When I moved to Columbia, Maryland, I was sure of what serving as a minister of the gospel meant. My family and I moved from New Jersey to Columbia and I would serve as the minister of the Columbia Church of Christ, a small church that had been through some struggles. Though we never expected this, the Lord decided that it was time for these Christians known as the Columbia Church of Christ to disperse among other churches to serve. You can read more about it in an article I wrote for the Christian Chronicle. Since then I have been listening and seeking where I might serve as a minister next and several opportunities seemed very possible but for various reasons, the Lord has closed those doors.
So for the last year I have been in a wilderness of sorts, wondering where the Lord is leading and when this journey through the wilderness might end… All with the weight of knowing I have a family to care for, driving Uber as a part-time job to help make ends meet, and trying not to look back since I have already put my hand to the plow (cf. Lk 9:62).
That’s the context in which I read Isaiah 43:16-21, one of the Lectionary reads for this week during this season of Lent. The text reads as follows:
This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says to “Forget the former things and do not dwell on the past” because he is “making a way in the wilderness.” Putting aside historical exegesis for the moment and reading this text simply as a word from the Lord… reading as one who feels like I have been living in a wilderness of sorts for the last year, I find this passage both comforting and terrifying.
The passage is comforting because I know that the Lord is not looking at the past but what lies ahead… particularly what he is doing. God is at work in Christ and through the power of his Spirit. I am still a part of this glorious work of God. Praise be to the Lord, the God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Yet the passage is terrifying because it calls for a faith I struggle to keep as I walk through the wilderness. Am I to trust that God is making a way? It’s so tempting to make my own way even though I’m not sure what that looks like. Nevertheless, it’s tempting… And in the midst of this temptation, I recall how God has gifted me and called me to live as a minister of the gospel. A year ago I was sure of what that looks like and what that involves but here in the wilderness, it’s hard to see so clearly. And the more blurry life becomes, the more need there is for faith but the more tempting it is to try making my own way rather than trusting in the Lord that he is making a way.
This is faith in the wilderness and it always has a question mark at the end because it’s always a question. …Can I trust the Lord? …How long must I wait?
I wasn’t sure if I should share this on my blog or not but after sharing it with a few other people, it was suggested that I do. So, perhaps you find yourself in some wilderness too, wondering how much longer and whether can continue trusting the Lord. Know this: You’re not alone. The struggle with doubt is not a lack of faith but because of faith!