“But I trust in your unfailing love…”
“It’s dark in here, God,” I said as the door closed shut behind me. There was no answer. I felt my way along the walls as I slowly crept forward. “It’s a long hallway, God,” I said. I took another hesitant step forward. Where I thought I was going, I had no idea. Eventually, I tired and sat down. “It’s getting cold, too,” I called out. Still, no answer. And so I sat in the cold dark, and waited, doing all I could to keep my rising anxiety at bay.
After what seemed like an eternity, I called out again to God. “Hello? Can you hear me? I know you have to be here.”
“Of course, I’m here,” God called back.
“Why didn’t you answer me earlier?” I asked.
“I was busy arranging your next chapter,” God answered.
“My next chapter?”
“What you’ll be doing next with your life. I closed the door on your last chapter and I’ve not yet opened the next door. I’m working out the details,” God explained.
“What do I do while you’re busy working everything out?” I asked.
“Hold onto my promise,” God said.
So I sat, in the dark hallway, holding onto the promise of God, waiting patiently for Him to open the next door.
After some time had passed I called out, “Thank you for all you’re doing for me.” Just then, God opened the next door. Light flooded into the hallway and I could see what was next, and it was so beautiful!
“Don’t fear… I have called you by name; you are mine.”
A sound awakened me. There. I heard it again—a scratching, rustling noise. Pulse quickening, I threw off my blanket and lowered my legs over the edge of the bed. In the dark, I fished my feet around on the floor, feeling for my bedroom slippers. Quickly, I tugged on my bathrobe and padded to the window and slowly drew back the curtain. I peered out into the dark, straining to see what was making the noise. A movement caught my eye close to the window where I stood. A skunk waddled happily out from under my house, his tail held high. I let out a sigh of relief. It wasn’t someone trying to break in.
“Why is it that I’m afraid in the dark?” I wondered out loud as I crawled back into bed.
God whispered, “When you’re in the dark you can’t see what’s around you. You don’t know what’s really there.”
“That’s true,” I said. “I feel vulnerable.”
“Just like when you are in a dark time in your life when you don’t know future, you get anxious,” God said.
I nodded in agreement. “That’s true, too.”
“Learn to trust me more. Trust me in the dark of night and in your dark days. Trust that I’m there.” God whispered. “You’ll feel less afraid knowing that I’m there with you, watching over you, my child.”
I thought of God’s creatures great and small roaming through the dark on the other side of my bedroom wall. I smiled. “I’ll do better at trusting,” I said, Just then an owl screeched, “Who?” “Who?” I smiled. “I’ll do better at trusting you, God,” I clarified. I nestled my head into the coolness of my pillow and fell fast asleep.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides.”
~1 Peter 4:11
The sun had a few more moments to hang in the sky, so I threw on my coat and scarf and tumbled out the door for a quick walk. It had been a long day of listening to people’s suffering. My heart and head needed clearing. Clouds on the horizon meant more rain was headed our way. A gentle breeze blew past me, pushing my scarf off of my head. I reached to pull it back up when I heard God’s gentle whisper.
“Noah was faithful,” He said.
“Noah trusted me to build the ark, even when there were no signs of rain,” He explained.
“What’s that got to do with me?” I pulled my scarf tighter around my head.
“I want you to serve me with the same faithfulness. I want you to do the work I want you to do, even if you can’t see the reason why or see the fruits of your labor,” He explained.
“You drive a hard bargain,” I said.
“I’ll give you the strength,” God said warmly. I walked in silence the rest of the way, pondering God’s words.
I thought about how we are all asked to do God’s work in some way. The art of ark building—heading God’s call—is simply having faith. It means that we don’t rely on our own understanding, but instead, we rely on God. I finished my walk just as the sun turned out her light for the night. I sat in the dark of my garden for a few minutes. “I’ll need your help. I can’t do it on my own,” I whispered.
God put His loving hand on my shoulder. That was the only answer I needed.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Winter storms have kept me from tending to my garden. The ground is saturated with rain. I went out after work, with only a few minutes of light remaining in the day and turned over the soggy earth. Each shovelful was as heavy as my heart, for many plants had died from too much water.
I looked over the garden and was struck by the determination of life. Here, in the depths of winter, one storm after another, the flowers have patiently waited for this sunny day. I spied a Mask Flower peeking out from behind an overgrowth of Nasturtiums. The red blossoms looked so cheerful in the fading light that I couldn’t help but smile. I turned to walk back inside when God rested His hand on my shoulder. I stopped. “What is it, God?” I asked.
He whispered. “Everything’s going to be alright.” A Finch at the feeder burst into song as if to punctuate God’s sentence.
I nodded, not wanting to speak. I wanted only the Finch’s voice to be heard. I climbed the steps into the house and closed the door on another fine day, another great gift from God. I took the lesson from my garden to heart. I will be more patient in the face of adversity. I will be as cheerful as the red blossoms, as joyful as the singing Finch. I won’t lose hope in the storms.
“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him,”
I pushed my hands together and bowed my head in prayer. “Dear God, some of the decisions I made in the past created challenging consequences for my life. I’ve got some regrets,” I confessed. I sat quietly and waited for God’s reply.
“When you made the decisions, did you feel that they were the best at the time?” He asked.
“Yes. Of course,” I answered.
“Did you learn anything from the decisions?” He questioned.
“Yes,” I replied.
“What did you learn?”
I told God about the lessons I had learned “the hard way.” When I was done, God said, “You learned quite a lot.” I nodded my head. “Are you a better person for having learned those lessons?”
“Of course!” I said.
“So tell me, what was the biggest lesson you learned from your regrets?” God asked.
I pondered the question for a few moments. “The biggest lesson I learned was to trust you more,” I answered honestly.
“Then the decisions that you regret ultimately worked out to the good!” God exclaimed.
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” I said. “Thank you for pointing that out.”
“Anytime,” God replied. “Come on, let’s go for a walk,” He suggested. I tugged on my boots and leashed Shakespeare. The three of us tumbled out the door together; out into the sharp chill of the winter morning. My steps haven’t felt that light in a long time.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”
All night the little boat tossed about on the stormy sea. Wave after wave pounded the deck. The good Captain braved the wind and the rain, walking back and forth, keeping a watchful eye on his beloved boat. The little boat was lifted high atop a wave and then dashed back into the water. It shuddered from the force. “All is lost,” the boat cried out. “I can’t hold together.” A few boards splintered and broke off, washing away into the churning sea.
“You’ll make it!” the Captain yelled into the din of the storm.
“The storm is too much,” worried the little boat.
“Trust me” shouted the Captain, as he leaned into the wind and turned the little boat into an oncoming wave. Hour after hour, the boat battled the raging sea. As the sun slowly rose over the horizon, the storm gave up. Blue skies stretched out for miles and miles.
The Captain explained to the little boat as they rode calm waters back to shore, “I grew your lumber. I planed your boards. I built you by hand. You may fray and splinter, but you’ll never come apart. I built you to withstand the storms.”
That’s how He built us, too. He grew our lumber. He planed our boards. He built us by hand. We are God’s beloved ships, each of us on a course that He has set; a course that we can trust, even in the storms.