Sometimes when I write these blogs I realize that they are probably more spiritually and emotionally therapeutic for me than they are helpful to those that read them. More than one person has chided me for being “sad” in some of these blogs or for the personal darkness I sometimes share. Of course all of my messages are not melancholy or depressing, but I am not writing to impress you — that should be obvious. I am hoping that by being transparent and honest I might help another soul who is: suffering or rejoicing; winning or losing; growing stronger or being tempted to give up. I am still experiencing all of this after more than 40 years in ministry.
Anyone that has never struggled, doubted, lost sleep at night or caught themselves worrying (yes, I said it: worrying), has never run their own camp, or business. It is tough to make payroll, mortgage payments, cover overhead, prepare for an army of staff and program needs prior to the funds being secure to pay for those same staff and program procurements. It takes a step of faith every single day to not give up and look for an easier way to live. I know that I must sound like I am complaining, but I am simply trying to describe the dark water I feel I have been swimming in for 35 years. There are now at least ten things that could “go wrong” and could make me look very, very stupid this year; but if the same things “go right” I will appear to be somewhat gifted and blessed. I think that most folks in ministry probably live similar lives: aware that circumstances and situations can change instantly — and that it does!.
Two nights ago I was tormented by the knowledge that I was always thinking about what had to happen, properly, for the camp to open and function professionally this year. It takes 120 staff and LITs — vetted and trained — to make this little camp run well. And it only takes but one staff to ruin an entire summer! It requires money to operate this monster and there’s no getting around it! I could not sleep with the constant concerns about enrollment, staff, “daily bread”, protection from accidents, etc. For some reason these fears and worries cascade upon me at night, and only at night, in the darkest time of the evening.
This particular night I began my struggle with the enemy — the one that challenges me to doubt and live in fear. But a sentence from an old hymn suddenly interrupted our “fight". The words were “drive the dark of doubt away”, and I found instant comfort in the words and kept repeating them. As I prayed those words I tried to recall the NAME of the song that included these lyrics, but all I could remember was “drive the dark of doubt away”. THAT was my prayer! Lord, help me to stop DOUBTING that you are HERE, or wonder if you are still OMNIPOTENT, or question if you DO LOVE ME! Remind me that you will ALWAYS LOVE ME, and that you will SEE ME THROUGH my five prayer requests for 2017. My peace came in reciting over and over again the words from that song: Drive the dark away! I want to never DOUBT Him and His affection for me!
I woke up that morning and for some reason changed the station on my stereo (Sunday morning) and then I heard it: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee! The tune is from Beethoven, the words by Van Dyke. I could not believe that the same song I was praying ALL NIGHT was the FIRST song I heard on the radio! My fears melted, my doubts were vanquished! I KNEW that He had brought those immortal words to my mind; I knew that He had inspired Van Dkye; I was certain that the music I heard first thing Sunday morning was no accident!
Later I went to church and listened as the handbell choir began the service with a special song: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”! A mere coincidence? Surely not! What is the thing I desire more than anything else? The peace of God. The peace of knowing Him, being known by Him. The peace that surpasses mortgages, financials statements, enrollment, staff training, and even Christian work. The very peace of God.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!