by David McArdle
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“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” [Psalm 34.18 NASB]
In a few days Chris our youngest son would have been 27 ... When we were together we often discussed the number of his birth-date by stressing number 8 as a new beginning and 4 as the number of the earth and I continually tried vainly as it turned out, to instil hope and meaning into his brief existence by stressing God’s timing and plan. I remember only too well what actually happened ... it was as though an evil intruder had deliberately set out from among the hosts of darkness to infiltrate our Christian environment and with an exceeding sharp implement, the sword of death, he ruthlessly and without mercy cut out Chris’ precious and highly valued life and at the same time left behind a vacuum which cannot be satisfactorily filled ... Where was God at this time?
Previously, when we were young in the faith or at a time of spiritual or mental crisis we would have willingly covered the length and the breadth of the land in our desperate search for someone to tell us just what God was doing with us, especially in the midst of our chequered circumstances and perplexing experiences. However, as we matured and developed spiritually and experientially we came to realise that there can be many seasons in the Christian life in which God’s silence can be relevant and comforting. At times like these David said “the Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” [Psalm 34.18 NASB]
Is God’s claim to be “a very present help in trouble” true? Even though Chris took his own life there was not at that time or even since the minutest trace of condemnation or accusation. Amazingly I never had to go looking for God He was always within an arm’s reach. His words however could be counted on one hand and that over an extremely long period of time. Divine comfort does not always depend on words of clarification. In fact, God’s presence and silence are both full of meaning to those of us whose hearts are tender.
A few days ago I had the following vision. I saw two men fighting on a solitary country road which was situated between two hills. I knew in my mind as I watched the vision unfold that one of the individuals represented the light and the other signified the presence of darkness. I also felt as I watched the vision that I wanted the one signifying light to prove to be victorious and I thought that the decision was already settled. I could not imagine God’s representative not finishing on top. However, as they seriously wrestled I saw the light overcoming the powers of darkness but eventually I saw the figure that was representing the realm of darkness walk away victorious. The other individual who was fighting on the side of the powers of light was also walking away but in the opposite direction and with a downcast attitude. I was greatly depressed and I thought, “I would never have believed it if I had never seen it.” After a prolonged pause I heard a solitary voice ring out and solemnly declare, “He wanted to go his own way.”
To those of us who still remain active in the conflict and who now know through experience that God’s sense of priorities is always uncannily accurate, especially when our sense of spiritual balance and understanding are awry. At times like these we need to deliberately avoid leaning on our own understanding and put on instead the garment of discernment. This will always enable us to maintain our spiritual equilibrium especially when our feet would run, without motivation, in very familiar paths. The sense of God doing a new thing can be both beneficial and burdensome. We often crave to stay with what we are familiar and skilful with, whereas God has other priorities and His agenda usually commences with spiritual discernment, concludes with spiritual delight, and in-between there are yet to be discovered spiritual directions. [David McArdle]
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