One day earlier this week was another difficult day in a series of difficult days where it has felt like God might be on extended vacation. (In the sun somewhere, no doubt; I can’t see him holidaying in London with all this rain!)
That morning, the endless rain mirrored my mood. In fact, it was so wet outside that I spent half an hour sitting in my car, trying to psych myself to run through the torrents of water headlong into a day which I didn’t want to start. But I threw myself into the rainy grey eventually because what else can you do? If you didn’t, you’d stay in bed all day – and that is tantamount to giving up.
Maybe as you read this, something is resonating. Maybe you too feel like you are deep in the darkness, in a cave, perhaps of your own making, perhaps not. This cave is something that John Ortberg talks about in If You Want to Walk on Water. Now, if you haven’t followed me for long, you won’t know that this book is my number one prophetic book. The first time I read it was like it’d been written just for me. And though I know it’s not the Bible(!), I still hear God sometimes when I flick through the pages now. So, let me invite you to listen to something Ortberg says:
The hardest thing about being in the cave is that you begin to wonder whether God has lost track of you….Will I ever be anywhere but in the cave? Will I die in here?
Yep, that’s true. Word-for-word my thought patterns. Except that I usually go one better and wonder whether God even is.
But listen to the next bit:
There is one other thing you need to know. The cave is where God does some of his best work in molding and shaping human lives. Sometimes, when all the props and crutches in your life get stripped away and you find you have only God, you discover that God is enough. Sometimes, when your worst fears of inadequacy are confirmed and you discover that you really are out of your league, you experience the liberation of realizing that it is okay to be inadequate and that God wants his power to flow through your weakness. Sometimes the cave is where you meet God, for God does some of his best work in caves.
Now I can’t tell you that I’m at that point today. I’m not.
God might be in the cave with me but he has yet to say hi. Still, one of these days, I’m kind of hoping he will. And maybe, in the interim, I will discover – even as he strips away all the props and the crutches until I find I have only him – maybe then I will discover that God is enough.
So, friend, cave-bound and darkness-enshrouded though you are, will you walk this path of hope with me? Will you trust that being inadequate, even inadequate beyond your worst fears, is no obstacle to the One who holds your heart?
He might seem to have gone off to a sun-drenched island somewhere, leaving you only with an out of office auto-reply; he might seem to have left you with darkness your only friend as you pick your way through the detritus of a life where the props and crutches have been removed. But it’s not true.
In the darkness, he waits for you. Lovingly he draws you with cords of kindness. Wait for him long enough and, as your eyes become accustomed to the darkness, you will see him there with you. Just as he always has been.
It was against hope in hope that Abraham believed.
Against hope, in hope. That’s where we’ll find him.
That place where to believe is against hope. That place where the darkness is so deep that even hope seems swallowed up. That place where you are today, the place where everything militates against hope…that’s where you’ll find him if, against hope, nevertheless in hope you will believe.
Friends, let us stand firm then, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which we heard and which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven; and we can be sure that one day he will present us holy, blameless and above reproach before his glorious presence.
On that day, having believed…against hope, in hope…
we will finally look on him face to face and then all darkness will be dispelled forever.