that come with startling clarity, only to be followed by years of discovering and working through their implications as well as gathering up the courage to act faithfully on them.? (Blomquist, Jean M.. ?Embracing Epiphany: Growing in the Light of Desire and Satisfaction.? Weavings. January/February 2004, p. 36.)
I have had my own enlightening encounters with God. They have shaped and moved me profoundly. But they are not constant. In fact, my experience has been that they are more occasional with long seasons of ?trusting in the dark? as I work out those encounters in the realities of my life and ministry.
I am not invited to collect epiphanies like I would collect coins. I am invited to encounter God and then respond to Him fully.
I?d love to hear anything from your journey along these lines?
I have noticed that when God gives me one of these well-lit experiences, it becomes a real touchstone over and over in my life. Sometimes an encounter with God just changes my makeup in a way that I could never return to my old view even if I wanted to. I am changed. Sometimes the experience encourages me so that I walk forward or in a certain direction, and then I am tested along the way to stay on that path. This has happened several times in a ministry context. When things get rough or confusing, I might say, “Well, I am sure that You called me here, so I’ll wait while You do what You will do next.” And sometimes, when it’s more about my character or my spiritual disciplines, I just check my deepest desires and remind myself that this way of responding to life or ordering my life is what I really, really want; and that helps me press into it.
Thank you, Nancy, for taking time to respond to this. Sorry I didn’t see this reply until today. I’m here at Prince of Peace Abbey preparing to lead Journey Gen 23 and 24. I remember someone saying that seasons of great consolation rarely actually transform us, but they carve a channel for future transformation that may happen in a season of darkness. It’s just hard to see that reality when it’s dark.
It is amazing to remember the dark times and what God taught me through them. For me the dark times were when I felt disconnect to the Lord. A period of time when I needed direction and there was non. A time when I “did” all the spiritual practices.
A time when nothing that I “use to do” in the past helped me connect with God. It was a time when I had to ask for specific help. A time when I went to someone I knew who had experienced similar times. A time I had to humble myself and say, “I surrender” to my understanding and expectations of what I “think” I know and trust the Lord in a new way.
The individual I went to shared her journey and allowed me the privilege of letting her pray with me. During that prayer my life was changed forever. The Lord not only shared truth with me but showed me Himself in such a way that ever since, I when I go through “dark” times, I am not afraid. I was able to do as you said, “I was invited to encounter God and then respond to Him fully.” My life has never been the same.
That was over 30 years ago. I have grown more and more each day as I continue to learn how to humble myself and ask for help and respond to the Lord’s invitation to listen to Him. Now – more often than later -I respond to God’s moment by moment invitation to listen to Him in every day life. It is such a walk of peace and joy.
The dark places are so very hard since we enjoy much more the times of light and felt peace and joy. But the dark places stretch us to trust when trust is harder. And I’ve found that God treasures tested trust.
thanks for that post, Alan. i know i’ve shared some of my story with you in the past.
for about 10 years (2001 – 2011) i almost regularly sensed the Lord’s guidance and even experienced tremendous unexpected blessings that helped me through seminary and through some difficult years of ministry. i got the distinct impression that it was all leading up to something very exciting, but in mid-2011 it was like the light switch was turned off. for almost 4 years now, i feel mostly lost. it seems like the Lord has been withdrawing from me what i soaked up in those years – a sense of calling, times for Sabbath and retreat, even a church community, and more. while i have also experienced incomparable blessings – my son, Ian, for example, born 2012 – in terms of ministry and calling, i only sense loss.
i run through all the worst-case-scenarios in my head – did i blow it somehow? did some sin nullify God’s calling? did i overestimate my own inner growth and ministerial development?
even though i get TLI posts daily, the title of this one was especially meaningful – remembering where and how the Lord has led me in the lucid past. i want to keep that in mind during the obscure present, difficult though it may be. thanks for the encouragement. – Jason Blandford
Jason – It is very hard when what felt like a season of light and consolation is followed by a season that is more dark and desolate. I have had similar experiences, which doesn’t make it any easier. I wonder whether some of John of the Cross’s insights would help. I’ve found Thomas Green’s “When the Well Runs Dry” and “Drinking From a Dry Well” a source of encouragement and help in such seasons. May the grace of God meet you in the ways you need him. May your tested trust be sustained by God’s Spirit.