We avoid desperation, simply hoping the situation clears itself up, waiting for the darkness to lighten. But what if the desperation is a grace disguised? What if fighting your way through the darkness is the path to blessing? The quickest way through the desperation may well be to embrace it. Plunge into it. Fight your way through the darkness.
-Kyle Idleman, Don’t Give Up, 54
So this brings me back to last week, when I wrote about hope and of course had a thoroughly bleak Monday immediately thereafter.
I called my mom that night, and she soothed my doubts. She quietly told me some things she believes about my life that confirm what I desire but am scared to hope for. And then a friend texted words of encouragement that I badly needed to hear: “You have to walk through the pain in order to live in your PURPOSE!” And then I thought, I have this whole stack of books with titles that spoke to me a few weeks ago, so why don’t I read a few chapters and see what they say?
So I started Don’t Give Up by Kyle Idleman, and early in the book he shares an account from an acquaintance about a time of pain and growth in her life. She references I Samuel 12:16: “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!” (NIV).
Then I turned to Priscilla Shirer, whose book I was partway through. And in the chapter I read, she discusses Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (HCSB).
The similarity of these two verses, neither of which I was familiar with, struck me — the idea of seeing the new, great thing God is about to do. They quoted different translations, but both used the word see (not all of them do; I checked).
Now, without going into another lengthy digression, I also need to note that I struggle to read the Bible and in fact have consulted it very little for most of my adult life. It’s hard — sometimes nearly impossible — to separate the text from the hateful voices layered over it from my childhood and adolescence, the voices of people who read through a filter of their own loathing and insecurity and hunger for power, who used those words to manipulate and bludgeon, damn and attack.
So I have mostly left well enough alone.
But that’s not an option anymore. Not with the direction my life is taking, with the purpose I feel increasingly called and compelled and passionate about.
So at the beginning of this year I invested in an attractive, adult-coloring-book-style-with-space-to-journal one-year Bible. Every day there’s a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. That seemed like the best way both to get into the text and to keep myself more or less to a schedule. We’re a month into 2020 and I’m already twenty days behind, but I figure what matters isn’t that I read the Bible in a year but that I read the Bible, right?
So on Tuesday, as I was beginning to feel hopeful again, I read the story of Hagar running away from Sarah’s cruelty. And what leaped off the page at me was this: “‘The Lord has heard your cry of distress’….Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'” (Genesis 16:11b, 13, NLT).
The next morning, I woke up with the words, “Taste and SEE that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, NIV) running through my head. Over and over.