“I’m really struggling. I don’t feel close to God. I feel alone. It’s like I’m in this terribly deep thick fog.” A friend was vulnerable and shared his ache with me over coffee. He wasn’t sure what to do. He was frustrated….border line angry. This was an ache deep inside. Things were great with his family. He was having success in his new business startup, yet despair seemed to be ruling in his heart.
After listening for a while, I asked if the world seemed grey to him. He confirmed with a nod. I asked because that is how life had felt for me for the past 18 months or so. Food seemed to have lost its taste—grey. New adventures seemed pointless—grey. Relationships weren’t exciting or overly inspiring—grey. Work was…well…grey. Life kind of felt like a never ending, frustrating, Ohio foggy day.
I told my friend that the Lord had recently been revealing something to me that had helped me understand the season I was in, settle into the process the Lord was inviting me into, and trust the Lord as He revealed life giving truths that I needed.
It started in 2 Chronicle 15. King Asa leading Judah and Benjamin in Israel. Life was tough. Asa was doing his best, yet things seemed to be stacked against him. In verse 1, the prophet Azariah was moved by the Spirit of God to say to Asa, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” It wasn’t the first time I’d read this passage. In fact, the Lord used verse 7 (“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”) in this passage to greatly encourage me years ago when I was struggling to lead a small business. Yet this time, the warning and encouragement felt…grey.
As I read the passage I was struck by something that hadn’t seen before. The verses in between 2 and 7 gave background to the overall struggle Asa was dealing with. And not little things. It wasn’t safe to travel. The people were in great turmoil. Nations were crushing each other. Cities were crushing each other. And then the end of verse six—“…because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.” What?! God, you were doing this? You were the cause of the trouble?
Well, this grabbed me. I have full confidence in the character and sovereignty of God, and this, well…, shocked me. I know that God is good. He is a refuge. He is comfort and peace. And He will cause us trouble?
I am a firm believe that we have an enemy who seeks to ‘steel, kill, and destroy’. And I know for a fact that much of my trouble in life is from an outward opposition. This is why I’m eager to ‘armor up’ as is describe in Ephesians 6 for the environment described in that passage is real and sobering. But God causing the trouble?
This led me on a hunt in Scripture to see how often God might be behind trouble, frustration or confusion. I found that it was God’s plan for Adam and Eve to experience pain and suffering in farming and childbirth. He shut Sarai’s womb until she was very old…and this waiting period would have been agony for her and Abram. God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable to his son Isaac as worship. God “confused” the language of the people building the Tower of Babel. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The list goes on an on!
These stories left incomplete might lead us to view God as heartless and wicked. But, thankfully, God used these “troubles” to bring righteousness and a greater good. “Is that the case with us?”, I thought.
As I dug further, I found myself praying Isaiah 30:21 which says, “Whether you turn to the right or left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’” I continued asking God ‘right or left’ for several days in various situations. And then I sensed God guiding me to study the passage more fully. So I read verse 20 and was floored and KNEW God was taking me on revelation journey! It said, “Though the Lord give you the bread of affliction and the water of distress…” There it was. No grey. No if’s. God giving difficulty. As I meditated on this truth, the Lord reminded me of a passage out of Isaiah 50. In verses 10-11 (NLT) it says:
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant?
If you are walking in darkness,
without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
and rely on your God.
But watch out, you who live in your own light
and warm yourselves by your own fires.
This is the reward you will receive from me:
You will soon fall down in great torment.
It was here that clarity began to emerge. When we’re in darkness, or a fog, or any position of unclarity, we often seek to run out or away from it…in our own strength. Yet, here, it says to trust and rely on God. Keep walking, yes, but slow down. Pay attention. Listen closely. Don’t panic. Resist the urge to run ‘away’ from the trouble, the angst, the confusion. And rather move closer to the One you know—even if you can’t see Him or feel His presence. Trust and rely on his character of love, goodness, faithfulness, kindness. Trust what He’s done in the past. Trust and REMAIN in the fog. For God is doing something. And it has much to do with you. He has you in His cross hairs (which doesn’t sound safe, I know) but remember his character. He is a good Father who knows his children by name, and knows exactly how to go after your heart.
But if we will not TRUST and remain with Him, he says be warned. If you light your own fires (pathway, understanding, self-reliance, etc), I, God, will let you! Think about that for a second. He let’s us choose our way, our path, our out. And…your chosen path for clarity may work for a minute or a day, but… you will hit a dead end, and be far worse off. For in the end, you will be more lost, more in the darkness, and completely out of gas emotionally, mentally and physically. You’ll fall down in agony of soul. Because you acted in your own strength. You trusted you above Me. And now you’ll receive from Me…torment. Wow.
It was at this point that my friend was staring with eyes wide open and wet with tears. I went on the explain that a thick fog from God’s hand, which often comes in the form of trouble and distress, is to slow us down or even stop us. Maybe there is overt sin we need to confess. Maybe there are binding agreements we’ve made with our enemy or against the Lord that need to be broken. Maybe we haven’t fully surrendered every aspect of our lives to Him. Regardless, God uses trouble to get our attention. It is actually a great kindness when we can’t see ahead because we can still see immediately around us…especially ourselves! God is inviting us to look inward to see what He sees and what He desires to sort out.
So I smiled at my friend and said, “I think your personal fog is good news. It shows that God finds you valuable enough to slow your life down to work out something within you. He has his loving eye on you, and desires His full glory to emanate from you. You will see ahead again in the right time. For now, trust and rely on Him because He cares enough to give you trouble.