Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
When our souls have come to the place where they ask these kinds of questions we have come near to the kingdom of God. Christ is standing right at the door delivering his invitation to come into His house and dine with Him. Are you saying that Christ has come knocking at my door clothed as a disturbance, dressed in despair? Exactly. A soul that exhibits the inward honesty to ask questions of this maginitude has already been influenced by the Holy Spirit and the prevenient grace (explained yesterday).
However, in its struggle, the soul may be asking, “Where is the victorious Christian life I have heard about?” Why is my soul in despair anyway? The answer: “Because it is the blessed victim of a divine conspiracy.” The Holy Trinity has a plan. God the Father has his mark on this one. His relentless love is sponsoring this mission to rescue the one in ninety-nine. Jesus, Good Shepherd that he is, has arranged that this sheep find its way through this unlikely appearing gate into a safe pasture. The Spirit, the Great Counselor has brought things to a boil within the heart, uncovering, as He had intended, a primal hunger and thirst. Without it even knowing how it has happened this soul has been brought by the Spirit to the threshold of a great adventure. How will the next chapter of this soul’s life read?
Devon was taking some courage, as he entered the pastor’s office, that in his parched soul there was at least some fear and trembling pulsing there as a sign of spiritual life. He was like most young men who had seen more on his computer screen than he should but that particular temptation was in check, at least for the moment. Devon was also struggling to some degree with finances, vocation and the ever gnawing questions about his relationship with the opposite sex. Yet there was still more. While Devon had been going through the motions of work and church, there was this abiding (and escalating?) concern that all was not well with his own soul. He had even begun to question scripture and church authority. Yet, out of a white-knuckled effort, he had called and asked for some time with the pastor, hoping this representative of God could tell him why his soul was in despair. Devon was disturbed about his own spirituality and believed he needed some answers. He had been given an 11:00 am appointment.
Only the names have been changed in the following story (to protect the guilty) …..
Larry was Devon’s pastor mostly because he was his parent’s pastor but Devon really had no one else to go to. Larry was actually pretty excited that one of the few younger folks remaining in the congregation had elected to seek him out. In fact this was a first. Larry was confident he could serve this young man because God had personally confirmed to him what he had always known; his primary call was that of a counselor and a disciple maker. Just as Devon entered the office, Larry’s last thought was, “Oh crap! Is this kid’s name Devon, or does he pronounce it Devón?” He comforted himself that in the long run, the pronunciation of the name would be of secondary importance to the biblical knowledge he was about to impart. He also made a mental note to repent later for thinking the word “crap”.
“Hey Big’un! Good to see you! I’ve been meaning to call and see how things are going with you. Still reading that bible we gave you at your baptism?” The question reminded Devon that his pre-batism discussion 7 years ago was the last conversation he had had with this person. He didn’t say it but, he had never actually read that bible. It was too small and he could never get into the King James translation. Devon improvised, “Yes sir, I’m no scholar but I’ve been reading the bible pretty steady now for several years.” “Excellent!”, Larry announced, ” The scriptures truly are the pathway to the abundant life, aren’t they?
Even though exactly what the abundant life was had never really been explained (or for that matter demonstrated), Devon nodded, hoping a sermon was not brewing here. (Larry had a bit of a reputation of not really listening but going on ad nauseam on subjects entirely unrelated to the matter at hand.) Devon was fortunate (kind of). After digging deeper than he ever had and telling the story of his spiritual struggles, he was only getting a homily, not a full blown sermon on Larry’s go-to topic, spiritual warfare. Devon was doing his best to listen but his worst fears were being confirmed. Larry was not really hearing anything he was saying.
The damage done by this train wreck was only compounded by the fact that Larry was quite pleased at how this session was wrapping up. Knowing that he had to lead the ministerial alliance meeting in just 15 minutes, he cheerfully closed their session, “Devón, I hope that was helpful. Just keep attending church, studying your bible and tithing and you can be confident that God will reward your faithfulness and give you the desire of your heart. Amen?” Devon, viscerally shaken by what had just taken place, managed an “Amen” and thought, “I was right. He didn’t even know my name.” As for Larry, he was in awe of God’s goodness, to allow an anointing that strong even after he had almost cursed.
Unfortunately for Devon, he had run into a hireling instead of a spiritual father. While Larry could not have been better intentioned, neither could he have been more ill-equipped to see what God was actually up to in Devon’s life. Devon didn’t need an appointment with a counselor. He needed a relationship with an elder brother, a friend or mentor who knew the ways of God and the landscape of the human heart. Fortunately for Devon, the Trinity’s conspiracy was not derailed.
This unfortunate encounter turned out to be providential. As Devon allowed his turmoil to drive Him toward God, he was able, with the help of some spiritual fathers, process the rejection and hurt of his encounters with the religion around him and in him. He was finally able to forgive Larry and the institutional church and realize, that had God not allowed this experience in His life, he would never have learned that Christ Himself (independent of whatever the pastor and the church do or do not do) was his sufficiency. Neither would he have discovered that the true Church is not defined by bricks and mortar or driven primarily by pastors and programs. As the kingdom of God has continued to grow in Devon’s heart he has been filled with hope as he finds himself in an ever expanding network of souls who understand how to steward the hunger and thirst within.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
Father, please help us to be vulnerable with You. Help us to find other spaces where our facades are unnecessary. In our own increasing liberty help us to create those safe spaces for each other where the Holy Spirit can better access the broken things within and liberate us into the freedoms that You have purchased for us. Lord, help us to weep over the things that grieve you and celebrate the things that You celebrate. We shall hope in you and we shall praise you again! Amen.
Thank you Rob, for helping me steer clear of religion. I feel it coming at me like an angry mob like the one that came after Jesus one day to throw him off a cliff because He came against it (religion). You are helping me walk right through that mob/religeon unscathed and in personal fellowship with our father, our Lord, and each other. Well not totally unscathed lol
Thank you also, and praise God. I have also been in this place? Looking for answers or just a non biased opinion. Same story no one really listens anymore, and by the time they are thru speaking to you with their (go to) scriptures and life stories, I’ve hardly even spoken a word to them, leaving just as troubled as I was before I visited with them? But in time God reveals the answers to us all.