I?ve got to be honest with you. I know it?s odd for someone to be honest nowadays, but it?s the New Year and I?m having a Diane Sawyer moment, and I have to come clean. My devotion to God, for the past twenty-one years, hasn?t really been all that hot. My faithfulness to Him and His Word has had all the consistency of Papillon?s prison gravy.
My life with Christ can be characterized as ? let us say ? ?muddled? at best.
To be frank?I?ve flunked more spiritual tests than Joey Tribbiani has flunked calculus exams.
I?ve snapped under pressure like a weathered rappelling rope with a Mrs. Klump on the other end. And I?ve hit levels of frustration that are only eclipsed by the angst a white 16-year-old Baptist boy feels while watching the Victoria?s Secret special on TV with Tyra on the catwalk.
Yes, indeed ? that?s me.
Instead of a TBN-type party, I?ve often experienced an MTV-like dirge. Instead of singing on the mountaintop with Carmen, I?m frequently singing the blues to an old Creed song in a valley. Instead of emitting world-conquering faith all the time, I?ve had epochs where I?m drowning in life-rattling doubt. Far from being the perfect poster child of the upright citizen?s brigade, more often I personify the ?T? in Calvin?s ?TULIP? acrostic, namely, totally depraved.
In my spiritual journey to the celestial city, I?ve spent about as much time in spiritual darkness as I have in heaven?s sunshine. This being my normative experience, and being very different from the ?stuff? you see on Christian TV, I began to wonder what the heck is wrong with me? How come my Christian existence doesn?t resemble that of a game show host? What am I doing wrong?
Am I missing something?
Is it because I don?t give money to Benny Hinn?
Trying to find some kind of solace in the scripture, some reassurance that what I?m plowing through is somewhat normal, I began to go through the Bible looking for times when God?s heroes went through major crapola and were hammered with setbacks and frustrations. I was looking to see if they spent as many moons as I have under divine darkness. And guess what?
I found huge, mondo chunks of scripture where the saints? lives and walks with God sucked worse than an airplane toilet. That?s right! There are large blocks of time when our loving God allowed unlovely things to happen to those He loved. And, some of these dark time periods went on longer than Ben Stein singing ?Inna Godda Davita? in Pig Latin.
My ClashPoint is this: sometimes ? a lot of times ? God ordains darkness for His people whom He?s going to greatly use. This is not darkness that?s a product of our sinful constituent nature. It?s not the darkness that comes through stupidity, and it?s not the darkness that?s the product of demonic interference. Instead, it?s a biblical blackout where God tests the heart of the one who professes His name.
Darkness tests our calling, convictions, courage and commitment. You know?all the stuff that we have and say we?ll never lose when the birds are chirping and we just got a raise at work. Darkness, or the extreme testing of our spiritual mettle, is the precursor to light and major use in God?s economy. It is coming to each one of us who is truly called by His name. How we handle it when it comes will determine whether we?re benefited by it or battered beyond repair.