“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions…” Hamlet Act IV, Scene 5
Shakespeare may have penned these words over 400 years ago, but he was by no means the first person to experience this phenomenon (and certainly not the last!). Troubles seem to have a way of collecting in our lives in large, uncomfortable groups and at the most inconvenient times. Just when we think we’ve finished a stretch, here comes a few more to keep it moving. Just when we feel like things have bottomed out and we’re starting to bounce back and the problems grow deeper and more difficult. Times of trial – walks in the wilderness – are common in the lives of Christians. They stretch us, test us, break us down, and provide us with a revealing look at ourselves in the truest of forms. Depending on your perspective, this can be a very good or a very bad thing.
I have been walking through a wilderness for a while now. In fact, were I writing a retrospective of 2010, I would find myself using the term – “a year with two halves.” Where I am today is far different than where I was at the start of the year and in a place I would have never expected to be. The struggles have grown for me in most every area of my life. I have set my confession and have worked to do all that I can to overcome changes and challenges. But that is where I have gone wrong. You see, I can do all that I can and still come up way short of my intended target. This isn’t to say that I should do nothing (of course, I’ve tried that too, only to prove its ineffectiveness). What I am saying is this – any step I take, any thought I have, any actions I execute must be prayed over, directed, and instructed by God Himself. In Him I will find the strength to do what I need to do and to avoid those things I must not do.
So how does that help me out here in the wilderness? One word: hope. It gives me the hope to stay focused on what He is telling me instead of what my flesh and the enemy are saying. It gives me the hope that the struggles of today are only temporary. It builds my hope that I will take the steps necessary to align my life with His will and by doing so come to realize all of the gifts that He has in store for me – things that I’ve lost, things that I’ve missed, and things that I’ve never dreamed possible. In Him I find peace, strength, patience, comfort and rest. He protects me from my enemies, He provides the victory that has been promised to me, and above all He saves me from my sin and restores me to a right relationship with Him that will last for eternity.
I know that the road I’m on is one that is unpleasant (to say the least). I realize that I have made mistakes to get myself here. I feel the sting of the hurts and offenses, serving as a near constant reminder of my straits. But I refuse to stay put, wallowing in them and allowing myself and my future to be defined by them. God has something far greater in mind for me – a destiny for which I have been created. I have seen parts of it. I know some of the people, places, and things that will be integral in building, shaping, and perfecting it. Today I place my trust in Him – the master architect – to take His beautiful design and to construct my life in a way that will serve His purposes while exceeding all of my needs to the glory of God alone.
1 In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.
2 I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good.
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, LORD, is in you.
22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!