There exists a place that Christians don’t often speak of. This place is unpleasant and, in the history of the Church, nobody has ever requested to go there. But most of us have done so at one time or another. This place is cold and dark, hollow and quite lonely. It is not fixed in one location because believers in Ecuador and England, Cuba and California, Poland and Pennsylvania have all spent seasons there. You would think that with all the people who occasionally stay there that, when it is our turn, we would be encouraged by the company. Yet you always feel like you are there alone. This place is The Hole. Maybe you have heard it referred to as the pit. It is the deep and jagged scar of doubt, fear and a troubled mind. It comes sometimes as an ambush, and other times as a slow creep. King David wrote of it. The Apostle Paul found himself despairing of living at times when he was there. Moses, that thunderous leader, requested of God an early exit from earth when he awoke there. And you…you know exactly the place of which I speak because you have also stayed there before. Maybe even today you are there. This station is called by dozens of different names, but it is the same place for us all and, when we are living there, the enemy tells us that God will leave us as we are and never come again to fetch us to Himself. I don’t like The Hole. Not even a little.
These thoughts are not happy but they are helpful if we listen. Your life has so many common traits with mine and others that we can honestly declare with wise Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun. Charles Spurgeon was mightily used by God, yet he was a man given to fainting fits, and he warned all of his students to expect powerful fits of their own. For ourselves, we may call it depression, melancholy, the blues or any other name we might choose. I call it The Hole when it finds me, and I have learned to hold on to a few things that sustain me while I’m there.
- God is in The Hole with me, not to panic by my side, but to help me learn that even The Hole can be blessed if He is with me
- Some valuable lesson for me is in this undesirable place, and it cannot be learned by me through any other means than this unfortunate experience
- I should not look for rescue from The Hole through any human means. People can console me there but only the Almighty can bring true comfort
- The Hole never releases me as quickly as I desire
- Even though the experience feels dark, I am made to see the most important things with greater clarity. God blinds you to some things in The Hole so that your spiritual sights are trained on things which matter most
- Honesty with yourself occurs while you wait for release. There are no illusions about the limits of your abilities here
- There are no formulas to get out of The Hole. It is almost always a time of waiting, praying, dying to your self, and growing in faith. God eventually moves you
- Hebrews 12:11 is proven true again each time you are in this place
- God has always brought me out of The Hole, even when I assume it’s become my permanent address
It is never a good thing for us to play games with people in pain. It doesn’t help them for us to toss around tired cliches, religious rhetoric and pious platitudes. Spiritual struggles are incredibly messy; they defy our prepackaged, trite explanations, and often these ongoing troubles come with no clear remedy. What a shame it is when we answer the groans of a struggler with the polished formulas of marbled theological classrooms. We tell strugglers, “Just trust God.” and somehow think that this had not occurred to them before. Did not Jesus trust His Father, and yet did not Jesus weep? Did He himself not groan in agony? Would it be risky to remind us all that Mark’s Gospel reveals that, on the night of His betrayal, Jesus Christ declared that His own soul was so deeply sorrowful that He had the sensation of death within Him (Mark 14:34)? He bled and suffered and died under the cruelest of circumstances, and He experienced loneliness and rejection to a degree that is inexplicable. Though we never match the experience of the injustice that He accepted, it is not impossible that we can lose our bearings, fumble our faith, question God’s goodness and learn the dark art of jaded bitterness when The Hole refuses to turn loose of us. The fallacy of human formulas is never more evident than when you are hurting and nothing serves as a balm.
So what is it that we are to do?
For me it is usually little more than waiting on God’s timing and rehearsing in my spirit all that I’ve ever believed of Him. Those beliefs are refined in The Hole, where the heat of affliction burns away the unnecessary, inaccurate portions of what I believe about my God. My response to pain is more than lock-jawed, stoic endurance – it is a cooperation with the undeniable evidence that God wants me to die to my lesser loves and loyalites. We must wait proactively and trust God with whatever is left within us as we are mercifully made to see all the lesser objects of our trust which have somehow encroached upon our hearts. God must remove every one of those lesser objects of trust because, in truth, they are our idols of the heart. I nearly always sense that The Hole is something of an undesired classroom wherein I am compelled to pass a test that I’m unprepared to take. But I take the test. Then I’m given it again. Once more the test is presented and at some point God is pleased with what I’ve learned because His desire has been achieved. He is glorified and I am further sanctified. It seems that only then does the dungeon flame with light, my chains fall off, my heart is freed, I am made to rise, go forth and follow Him. He has made us a little wiser there in that place of which we do not wish to speak. He has drawn us a little closer. He has fashioned us in deeper dependence upon Him. You see, in that dark and unwelcome season when cold fear evicts the warmth of easygoing, vibrant faith…God does His deepest work in you and, apart from The Hole, the work cannot be made complete.
I suppose the issue at hand is how you and I will respond to it. I have much to think upon today. So do some of you.
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