For some reason, which I can’t figure out, I have been accused by some of not being very transparent. I find that confusing. I often feel that I am too transparent. This might be another case in point. Here is my heart: I know what it is like to be afraid. I understand something of the experience of panic and anxiety and a sense of despair. Tuesday night was one of those times.
It was a terrible, very long and restless night. Having fallen asleep quite easily around 10:30 PM I awoke at 1:30 AM with a sense of deep and dark despair. I experienced what I can only describe as _night terrors._
Many things were on my mind as I awoke and a good deal of burden concerning others as well as some of my own challenges. What could I do? What should I do? Answer: Cry out to God.
I began to think of texts and passages of scripture and to pray through them. I found myself pleading, “Please God, rescue me.” “Please God, rescue ‘X’.” “Please God, help our church in these difficult days.” “Please give us a fruitful Lord’s Day for the sake of missions.” I was struggling with hope in all these areas.
I meditated and prayed through Nehemiah 6 and Psalm 23. I remembered my counsel to my children when they were awakened by night terrors. I would read Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.” I considered Acts 20:17ff—Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders—and prayed that I would become as fearless as Paul, who was more focused on finishing his race than on personal comfort and security. I meditated upon, and prayed, the words of Psalm 112, in which it is said that those who fear the Lord are not afraid of bad news but rather their hearts are firm, trusting in the Lord (vv. 1–7). Though my heart did not feel very firm, my desire and my prayer to God in those early hours was that I would learn more of the fear of the Lord. My prayer was that God would increasingly become my only real fear object.
After this I read a few chapters of Scripture, and then I did what I have counselled so many through the years: I prayed myself to sleep. A few hours later, I awoke to the sun beginning to pierce our windows. And yet, there were corners in my heart where darkness remained. And so, after a good cup of coffee, some more time in the word and a brief prayer, I did something else very important: I went for a run.As I have often shared, I find that running is a help when the darkness descends. My head is cleared and the endorphins do their thing. After a quick shower, I headed to my office for a day’s work.As I type these words, it is nearing 4:30 PM and, thanks be to God, the darkness and the “terror” has gone. The burdens remain. I have just finished praying for them. But perspective is back. It has been a long and tiring 15 hours, but fruitful. The temptation to despair has been replaced with the triumph of my Shepherd leading me through a dark valley. And this has made my ministry to some others more authentic.
As I visited Derrick Brown in hospital a few hours ago (I wasn’t sure they would let me in but, as I told Derrick, if need be, I was going to tell them the truth: I _am_ his brother!) I was able to read passages that have helped me in my times of discouragement. My prayer with him just seemed more intimate and more understanding and more caring. God allows our darkness to help others in theirs (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).
I don’t know what your day is going to look like. I don’t know what kind of night you have just emerged from. As I write, I don’t know if I will face another “night terror.” But I do know that my Saviour loves me and that he will not leave me or forsake me. And, right now, that is all I need to know. I hope you will know it as well.
Transparently tracking and trusting with you,