It was a Friday morning and I was up early. Somehow, in the grogginess that is 5:00am I had made a wrong turn and ended up in Ocean Beach. I promise, it was a wrong turn… really, it was! I guess that’s one of the perks of living in San Diego.
Since I was there, and it was o-dark-thirty, I decided to go sit on the beach and have a little talk with God. I walked through my typical structured and mundane prayer ritual and then just sat there. After a moment of silence, it started. A real, honest to goodness conversation with God. You know what I mean. My whisper grew to a mumble which eventually grew into a rant… I was really talking to God.
While sitting there on the beach I began asking God some tough questions. Questions that most people think Pastors are above asking. Questions like,
“What the $%#$%^ is going on right now? Am I done? After all this time, all these trials and all this education, is it time for me to hang it up? What are You doing God!?!”
Ministry can be a lonely place. People don’t always understand when God calls you to something specific. The truth is, Pastors don’t always understand it either. The future is hard to see, so most of the time we’re just holding onto what we think we heard God say. That’s fairly difficult to do when you’re in a dark place… especially an o-dark-thirty place like the one I was in. I guess that’s why they call it faith.
As I stood there on that day, crying out to the God of Elijah and complaining about my current situation, God spoke to me like I rarely hear Him speak. He said it so clearly that it startled me. “Be patient. Be faithful. The best is yet to come. Don’t leave or you’ll miss it. Just look up.”
As I slowly looked up to the East, I saw the vague outline of the eastern mountains and a glimmer of light. It was mostly dark and gloomy, but there was a faint halo of light emerging behind the mountains.
As I watched the sun begin to rise, I was practically offended! I’d preached it a million times. It was my life verse of all things! It’s been used so many times that it’s become cliche. You know the phrase, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
I said to God, “I get it, I’m in a dark place, but the sun is coming… Okay, You got me. Thanks a lot!”
I got up to leave, but half way to the parking lot I heard God say, “Don’t leave or you’ll miss it, the best is yet to come!” I responded with, “I know God, I get it. I won’t leave the ministry, I’ll hang in there. Got it!” Once again, He spoke clearly, “No, don’t leave or you’ll miss it. The best is yet to come.” Reluctantly, I walked back to my spot. I looked to the east again and watched as the sun began to rise.
The sky went through so many color changes that my 5 megapixel iPhone4 camera couldn’t even come close to capturing it. I’ve surfed this beach a million times; I’ve watched this sunrise a thousand times. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world, but it had become cliche, mundane and irrelevant to my life. It was exactly what had happened to my ministry. The truth is, I was about to walk away from it all because I couldn’t see a purpose, but God kept saying, “Don’t leave, the best is yet to come.”
As I stood there watching the sun bring light to the day, I began to see scattered storm clouds all around. It was so dark that I didn’t even realize we were actually coming to the end of a mild storm. There was darkness above, rain clouds to the north and a bit of fog to the south which gave the sky an incredible variance of color. That’s the way I was feeling at this moment. I was in the middle of a storm and because of it, I was having trouble seeing the beauty of what God was doing all around me!
It took a bit of a storm to allow me to see and experience something that I’d never seen or experienced before. At that moment God spoke again, “That’s what I’m about to do in your life and ministry. You’re standing in the dark, in the middle of a storm, but I’m going to use it to show you something you’ve never seen before. The best is yet to come. Don’t leave, or you’ll miss it. Just keep looking up!”
I don’t know what the future holds for my family, my ministry or my career, but I do know that according to God it’s going to be more beautiful than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sure it will come with trials, but those trials are necessary to produce in us the perseverance, character and hope that can only come from God.
So the next time you find yourself in a dark place, don’t forget to look up. You may have an abundance of questions, doubts or even disagreements, but rest assured that God has the ability to work something beautiful out of the storm that is your life. So don’t leave, or you’ll be sure to miss it!
Oh yeah, and as I was getting ready to leave, I turned around and saw this. God’s funny like that!