If you are a person of faith, difficult times, like the ones we are in, are where the rubber meets the road. It is a time where, what you say you believe and what you actually believe, come into conflict with one another. Reality hits you square between the eyes. When you lose your job, do you believe God is the provider or you are? When the political system is out of whack, do you believe God is sovereign or that the government is? When fear rises up in your throat, do you believe God will work it out or do you believe the news reports? When your health suffers, do you trust God with the outcome or do you believe all is lost? When your independence turns out to be an illusion, do you become dependent on God or wave your fist?
In the isolation we are forced into because of the pandemic, we find ourselves uncomfortable with what we see in the mirror. We learn that it truly is just us and God. All other has been stripped away. Sports, entertainment, social events, travel, financial gains, all the systems…even our religious belief systems and boxes…everything we use to numb ourselves…is gone. We are left exposed. As naked as a baby and just as dependent. We cannot do life alone. We feel vulnerable and uncovered.
We long to be out of this quarantine but it will not lift. We are trapped with whatever family system we have set up, functional or not. Relationships are strained. Stress brings out the worst in us. We either work together and face our demons or we fragment into pieces. It is time to take stock; to figure out what it is we truly believe.
Years ago, when Bill was in the hospital and I didn’t know if he would live or die, I had to take stock. Is God still good even if my new husband doesn’t make it? Do I really believe God can heal? How will what I believe about him change if he doesn’t?
When I lost our first baby, I had to take stock. Is God’s timing really perfect? Is he good, even in loss?
When I had cancer, I had to take stock. Do I really trust God with my life? Do I really believe he cares for me, even in this? What happens to my children if I die? Will God really provide for them?
I have many more examples, but you get the idea. You have your own examples of walking with him in hardship. Wrestling even. The broken places in life are the ones where we find out who he really is, and who we are. They establish our identity. It is not a conscious choice in troubled moments, it is a desperate cry. It is in these times we make our way to the secret place.
I first found the secret place when Bill was in ICU. I wasn’t seeking it out. I wasn’t praying. I wasn’t worshiping. I was weeping. I was lost and afraid. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to be. Plans were laid waste. Expectations smashed. Dreams crushed. But I didn’t know any of that, just yet. The future was uncertain, but I couldn’t see past today.
In that moment, the presence of God filled the room. I didn’t ask for it. He just came to hold me in my pain. I felt calm cover me. I was comforted like a child in her Father’s lap. I could almost hear, “Shhh…It is going to be okay. I’ve got you.” It was the most powerful experience of my life.
Since that time, I have been back to the secret place numerous times. Each one, during a time of uncertainty and brokenness. Each visit, I have learned what I believe and what I do not. There is grappling and sometimes shouting, along with lots of tears. Fear seems to be a pre-requisite on the hidden path to this place. Honesty, is another. Exposing my heart is not a choice during these times, it is impossible to keep it hidden. It bleeds all over the place, and I can do nothing to stop it. I truly think it is what draws him.
My need for God in these moments isn’t neat and words are not carefully chosen. In fact, there are usually not any words at all. It is messy. It is muddled. It is chaotic. My mind is unable to wrap around my thoughts. My heart explodes with uncertainty.
It is here…in this messy place…where he meets me. He comes, without my call. It is here where he becomes my shelter. It is here, once my tantrum is over and my feelings are played out, that I find him ready to hold me and say to me, “Shhh…It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you.” I have come to recognize this place. What once was uncomfortable because of the intensity, has become a shelter. I have learned to run to it when times are tough. I can soak in his presence because all other options are futile. It is the only place I can find him. It is where the false beliefs fall away and I find the truth.
He is trustworthy. He is the provider. He is the healer. He is the lover of my soul. He is my dwelling place. I live in the shadow of his wings and the hollow of his hands. It is the secret place…where the rubber meets the road.
He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1