The Shadow-lands

Wandering alone in the shadow-lands. That’s how I described life and ministry to a friend almost two years ago. Darkness seemed endless and (to be honest) my faith felt unstable. I was afraid of my weakness and overconfident in my abilities. (I had no idea what lay ahead. It was far worse than I could have anticipated.)

My friend did not respond to the plea of my aching soul as I hoped. In fact I initially despised his words. He said, “My first matter of prayer for you is that you will see God in the shadow-lands; that even without the good times, good feeling, and showers of blessings you will be satisfied with just Him, Himself … for however long God purposes to be the sole encouragement you have.”

I like chocolate. I like coffee. I like rich worship, family fun, and walking with my wife. I do not like pain…hurt…loneliness or suffering, at all! The words of my “friend” stung with the reality of my having to walk through the valley of the shadow.

My perspective for months was suffocating in grief and uncertainty. My friends perspective was that we, “would never choose to go (to the shadow-lands). But that is precisely why God wisely and lovingly superintends our paths to bring us there.”

The exhortation of my friend, was to seek and to see God in the darkness. His prayer was for my success, not my relief. Life during that entire season was extremely unsettling; which I discovered, was the point.

God does not need me, I need Him.

Are you currently in the shadow-lands? I urge you to spend some time with God here: Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Nahum 1:7; Exodus 14:13; Psalm 46:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I am weak, but He is strong.

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A Poem for Difficult Days

3053Lord, Just today I read
That Paul and Silas were
Stripped and beaten
With wooden whips.
“Again and again the rods
Slashed across their bared backs”
But in their desolate dungeon
Their feet clamped in stocks
They prayed.
They sang.
They praised.
In this musty midnight of my life
Imprisoned in the dungeon of confusion
Bound by chains of anguish
Help me, please help me
To pray
To sing
To praise
Until the foundation shakes
Until the gates fling open
Until the chains fall off
Until I am free
To share the Good News
With other chain-bound prisoners.

—Ruth Harms Calkin,
Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget