During the season when our church family was recovering from the loss of its facility, we sojourned for three years without a permanent home. This created immeasurable stress on our church staff since we often had to scramble at the last-minute when our temporary arrangements fell through. As well, we began to reveal architectural plans for our new facility with mixed reviews. The facility placed function over form and was non-traditional in design, leading to many questions and a manageable level of controversy. Any one of these pressure points was enough to make life difficult, but together they pushed me to the edge of sanity. In time my anxiety turned to discouragement and finally to depression.
One day I was traveling home after a long day of nightmarish logistical planning, and I decided to drive down to a marina near our home to settle my spirit. I parked the car by an old oyster boat and stared at the water for a few moments. A torrent of worries rushed through my head and I tried to make note of the issues that really mattered while pushing the ones that seemed unimportant into the recesses of my mind. Then, for reasons I still cannot explain, I felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and abandonment. Looking back, I can see the symptoms of depression. My stress level had simply been too high for too long and I was reaching my human capacity to cope. I wept. My tears were mingled with fear, grief and confusion, but mostly confusion. And since I was a leader the mere thought I was at my wit’s end filled me with a sense of inadequacy. I was at a loss to face the questions before me, let alone answer them.
When my tears subsided I started the car, turned on the radio and put the car in gear. At that very moment the DJ on a local classic rock station made a most unusual song choice. It began, “Oh happy day, oh happy day” followed by the remainder of the famous pop gospel song I remembered from my youth. I put the car back in park, leaned my head on the headrest, closed my eyes and listened. As I listened I was reminded of the grace God poured into my life through His Son. Although I was facing a lot of earthly challenges, my greatest victory had already been won by my Heavenly Father. I really did have all I needed. Buildings are useful. Other people’s perspectives were important and needed to be considered. But in the final analysis, if I had the promises of forgiveness and eternal life, and had entered into a new and lasting covenant with my Creator, nothing else mattered.
The song ended and I slipped my car back into gear for a slow, but relaxed drive home. I still had fears and doubts, but I think at that point I began the process of restoring some balance to my faith. I had been holding fiercely to the things I knew for certain, and that had served me well in a time of crisis, but the time had come to let go so God could remind me His options have no limits. In fact, this may very well have been the moment my faith stretched by leaps and bounds as I sacrificed a major portion of self before the throne.
All I know is my faith was stronger. The foundational truths that comprised my certainties hadn’t changed, but my willingness to be open to the ways God might work within them had. To the casual observer the pencils of my #2 Pencil Faith had been restored to their normal position, but I was anything but normal. In the years that have passed I have grown increasingly abnormal and aware of the peace of which Paul wrote, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
It is this peace I think we all desire, but it cannot be found on our own, nor can we discover it in comfort. We must be tested and tried. Such is the nature of growing in Christ, and the way of the #2 Pencil Faith.
Do you think peace is possible without suffering? What happens if we suffer without peace?
Dear God, fill me with the peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.