We go through trials and suffering occasionally in life that can make us wonder, “Where is God? Has He forgotten me?”, however, before the end, we are often reminded of His faithfulness. When we are His, He never leaves us or forsakes us; and perhaps the most surprising lesson is God doesn’t require us to believe He’s faithful to fulfill the promises He has made to us. Below is my testimony of His faithfulness through a past struggle.
I finally arrived at my hotel room at 10:30 p.m. and pushed the front door open, revealing the dark, inviting room before me. I sighed wearily as I flipped on the closest light switch and walked into the room. The heavy door closed quickly behind me and latched with loud a clicking sound as I plopped my luggage on the floor in the foyer and stood there numbly.
It was a long, tiring day, but I couldn’t find rest. I knew a huge stack of paperwork and a list of tasks longer than I had time to complete awaited me in the morning. My thoughts oscillated feverishly between trying to organize report pages in my mind and preparing tomorrow’s tasks. In an attempt to quiet my thinking, I forced my brain to focus on what I needed to unpack from my suitcase, but the thoughts relentlessly popped up from every corner of my mind and spiraled out of control until I no longer felt strong enough to stop them. Eventually, the stress and worry was an unbearable flood.
I’ve got to make it through the week, but I’m so tired, I groaned unhappily, knowing I had to find a way to successfully complete the business trip, but the idea seemed impossible. It was only Monday, and I had an entire week before me. The business trip followed several weeks of late nights and weekends of report writing and research gathering. I felt alone, depleted of joy, and trapped in a never ending nightmare. It seemed this trip was just another chapter in the endless cycle of despair that was ruining my marriage and snuffing out my hope.
“God, where are you? Why can’t I hear you? Are you still talking to me?” I called aloud to my Father who seemed strangely silent. I stood in the doorway for a moment, waiting somewhat expectantly to see if God would divinely intervene in the miserable pity party I was throwing, but He didn’t — or so I thought.
Slowly, I dragged my luggage to the edge of my bed and turned on the television which was previously set to the History Channel to a series called Gangland. The episode was about the Latin Kings of Chicago, a notorious gang of powerful killers and drug dealers who terrorize the city streets. As I watched, I was overtaken by the displays of pride, ruthless violence, and the general hopelessness of the human condition.
Normally, if I saw a show like Gangland, I would change the channel, but there was something about this episode that captivated me. I couldn’t remove my eyes from the television, and I couldn’t change the channel. Suddenly, I found myself completely obsessed as if something deep inside of me commanded gently, “Don’t look away. You need to see this. Watch.”
As I listened to a prominent leader of the Latin Kings named Sam talk about watching a gang member kill a close friend while high on drugs, I wept helplessly. Again, I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. As the show continued, Sam spoke as if he were trying to convince his interviewer that he wasn’t fazed by his friend’s death, but I somehow felt his shattered heart. I felt the darkness surrounding the man I saw before me. Although he appeared to be powerful, I couldn’t help but feel he was mortally afraid and craving to escape the world in which he lived.
When Gangland ended, I lay quietly in the bed, bewildered by why I felt compelled to watch the show. It was late. I should have already changed clothes and should be asleep, I thought with a sigh. I wondered if I would hear my alarm clock in the early morning hours or blissfully sleep through it, succumbing to the complete exhaustion that overwhelmed me. Finally, sleep overtook me (and yes, I heard my alarm the next morning, in case you’re curious).
About a month later, a good friend told me about a documentary called Father of Lights that would be showing at a local church within the next couple of weeks. The documentary was about a man who traveled the world and discovered God moving in extraordinary ways (see the Father of Lights trailer):I entertained the idea of going to see the movie, but I was tired and had some freed up evenings for once which I was not easily willing to give up. I convinced myself and my friend that I probably wouldn’t go.
Two weeks later, my friend approached me again about Father of Lights and informed me it would be playing that night at church. I wanted to respond that I wasn’t going; but instead, I muttered “Yes, my husband and I are planning to see the movie, and I’m planning to invite my friend Andrea too.” What? Why did I say that? I wondered. I don’t have time for a movie.
I may have secretly talked myself out of going, but I found myself sitting in a dimly lit church auditorium with my friend Andrea beside me, waiting for Father of Lights to start anyway.
The documentary was incredible and inspiring. I saw real people who were on fire for Christ. These people were bold in their faith and displayed amazing love and compassion for the people they approached. Lives were changed as broken people were restored and encountered the real love of Christ for the first time. As a result, I felt joy sweetly quenching the driest parts of my soul for the first time in months, but that was nothing compared to what I was about to experience.
A segment about halfway through the documentary focused on two men of faith boldly trying to stop a gang war in Chicago by talking to key gang leaders and praying over them. One of the key leaders being ministered to was Sam. Yes, you read that correctly! It was the same Sam from the Gangland episode I had seen just a few weeks before in my hotel room.
At first, Sam appeared to be the same tough, proud gang leader, but then he accepted Christ as his savior during part of the documentary segment. Immediately afterwards, Sam seemed stunned by what had just transpired and reveled quietly in the decision he had just made. Something deep within him was shaking the very foundations of who he thought he was!
Later in the segment, the documentary narrator commented that it had been a couple of months since Sam accepted Christ, and he wanted Sam to provide us with his thoughts on how his life was dramatically changing. His words below spoke to my heart:
“That’s when I know when I was changed, when I know I come back crying…Just feeling him — knowing that Spirit in me. I didn’t feel it over here [he gestures figuratively towards the gang life he once lived]. When I got this way close to the end, I felt that. And when you’ve been alone a long time, you know who that goodness is. You know God’s acknowledging you in the name of Jesus Christ and then you feel that Spirit be uplifted, that’s when you know. And that Spirit is alive. God says He sent us a Comforter, and it’s true. There’s that comfort, man. When you’re alone, you know that Comforter’s come. You’re alone and you think nobody cares that Comforter’s gonna be there. And you’re gonna be like, ‘Wow’, and you’re gonna be overwhelmed.”
Watch the Father of Lights promotional clip of the Latin Kings segment):
Sam’s words about feeling the Comforter in those times when you’d normally feel alone stirred the Spirit inside me, and I felt a gentle nudging as if the Holy Spirit was saying, “You say you’re alone, but you know you’re not. I’m always here, and I’m ready to take your burdens anytime you decide to drop them. Let go. Let me lead and comfort you.” (John 16:7-8)
In many ways, that day was a turning point in my life, although I didn’t realize it at the time. A dear friend said to me just one week after the Father of Lights showing, “You’re stronger than this. Don’t you know who you are? You’re a soldier in Christ so start acting like it!” He was right, and I slowly began to transform from a very immature Christian who had a narrow view of God’s ability to handle my problems to a strong warrior of God. The Christ who lives in me is strong, and I finally recognized a small glimpse of who He is within me. He is love. He’s my protector. He rescues me from danger and works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). Whom shall I fear?
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31, NLT