“When my spirit faints within me, you know my way…” (Ps. 142:3)

You may not be in a cave somewhere in ancient Palestine like David was when he wrote these words, but maybe you are experiencing times when you feel completely overwhelmed, to the point where you are ready to “pass out,” spiritually speaking. You find yourself exhausted, walking through the dry seasons of the soul, enduring attacks by the enemy and your own inner “demons.” Now, alone in your own “cave“of despair, it seems like you have lost your way. Promises and expectations lie shattered at your feet, and you don’t know the way to go.

Sadly, often at times like these, the ones we turn to for comfort only offer trite, ready made responses like, “Brother, you know the Bible says…” or “Sister, you just need to have faith.” Frankly, that’s the last thing we want to hear, and it does little if any good. I wish I had the magic answers for you. I wish I could provide you with an easy path out of your cave, but I can’t. These times hurt deeply, and there’s no wishing them away. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. Many of us are right there with you. And there are people who honestly do love you, and are praying earnestly for you. What’s even better is that Jesus knows exactly where you are- he knows your way.

I know you’re finding it hard to pray right now. You have to make yourself read the Bible, and you feel like such a hypocrite because you feel nothing at all-just going through the motions. But have you considered how precious you are to the Father, how his heart is filled with compassion for you as he sees you continue to cry out to him though he seems millions of miles away. Can you comprehend that although you desperately plead for this to all be over, God is with you even as he was with Jesus as blood oozed from his pores when he struggled in the garden of Gethsemane? Where you are is excruciating, but it will result in a deeper understanding of God’s faithfulness and love for you. I know it’s hard to believe right now, but you’ve never been as near or dear to the Lord as you are right now. In the cave you’re learning that Jesus is the One who keeps you, not your own strength or your “spirituality.” You won’t be in the cave forever. You are not forgotten. You will come out of the cave refined, renewed and restored, for the Lord knows your way.

Unsavory Characters

            If you don’t skip over the genealogy of Jesus that Matthew provides in his gospel you’ll find that there are some, how shall we put it…, unsavory characters listed. If you take the time to research some of the names and see the roles they played in the Story, you learn that they were definitely not perfect human beings. Frankly, there are some things that were done by people on the list that any self respecting family would be ashamed of. As I read these passages this morning I was greatly encouraged. I don’t know about you, but there have been many unsavory characters in my life. And if I’m honest, the most unsavory of all is me. We all look back over our lives and have to admit we’ve been involved in some shady dealings. We wonder at times if God is really working in us and if so, why? Why would the Creator of the universe bother with someone like me, a flawed, weak, unsavory character? Can he really use someone with a past like mine? Is there really some kind of method to the madness that has been my life?

            Fortunately for us, the Bible teaches us that God sincerely loves us and works all things “after the counsel of his will.” In other words, he has a loving plan. In the case of the lineage of Jesus, we see God at work in imperfect people, through events that seem horrible and tragic, to bring about the birth of Christ. We also get a hint of God’s precision and intention when Matthew writes, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”  And I’m convinced the Lord is just as committed, intentional, and precise when it comes to our  lives!

            All of our mistakes, all the pain, our personal failure, even our past can be used by God (is used by God) to accomplish his will in our lives. We don’t condone our sin with an “Oh well, God’s at work anyway.” attitude, but we can rejoice that through it all (even before we were aware of it), God has been at work to bring us to himself. And we know that he is faithful to complete what he has begun in us. With such assurance and hope, we have confidence to come to him and be empowered by his grace so that we can live in a way that is pleasing to him, willfully joining him as he unfolds the kind intentions he had towards us in Christ before the world began. Talk about hope! Talk about freedom! Talk about purpose!

            So if there are any unsavory characters like me reading this, come to Jesus and watch God make something glorious out of your life.