“Don’t go any further. We’re right on the edge of a cliff. This is not the right trail.” I hissed in frustration.
My first day hiking the Pennine Way in England almost ended in disaster. I had set off from the valley trailhead in bright sunshine but near the top of the mountain the clouds descended and swathed everything in the daylight darkness of a dense fog. Along the way I had acquired a hiking companion who assured me that his RAF training had fully prepared him to navigate under the toughest conditions. “Just follow me.”
Well, I took him at his word. Even when his trail seemed to be veering east while my map suggested north would be better, I trusted his judgment. Only when I saw the exposed rocks of the cliff top was I convinced that we were indeed far off course.
Following the Lord’s guidance sometimes feels like making choices in a fog. The brightest and most obvious paths may not actually be His way for us. His step by step presence is our best guide through the dark places. Here’s what Isaiah says:
Who is among you that fears the Lord,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10-11)
None of us like seasons of darkness, when picking out God’s path through life is difficult. They are some of the toughest tests of faith. Brighter guidance systems become appealing right then. How much easier to go with our fiery emotions, do what feels best, or easiest! It takes just a spark to light fires of fantasy in my mind. In their blazing light I can see paved paths to the distant future. How pretty and practical our firebrands seem. Yet feelings and fantasies usually end in tormenting boulders.
Darkness seems like a prison cell. All you know is what you can feel at the end of your fingertips and toes—about three feet each direction. Why would a loving God subject us to such times? Surely it must be a practical lesson about guidance and trust. When the only direction we have in the dark is a simple word from the Lord that seems to have fading relevance, it is tempting to stray after a fresh, warm glimmer. But in the dark times we learn that our fiery torches are dangerous guides, while the Lord’s words are reliable. It takes devotion to stay true to the Lord when He seems to have so little to say.
If you’re looking for spiritual advice, find someone who has journeyed through dark times and stayed on God’s trail. If you want to be a source of wisdom to others, accept the Lord’s classroom of darkness.
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