When things are comfortable, safe and manageable, I feel confidently secure. When circumstances are well-oiled and unobstructed, I easily sense momentum, empowerment and certainty. During times of human approval, when there are a dozen or more people who have my back, when my detractors are muted by the shouts of my supporters, I walk a little more deliberately and swiftly toward the goal. You may be like me in this way: when nothing is between me and my destination, I feel very good about arriving with a little swag.
I haven’t had a season like that in many years.
This is not to say that I do not live with certainty, confidence and determination. I actually do. Having said that, I believe it is important to say that God has seen fit to ensure that my sense of hope is not rooted in the shallow soil of favorable circumstanes. Many years ago, when I was beginning in vocational Kingdom ministry, everything I touched turned into 24-karat gold. Looking back, it really was easy, and I am grateful that my Father entrusted to me an early season of unbroken encouragement. That season lasted for over four years. Slowly, trickles of trouble started coming my way, and my misplaced confidence was kicked to the curb by the humbling boot of my gracious God. Constant cheers began to be mingled with jarring jeers. Compliments on a job well done morphed over into criticisms from those who wished me to do God’s will their way. Layers of impossible circumstances made my once solid footing to feel like quicksand beneath me. Friends became fewer, or at least it felt that way. Foes came out of the shadows, or at least it felt that way. Whereas it seemed like God had been allowing me to travel with Him in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd, during that season of change, things became very lonely for me, and I learned what it meant to experience the underbelly of leadership. God was intentionally removing my presumption of comfort, and He began entrusting to me the unavoidable paradigm of leadership, namely, that God must get the leader alone in order to make that leader suitable to be followed to the high ground of His plan. The Apostle Paul said it this way:
“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24
The details of how this played out in my own life would likely bore you. However, let me strongly suggest that this same process will likely appear in your life too. If you are gifted, capable, successful and accustomed to winning…God will deepen you by ordaining a season in your life wherein nothing will come easily. You will be humbled. You will lose a handful of contests. Some who once cheered you on will second-guess you, and they may distance themselves from you – but not before dropping a steamy pile of discouragement at your feet as they move in the opposite direction from you. The resources that you once presumed to be permanent may dry up. Your influence might atrophy. Phone calls and emails which once valued your input may stop arriving in your voicemail and inbox. In essence, Father may intentionally remove any unworthy crutch upon which you have unknowingly leaned upon. This is not cruelty from Him. This is actually His determined devotion to you. He does not want your finish line to find you without your confidence that His presence and His proactive grace were all that you truly needed. Troubles trickle so that grace may gush.
The Christian who continually plays it safe is a living contradiction. It is not faith that we are living in if life has to remain untested, unobstructed or unchallenged. Comfort zones are presumed by most but promised to none. I can look back and recognize seasons that I thought I was living in victorious faith when, in reality, I was merely walking in temporary ease. It is only through the smoke of the battlefield that we are truly able to discern the presence of God. When shadows and fog move into our lives, when those things which were once clear are now fuzzy, when the sounds of approval are drowned out by the cacophony of confusing white-noise…these are the places and moments when we become determined to hear the voice of the Father. These are the seasons when we meet God. This is where we grow in our love and gratitude toward a good, good Father.
If you are living out this season today, you are actually in a much better place than you were in when things were easy. I promise that you are not there alone. He has not forgotten you there. He is actually drawing near to you in ways that you never even desired when things were more favorable.
Sit still. Cry out. Wait long. Hope high.
You will not regret it.
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