Iíve been engaged in conflict these past many months, in soul-struggle. Not in a struggle of doubting the viability of God, or in the saving works of Christ, or even in the Spiritís indwelling reality and power. Nonetheless, soul-struggle has deeply marked my passage, better yet, my lack of passage, month after long month, Ďtil despair became all too familiar a garment.
How, then, to describe my struggle remains a mystery. The sovereignty of God, that place of resting in the Divineís love and perfect will, undergirds this soulís perception of her days. I cannot remember a time when it has not.
How then can hope drown in such a sea? How does despair so plague a soul anchored in God's sovereignty that it all but gives up? It is not the first time in my fifty plus years difficult seasons beset me. Jesus has sustained me through seasons of loss. Heís sheltered me under the shadow of His wing during deaths that without the reality of His presence would have buried me Ö alive. He has been my conscious anchor in the here and now, and my blessed hope in an eternal, which I merely taste of now, but will feast on sumptuously, forever.
I gave up dreaming, as a child. Strangely, looking back, I can put my finger on the precise moment I released the fruitlessness, for me, of dreams. It was a peaceful release, not a begrudging one. No resentment. Just an abiding knowledge that Godís perfect love for me knew best. I found in that knowing, green pasture, still waters Ė a profound place of rest where contentment flourished.
I dwelt there for decades, bountifully nourished, marvelously sustained. Dreaming testing the waters from time to time, yet always coming back to resting in my Fatherís better ways. For they were better.
Each night, on the bedstead next to my sleeping form, my eyeglasses faithfully wait throughout the darkness, regardless of its depths. Always, within hands reach. Even before my eyes completely open, I feel around for those glasses, knowing comfort with them safely in my hand. You see, without them, I canít even see to find them anymore.
I think about that this morning as I listen to my pastor speak about his greatest besetting sin Ė worry! Maybe thatís because we share it. I hadnít consciously given thought to worry, its subtle yet pervasive presence in life, the roll it plays upon the stage of my soul-struggle. But as I listen, the pastorís words keep being overlaid by a prevailing image, an image of my eyeglass, sitting on my bedside table.
You see, since my teen years, my brain has engaged in its own battle, a two-front engagement where no victor remains victor for long. The combatants? A far-sighted eye and a near-sighted eye, and a brain caught in between them requiring dominance over both, if Iím to see rightly. At times, the engagement becomes so fierce I physically feel the tug-a-war at work. No side willing to concede. The result? Endless headaches, year in, year out, and ever weakening vision.
Listening to my pastor through the overlay of that eyeglass image began a provocative insight into my soul-struggle. At its heart beats the dominance of Godís sovereignty.
In truth, a conscious part of my soul may have been content to give up dreaming (if I can call it that) decades ago. But a deeper truth lies buried in another reality, the reality that dreaming never really dies Ė for anyone.
Solomon knew dreaming by another name, my own understanding. Everyone of us has a vision problem ... a near-sighted, far-sighted faith battle.
My soul-struggle became more defined these past few days. The realization that my understanding, my dreams for myself, for my children, most often are met with a resounding sovereign ďNo!Ē Though I believe with ever fiber of my being Godís sovereignty finds birth in His all-encompassing love for me, and mine, and truly is best, I struggle with the reality that my understanding so seldom falls into perfect alignment with what my Father knows best.
I am far too near-sighted, even when endeavoring to walk faithfully with the LORD, even when completely committed to my Fatherís ways.
Blood-stained sod lies between the near-sightedness of man and the far-sightedness of Godís sovereignty. Gethsemane. Bloody soil. Not for the feint of heart. The only place dreaming discovers the contentment of true rest Ö in genuine submission to sovereign love.
My dreams? What I hold dear for my children, for myself. And they may not be wrong for near-sighted living, for temporal-focused life. It may even be the best way. And such near-sightedness certainly comes more naturally to this clay, and to yours.
But Divine sovereignty doesnít make allowance for the shadow lives of near-sighted living. Divine sovereignty, propelled by love for me, looks with far-sighted vision to the eternal realm.
Enter the tug-a-war. That continuous pull between the flesh, the spirit, and Gethsemaneís submission. Thus defines my soul-struggle these past many months.
Something important to note. My eyeglasses profit me nothing when left on my bedside table. Failing to pick them up each morning, neglecting to put them on, leaves me fumbling through my day with nothing to show for the struggle but bruised shins, stubbed toes, and a disgruntled spirit clothing itself in despair. Regardless of how valiantly I pursued my dreams, they remained skewed, unfocused. Without my glasses, Iím walking in a world that isnít even real.
Solomon understood my clayís myopia, and the soul-struggle it generates. He shared it. And he also realized the eyeglasses that correct the vision problem plaguing mankind since Eden.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
I would like to believe, armed now with clearer vision, my soul-struggling days lie only behind me. However, like Solomon, I come to know this clay a little bit better with each passing day.
The proverbial reality remains of a chasm between the inevitable dreaming of my understanding and a loving Fatherís better way. As long as I draw breath, thankfully my days will know many more resounding sovereign ďNo!Ēs. Godís love for me is far-sighted, focused on an eternal kingdom and a life lived well there, and His love will settle for nothing less.
Am I destined then to live out my life in the quagmire of soul-struggle? Not if I am to believe Solomon.
Iím committed to planting my feet in a solid, if bloodied, soil. A soil in which Godís love for me has gently written, ďFor My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.Ē
I look to that soil Ö and by grace I will walk it daily. A soil in which, ďTake this cup from me; but not my will, Thine be done,Ē could only be written in scarlet Gethsemane droplets of true faithís soul submission.
Having raised four children, I live now in Texas. Mostly my writing is a sojourn with God. I find myself ever planted in Eden, glorying in its abundant and rich communion with the Almighty. Or, I am looking back, with longing. And the sojourn continues.