It is wonderful you reached out to us, friend. The best
thing in the world. You are not alone.
I loved the words you wrote, by the way. What a great prayer
you prayed and a wonderful thing to desire!
Sometimes we go through places where God is only met in the
desire for God. He himself will not show up, but he will give you the desire
That is what you have: desire for God.
Somehow, God hides himself in that desire. I hope that is a
comfort, however small. And, know this:
This entire prayer you’ve written was placed in you by God.
It is a prayer that assures you of his hidden closeness. It is a guiding
But what to do with these feelings, then? It feels to you
like God is far away...
Pretend with me that you are in the valley of the shadow of
death. A comforting thought, right? J
While you are in this place, you have a memory, a vague
recollection of times when you were assured of the good shepherd’s leading in
green pastures and beside refreshing water. You remember those times of
feeding, joy, brilliant sunlight. Happiness seemed to bubble over. You could
not stop smiling, singing. Your heart was dancing, dancing in glorious freedom.
You could rest. Indeed, even when you were doing work, it
felt like rest. Everything felt restful, peaceful, happy.
He led you to good water, refreshing water. Oh, that water
tasted so good! Everywhere you turned there seemed to be water and you didn’t
have to work for it. It was there, ready for the taking.
When you looked in a pool of still, good water you could see
a reflection there. It was the face of the good shepherd standing right beside you.
There he was, both over you and under you. You could also see your own face
clearly, but that didn’t matter because you could not take your eyes off the
Now you are in the dark place. There is no light here. You
seem surrounded by enemies. And, where is the shepherd? You cannot see him.
Wait. You see his staff. There is no shepherd, but that is
his staff. You know it well because you remember it from before.
A good sign: his staff is not laying on the ground or
leaning against some rock. If it were, you would know the shepherd left it
there and walked away. No, someone is holding onto the staff.
You remember him telling you that this is his
staff and no one else’s. He will not
yield his authority to another, especially in this place. So, you know it is
the shepherd holding onto his staff. Well, then, why is he just standing there,
far away? You want to see him
just his staff.
“Doesn’t he know I’m afraid?” you think. “Can’t he hear me
bleating, crying out? WHY DOESN’T HE DO SOMETHING and come over here?”
When you were a baby, he would have been near. He was your
mother and you suckled on her breast. But now you are grown up—still a child,
but grown up.
The shepherd is making you stronger.
But you feel on your last legs. Tired. You can’t take
anymore. You feel weaker, not stronger. After a while, the muscles of faith
need a break. But he seems to keep pushing you. Why?
He knows: no pain, no gain. Yes, it hurts, but…
“…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this
all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every
side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not
abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body
the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
(2 Cor. 4:7-10)
With the pain, we have an assurance of gain. Again:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth
comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…For in this hope we were
saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already
have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do
not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:18, 24-27)
While we wait for deliverance patiently, we are reminded:
“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither
the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor
anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)
But in this dark place, the shepherd is far away. You
believe he is there but you have no proof it is the shepherd holding onto the
staff (other than his words that he yields his authority to no one). So, you
are dependent on faith. That is all.
You lower your head in sadness. Oh, for those days of song
and dance and food and light and laughter! The shepherd held me in love, he
kissed me and we laughed together. But that is gone, so you just weep, head
When you are all cried out, you look up and see you are
sitting at a table, here in this place of enemies. The table has some food on
it. So, why haven’t you seen this before?
You have not seen it because the dark place is a confusing
place and you spent all your time looking for the shepherd himself (not his
food) because the shepherd is all that matters to you. That is natural.
Now what seems strange to you is that you see the food
there—you know it is good and given to you by the shepherd—but you have no
desire to eat. “Why bother? If I can’t have the shepherd, the food does not
matter. People do not live on bread alone.”
So, the food gives little comfort. But the shepherd put it
there because he knows you might be here in this training ground awhile and you
will need it from time to time.
Right now you don’t feel like eating it and he lets you
refrain from eating it. He figures you will reach for it when you need it, but
he also keeps an eye on you so that if you utterly forget yourself he will find
a way to get some food into you so you don’t die of starvation.
So, you just keep an eye on that staff. Waiting for it to
move closer to you or move further from you. You just want it to move
somewhere. “Just stop standing still, for heaven’s sake!”
If you see the staff beginning to move away from you, I
suppose you’ll follow it. Likely, it will move further away sooner than it will
move closer. That’s because, here in the middle of this dark place, the light
place is further from you than closer to you. Strangely, to move you into the
light, the shepherd will, in his mercy, move further away from you in hopes of
enticing you to follow him. If you fall, he will double-back, pick you up,
carry you on his shoulders and kiss you well. But, he thinks you have it in you
to follow. So, he won’t do that just yet.
So, with body weakened but faith strengthened, you resolve
that when he moves you’ll move. Because there is no one else you’d rather be
near than that good shepherd.
Yes, I know you’ll follow when he moves. But that time has
not yet come. So, you wait, wait, wait at the table he’s made for you in the
presence of enemies.
Friend, I will pray God delivers you and that through this
you will be stronger, stronger than ever. I know you are tired, but when we
exercise those muscles of faith it will be tiring. I pray he will give you
strength. Strength to carry on, one day at a time. I pray that somehow in this
dark place there will be music to suit the time.
Keep talking to us. You don’t need to hide anything. We’ve
been in dark places, too. We love you and are with you in spirit.