Today, I found myself reflecting on how much my life has been transformed over the course of the past year. If you had told my 2016 self where I would be a year from then, I probably would have (nicely) laughed in your face. At the time, I was bereft and so overcome by the circumstances of my life that I had lost practically all perspective.
Today, of course, things look very different. I don’t have all the answers – honestly, I know very few of them – but I have greater peace than I ever before experienced in my life. There’s something to be said for simply letting go of situations that we cannot control, people whose behavior causes us great pain, and wholeheartedly surrendering them to the Lord. This has perhaps been my greatest lesson over the course of the past year.
That’s why I thought this image was so appropriate today:
Seriously – sometimes you just have to go through it. Even when you see no light at the end of the tunnel, or you can’t quite understand how you ended up in the tunnel in the first place. You make the decision to keep walking in the dark, because where you are going must surely better than where you’ve been.
My tunnel was not fun. It was littered with detours, pitfalls and other bewildering things, but by the grace of God, sometimes all I could do was simply crawl my way forward – on my hands and knees, one little shuffle at a time. But I kept going – and it really helped that there were others who were praying for me during this time, too.
Today, I believe that I am out of my tunnel, but I’m not naïve enough to think that my life will be tunnel-free from here on out. I know that when everything and everyone else falls away, you’re left with yourself and the Lord. And in the dark, when all of your human senses have failed you, who are you going to trust? Your own perceptions, or the sovereign God of the universe?
So yes – sometimes the only way out is through. And we may repeat this process several times, but we keep making it through. There is always a way out, even though it isn’t necessarily easy or convenient.
For some of us, this way out may not even happen in our lifetimes. While my health is reasonably good, I know that there are people out there with debilitating illnesses, whose bodies are wracked with pain everyday. Sometimes, their tunnels must seem to be very dark and lonely, indeed.
It’s important that we keep tender hearts for our friends in situations like these. Sometimes we (well-intentioned Christians) throw a bunch of Bible verses and other platitudes at people who are suffering, expecting that these actions will miraculously heal the person. Instead, perhaps the kindest thing we can do is to listen compassionately, and find thoughtful (yet practical) ways to express God’s love to those who are suffering deeply.
However, I am encouraged, though. After all, on this earth we are only passing through, and an eternity lies before us that is unhampered by pain, illness, and the other devastating side-effects of sin in this broken world. In the depths of our greatest sorrows, we can always cast our minds there, and cling to the hope that we cannot see with our natural eyes – a hope for a better eternal future.
So keep going through, my friends – that’s the only way out!
Dear Lord, as I recollect all that I’ve experienced over the course of the last year, I thank You for the ways that You have brought me through some remarkably difficult circumstances. Help me to remember these important life lessons when the next tunnel comes my way, and give me the courage to walk forward and wisely navigate around (or through!) whatever unexpected difficulties that I may encounter.
Also, for those people out there whose tunnels are long, dark and apparently never-ending, please fill them with Your joy, presence and peace – even in the midst of their trials. In Your name I pray, Amen.