Monday, July 21, 2008
Gracious Uncertainty: Lessons from the Pillar of Cloud
For several years now I've been challenged by the story of the pillar of cloud. My freshman year of college, I had been praying fervently about spending some time ministering in Japan, and things were uncertain. Plans for my trip had fallen through several times, and I found myself questioning if God was shutting the door on my going or if I just needed to push through some opposition from the Enemy. That semester, I was reading Shadow of the Almighty, a book about missionary martyr Jim Elliot, written by his wife, Elisabeth Elliot. (If you've never read any of Ms. Elliot's books, I commend her to you as an incredible writer!) In one of Jim's college journal entries he wrote:
"Guidance for Israel in their [sic...] wandering was unquestionable (Numbers 9). There could be no doubt if God wished them to move. Shall my Father be less definite with me? I cannot believe so. Often I doubt, for I cannot see, but surely the Spirit will lead as definitely as the pillar of cloud. I must be as willing to remain as to go, for the presence of God determines the whereabouts of His people. 'Where I am, there shall also My servant be.' Very well, Lord--what of this summer?"
"Surely the Spirit will lead as definitely as the pillar of cloud"...Those words were like water to my soul during a time when the only thing clear was my inability to make things happen. And "I must be as willing to remain as to go"...a challenge to open my hands as I waited to see what was in store. As I, too, asked the question, "What of this summer?" the Lord ministered to my heart in regards to the clarity He promises those who call upon Him. He showed up in a powerful way, opening every door to allow me to go to Japan (see photo above of time spent in Kobe) and affirming His ability to accomplish His purposes regardless of circumstance.
Three summers later, a college graduate with no job, Numbers 9 is again the meditation of my heart; only now I am saying, "Very well, Lord, what of the rest of my life?!" While not having a job has certainly had it's perks this summer--like having time to go to weddings and to get settled in a new city--there have also been plenty of days when I'm discouraged by my unemployment. I have to say I never thought that as a college graduate I'd be excited about a job at the mall...it is a humbling thing, really. But even on those difficult days, I'm reminded of how God provided for His people in the desert by sending them manna (Exodus 16) and quail (Numbers 11), and by causing water to gush from the rock (Numbers 20). In similar fashion, the Lord's sweet blessings have "gushed" out in my own life this summer--He's provided a wonderful family for me to live with, He's met my needs through supportive parents and a meager income working a few hours of retail, and best of all He's lavished me with an amazing community of friends here in Nashville. I'm trusting that just as He guided the Israelites through the desert and into the land of the promise, He will "establish the work of my hands" (Psalm 90:17) in due time. In this case, I must be as willing to go as to stay!
I'm reminded of a quote from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest:
"Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life…gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in, but you can be certain that He will come!
With breathless expectation!
*and for a humorous take on this subject, check out my good friend Josh's blog post: