Light in the Darkness

Lina AbuJamra
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It was a cold afternoon in late spring. In my pain, I felt isolated from everyone. I had no one to turn to. Even my therapist didn’t seem to understand me. How had I gotten to this place? How had I become so alone? In my desolation, I saw the Bible on my coffee table. Why even bother? I wondered. I told myself it was a little too late to start reading my Bible now! And then simply because I had nothing left to say and nowhere else to look, I opened the Word of God randomly and I started reading:

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. . . .

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Ps. 22:1–2, 6–8)

The words of Psalm 22 could have been taken out of my mouth.

I could feel the tears streaming down my face. I had looked for God in the success of my ministry. I had looked for God in the acceptance of my peers. I had looked for God in the comfort of my bank account. I had looked for God in nature and red cardinals. I had looked for God even in the presence of my therapist.

I had looked for God everywhere, but had finally found Him right where He had been all along: in the living pages of His Word.

Then it dawned on me as I read the words of the psalmist that those words weren’t written about me at all. They were about Jesus. The very Savior I was wrestling with understood me completely. My very pain became the experience that brought me closer to His presence, that steadfast presence that had never left me.

I was experiencing breakthrough.

The very practices that had threatened to choke my soul became the saving graces in my life when I finally got to the place where I needed the Lord more than anything else in the world.

Rhythms are important to the Christian life. It’s formulaic behavior that robs our souls of joy. Rhythms that are rooted in relationship are life-giving. My parents would drink Turkish coffee together every morning before my dad left for work and every evening upon his return. They maintained this rhythm through forty-seven years of marriage. Soul nourishing rhythms are rooted in delight. The more we delight in Jesus, the more those old-fashioned rhythms give meaning to our lives.

When the love of God and the assurance of His presence filled my heart again, Bible reading became the means to hear God’s voice. Prayer became my opportunity to pour out my soul to Him, my willingness to become vulnerable and open with the lover of my soul. Though the Sabbath is still a struggle in my work-obsessed nature, I’m slowly learning to let go and trust the Lord with my life more. And fasting . . . well, we all grow in stages.

Is it wrong to ask God to show Himself mightily in our lives? Is it wrong to look for a breakthrough? I’m glad you asked! No, I don’t believe it’s wrong to want to see God and experience Him more fully. I don’t believe it’s wrong to ask for obvious manifestations of God or to beg for seasons of breakthrough. I don’t believe God is unable to reveal His ways through your circumstances or other people’s words or even red cardinals.

There’s a peculiar account in Isaiah 7:11–14. Ahaz is the king of Judah when the Lord speaks to him: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” Ahaz tries to outsmart God: “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” God wasn’t impressed: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

“It takes time to learn to hear the whisper of your Father.

Instead of commending Ahaz, God rebuked him for not showing trust in asking God for a sign. The point is that it’s okay to ask for a sign of God’s presence. Looking for God’s presence through signs and asking for breakthrough is not evil. It’s good. But judging God’s goodness by whether or not He delivers when we ask is arrogant at best.

The key is to learn to let go of the formulas we rely on to try to manipulate God’s power. The key is to rest in the truth undergirded by God’s love for us. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Faith trusts God, and when it’s shaken, faith rests its feet on God’s Word.

There are seasons in life when God speaks loudly and seasons where He is silent. There are seasons in life for signs and breakthroughs and seasons for delays and denials. There are seasons for answers to prayer requests and seasons for striving in prayer.

The Christian life is all about rhythms. These rhythms become holy when they are centered on the person of Christ and the character of God. There is a rhythm to silence and solitude—sometimes practiced in the wilderness alone, and other times stolen in quiet moments, surrounded by a crowd. There is a rhythm to prayer— sometimes we groan, other times we whisper, and at times we shout out to the Lord. There is a rhythm to fasting. There is a rhythm to fellowship with other believers. There is a rhythm to reading God’s Word; sometimes we read entire books at a time, other times we rest in the depth of one verse. There is even a rhythm to asking for signs; sometimes God wants us to ask for signs, other times He asks us to trust Him without them.

The goal of Christian rhythm is to deepen our knowledge of God and become more familiar with His character and with His works. This kind of soul-deepening work can’t be rushed. While you might turn off your radio and shut down your computer, it takes time to cultivate silence in your soul.

It takes time to learn to hear the whisper of your Father. But it’s work that’s needed if you long to experience the presence of God more deeply in your life. Most of us don’t hear God’s voice
because we’re too distracted to hear it. Dallas Willard once said: “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” This kind of work takes time.

Do you know God? Are you becoming more familiar with His character and His works? Are you hedging your life on His goodness or are you leery of His silences? Do you trust God’s goodness in your suffering? Do you trust Him enough to bring Him all of your desires? Do you trust Him enough to let go of your hurt? Do you long for God or are you just after His power?

You might have convinced yourself that if you could just experience a more tangible presence of God in your life, you would change. You might have convinced yourself that your faith crisis would resolve if God would just . . . do something!

He already has, beginning the day you first chose to trust Him. He’s given you His life. He’s given you Himself.

What if instead of straining to see more of God’s power, you simply asked Him to help you be quiet enough to hear His whisper, then discipline yourself to do so? What if instead of trudging through old practices, you chose to practice new rhythms?

God might still surprise you. You might just look up and see that there’s a red cardinal perched on that tree, or you might not, because it’s not a sign you’re counting on to assure you of God’s nearness.

And when you’re stuck in the ICU struggling to take your next breath, you’ll know that only one person will do. His name is Jesus.

For Further Reading:

Fractured Faith

by Lina AbuJamra

After your faith has fractured, let what takes its place be the real thing . . . at last. Somewhere along the way, the Christianity you knew...

book cover for Fractured Faith