February 4

“I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.” Isaiah 58:14

Those who fly through the air in airships tell us that one of the first rules they learn is to turn their ship toward the wind, and fly against it. The wind lifts the ship up to higher heights. Where did they learn that? They learned it from the birds. If a bird is flying for pleasure, it goes with the wind. But if the bird meets danger, it turns right around and faces the wind, in order that it may rise higher; and it flies away towards the very sun. Sufferings are God’s winds, His contrary winds, sometimes His strong winds. They are God’s hurricanes, but, they take human life and lift it to higher levels and toward God’s heavens.

Obstacles ought to set us singing. The wind finds voice, not when rushing across the open sea, but when hindered by the outstretched arms of the pine trees, or broken by the fine strings of an Aeolian harp. Then it has songs of power and beauty. Set your freed soul sweeping across the obstacles of life, through grim forests of pain, against even the tiny hindrances and frets that love uses, and it, too, will find its singing voice. (Streams in the Desert)

The fifteenth-century Christian writer St. John of the Cross writes of la noche oscura or “The Dark Night of the Soul” as a divine gift in which the disciple is stripped of all dependence upon and desire for anything other than the Person of God. It feels awkward to admit, but I have developed most during the darkest periods of life. Some of these I created; others were outside my control. Either way, utter futility fosters a desperate return to the Father. Therein lies the blessing. Fortunately, it is possible to engender a singular focus and love through practicing the presence of God such that no crisis is required to jerk us to attention like a chiropractor adjusting a wandering spine. Look for Him in any and every circumstance and relationship and you will find Him. He is near to wherever you are. If your heart rejoices, sing to Him. If your heart aches, cry to Him. If you are indifferent, plead before Him. If you are jaded, confess to Him. Consider this harsh moment an opportunity to see what Jesus is up to in your life, or in the lives of those you love. What you may find is an invitation into the glorious purging of the dark night, where the old self and its toxic desires are rejected and replaced by a new and deeper love for Jesus, for others, and even for you—a beloved son or daughter of a heavenly Father who longs to love you all the way home. “Obstacles ought to set us singing.”

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