I like sour candy. The kind of sweets that cause your face to contort and brow to sweat. At a local produce store I found a new treat, sour apple drops.
After sucking on several I noticed finding spots where the sour was more intense, almost painfully intense. During those painfully intense moments I had a choice – flip the candy over in my mouth to avoid the pain, or keep hanging in there with the intensity.
By hanging in, I was actually experiencing the fullness of that tart candy moment. If I flipped the candy over I would be avoiding what made the candy its best.
I had to think about it each time.
Several years ago I went through a wilderness period in my life where I was anxious, sometimes excruciatingly anxious, every day.
It was awful, and it felt like it lasted forever. I just wanted it to go away, and I wanted to not feel that way.
When I told a friend I don’t want to feel all these feelings, he suggested that I actually get to experience more out of life than others who don’t feel. This wasn’t much comfort at the moment, but in retrospect I completely agree.
During the anxiety period, a handful of verses from the New Testament became more alive to me – intensely alive. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”
I felt weak all the time, in fact I felt like the walking dead most of the time. Knowing that Jesus could empathize with me in my moments of terror, during my panic attacks, when I felt completely alone, and when I thought that death has got to be better than what I’m experiencing…that comforted me.
Still, I would gladly jettison the suffering just to feel better – to avoid feeling terrible. Isn’t there an easier way?
Amazingly, it is going through the excruciating gauntlets in life that actually allow us to experience God more powerfully and poignantly.
Consider Hebrews 10:36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
And in James 1:4 we are told, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete…” The book of Hebrews constantly reminds us that we can enter into God’s rest if we follow Him wholeheartedly. And James states that the suffering produces a maturity that can come only through our faith being tested.
We all want to experience God’s peace, and I think we all want to grow toward maturity.
When those crucible moments come in our lives we always have a choice: the easy way by avoiding the pain, or the difficult path of entering into the suffering. We have to think about this on each occasion.
My wilderness period lasted about two and a half years – a very agonizingly long time.
But I can look back and say emphatically I experienced God more deeply, intensely, and passionately during that season than any other time. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Experiencing the fullness of our earthly relationship with God means leaning into the pain and suffering and intense emotions sometimes. The experience held far more significance than savoring a sour apple candy, but it also had a far greater reward.
As the mother of small children, I nursed a familiar feeling of dread each morning. I found time early in the morning to be alone with God. Somehow, my discipline became an exercise in making myself worthy of entering God’s presence. One day, God interrupted my efforts.
Why doubt is not necessarily a road-block to deep faith.
God has hard-wired each of us to experience Him uniquely.
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