Knowing God and experiencing Him can be two radically different things. This autobiographical short story briefly walks through the worst day of my life. The day I met God in the crucible of suffering.
For to this, you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:21
It was 5:05 PM when I walked into our smallish double-wide mobile home and saw the piano was missing. We were having marriage problems. It never occurred to me that our problems were at that level. I immediately knew my wife and children were gone.
I ran through the house looking for them. If you can momentarily lose your mind, I lost mine.
Finally, after exhausting every part of our home in search of my family, I fell in the hallway, heaving. It was beyond tears. I could hardly breathe.
At 9:30 that evening, I fell over on the floor beside my large King James Bible, just after reading the first line of Psalm 51: “God have mercy on me.” That was the last thing I remember.
The next morning I went to work, where there was a floor scale. I stepped on it–a habit I had just ’cause–and saw that I had lost ten pounds in fifteen hours.
Day one was complete, the beginning of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
I Love You – I Crush You
Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live. – Jonah 4:3
- I would eventually ask the Lord to take my life.
- I would eventually admit how angry I was at Him for what He allowed.
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. – Job 23:13-14
- He eventually completed what He had in His mind for me.
- He crushed me (Isaiah 53:10).
Four years later, I repented of my anger. Then God let me know, though it was mostly and mysteriously vague, that there was a purpose in His crushing.
Five years after that I began to see a faint glimpse of what I thought He wanted to do with my life.
That I May Know Him
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. – Mark 1:11-12
I went to Bible college for four years to learn about God. I went into the wilderness for nine years to experience Him.
After meeting the Lord in the wilderness, I began to see with a new set of eyes. He was creating and shaping a “theology of suffering worldview” in me (Philippians 2:12-13). God wanted me to know that I could not live well in His world without learning how to suffer well in His world.
The Lord took away everything that was dear to me on April 08. I was single, fatherless, penniless, and homeless with no future hope of restoration on any front, or even a promise of a future that would be any different from my present darkness.
There is a “darkness of the soul,” and there is a darkness of the soul that you can feel (Exodus 10:21). You cannot articulate this latter darkness. It’s deeper than deep (Psalm 42:7), from which there is only one cure. You must die (Matthew 16:24).
But If It Dies
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24
What I could not see, what I was afraid to see, and what I refused to see was the Lord (Job 42:5-6). I did not want to look at Him. To look at God in the crucible of suffering was to stare into my death (Luke 22:42). That is when I had my epiphany.
It is this: He had a Son, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” Isaiah 53:10). I’m one of His sons too (1 John 3:1).
Why should I consider it a strange thing (1 Peter 4:12) for my Father to make me walk in the steps of His beloved Son (1 Peter 2:21). I prayed for His forgiveness of my stubborn, self-righteous anger that was demanding He see things my way.
The Lord forgave me.
But nothing changed.
Except I seemed to perceive a sprinkle of hope coming like a small cloud forming in the sky about the size of a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:43-44).
Eventually, the rain came.
You Are Ready
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
It was thirty years ago today when the Lord ushered me into His crucible of suffering. I look back now and see His wisdom. And I do rejoice in His glorious and mysterious purposes.
I did not know it then but I know it now; God birthed this ministry thirty years ago today.