I receive an email newsletter from Jeff Meyers (email@example.com) dealing with issues concerning leadership Here's his recent one. If you have ever been through one of those periods "of prolonged spiritual pain" this may resonant with you.
A few days ago a dear brother shared his heart with me about a prolonged period of spiritual pain in his life. "I couldn't even read your newsletters--they were too painful," he explained.
This anguished brother had left a profitable vocation to pursue full time Christian ministry only to see his vision implode right before his eyes. He wondered, "Did I somehow miss God's plan?"
Death of a vision by Jeff Myers
The Wilderness Years
Read through the lives of the great kingdom-advancing men and women through history, and it becomes clear that most experienced a kind of death of a vision.
Sometimes it was for just a short season and these saints quickly regained their bearings and saw God's plan. Other times there was a lengthy season of uncertainty. Winston Churchill experienced this in the years leading up to World War II. One of his biographers, William Manchester, called it "his wilderness years."
Why a death of vision occurs
I hesitate to "dissect" what happens in a death of a vision, because each circumstance is different. But in
reading Scripture it seems that there are at least three situations in which God's people experience it:
1. When God accomplishes his purposes differently than the way we imagined he would.
I don't know about you, but I regularly find myself "instructing" God on how we will work together..."Okay
Lord, we're in the huddle, and here's the play option I want you to run..."
Scripture says that God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). As much as I think I can see, the reality
is that my vision is limited by my mortality--I do not know what God's ultimate purposes in a situation really
are. I see as though through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13:12).
Knowing that God's ways are higher--that He intends to accomplish infinitely more than I can imagine--can be
frustrating, but it is ultimately comforting. Moses, for example, thought that God would use him to bring RELIEF to the Israelite slaves. Little did he know that God would use him to bring DELIVERANCE. It took a long time in the wilderness before he was truly prepared for such an undertaking.
2. When we miss the point and think that we are central to the accomplishment of God's plan.
I must recognize that God may call me, but He does not NEED me to do what He is doing. Sometimes it takes a
jolt of reality for me to humble myself in His presence.
A good example comes from the life of Jonah. After Jonah repented of running away from God's plan, he went to warn the city of Nineveh of its impending destruction. God spared them because of their repentant hearts. Apparently, this made Jonah feel foolish, because his warnings of destruction did not come true.
It is clear from the text that He entirely missed the point. He even complained to God about God's mercy
(see Jonah 4:2). Jonah had confused HIS message with the Lord's message. He saw himself as an indispensable
part of God's work, and he thus missed the bigger picture of what God was doing.
3. When God's primary goal is working on us.
I have had many seasons of ministry in which I thought God was working through me to accomplish something significant in the world, only to realize that God was working through the world to accomplish something significant in me.
God is shaping you and me into the image of His son, and nothing will stop him. At the end of his trial,
Job finally got it right when he said, "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours
can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
How should we respond?
1. Pray for more faith.
God is faithful, but I am not. I find that I am regularly praying for more faith so that I can understand.
I need to be in the place of the man whose child Jesus healed from demon possession: "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24).
Sometimes the answers never come this side of eternity. I'll never forget singer/songwriter Michael Card's comments when he spoke at the Summit at Bryan College a number of years ago: "Many people go to their graves with our most pressing questions unanswered."
And still, you and I must pray with David (Psalm 42:5): Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.
2. Build into others' lives.
I can't imagine how devastating it was to the Apostle Paul to be placed in prison during his prime ministry
years. Yet it is clear from his letters that he never stopped teaching, discipling and mentoring.
For example, just before his unjust death, he infused his last letter to Timothy with an exhortation to persevere:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 2:1-3