“I have all, and abound.” Philippians 4:18
Who has not known men and women who, when they arrive at seasons of gloom and solitude, put on strength and hopefulness like a robe? You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut up their treasure with them. You cannot shut it out. You may make their material lot a desert, but “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” (Dr. Jowett)
Where there is much light there is also much shade. (Streams in the Desert)
It isn’t easy living the Christ life, but according to all available evidence it was never intended to be. “Think it not strange …” Quite honestly, I prefer things that come easily, and if not careful I make that my criteria for judging something to be God’s will, as if friction and strain somehow invalidate God’s purposes. That would be American hermeneutics, not biblical interpretation. Rigorous discipline, challenge, struggle, hardship—I may not gravitate naturally toward these, but such harsh descriptors are not incompatible with divine guidance.
Although I have invoked it from time to time, I remain leery of the familiar Christian vocabulary of the “open door.” I find many more examples in Scripture of hardship to be overcome than I do of walking through open doors like the opening segment to the old Get Smart TV show with Don Adams walking down a corridor as various secure doors open before him in rapid succession. The story of Joseph in Genesis disquiets me more than all the others put together. His tale is replete with mistakes, misunderstanding, false accusation, imprisonment, abandonment, servitude—and all for a preferred son. The kicker is the commentary that comes at the end of the narrative: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20 KJV). Seriously? Or take Paul’s unwelcome thorn in the flesh. God was obviously not unaware, as he responds to Paul’s petition that divine grace is sufficient to carry him through the pain. Sounds good if you’re not the one with the thorn—likely malarial induced headaches that stabbed like a red hot poker running through his skull.
Advance in gloom as well as in the light; shadows provide as much opportunity for growth as does broad daylight. Judge God’s will against his kingdom purposes, his Word, and his call on your life, rather than in light of the path of least resistance.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:12-19, KJV