Have you ever felt like you’re in a dry, silent, wilderness season? God seems far away and you feel forgotten. Your prayers seem to fall on deaf ears and it seems like nothing you do seems to work and everything you try makes things worse.
Some call it the “dark night of the soul” or the “wilderness experience”, and it’s more common than one would think. The big issue is that no one wants to talk about it for fear of judgement, embarrassment and loss of reputation. But let me tell you when you go through a silent season it can hurt really bad, especially when you stay silent and no one else knows what you’re going through.
However the gift of the season is that once you come out the other side, the lessons and strength you gain are invaluable. This is my story…
My family and I first visited Elevation Church in 2007 after immigrating to the USA from South Africa and England. We spent some years attending another church, now 10 years later God was drawing us back.
My husband and I were celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary and I clearly heard the Lord say “you need to go back to Elevation”. It was Sunday January 22nd 2017 when Pastor Steven was preaching the “Work your Window” series and on the big screen they showed the video about Chelsea Grubble working in video production. My heart leapt and I started to cry because I knew then that God was speaking directly to me!
I have been a dancer since I was 3 years old, and having endured years of rejection, pain, loss and grief; I had given up on things that brought me joy. I knew that day that I needed to serve as a video production volunteer and offer my gifts and talents for His Kingdom.
It all started back in February 2016 when things started to unravel. My son who had been dealing with depression, anxiety and learning issues. The previous 5 years had been a heartbreaking fight advocating for my son through the school system who wanted to label him learning disabled. After months of medical and aptitude tests, psychologists and psychiatrists; nothing seemed to be working.
We had exhausted everything we could do in our own strength, and now we had to put our faith in action and had to stand on His Word that God would make a way. I cried out to God “Lord please help my son, show me what we need to do to fix the situation”. As a recovering perfectionist and control freak, it was hard for me to just do like Elsa and “Let it go!”.
Less than 3 months later our family was delivered a heavy blow when my beloved mother-in-law passed away after battling cancer for 2 hard years. My faith was rocked! How could God allow such a thing to happen? She had lived her life on fire for Jesus and yet she had experienced such excruciating pain, endured debilitating chemo and radiation; and her last year of life was being bound to a wheelchair.
After her passing I experienced physical grief like I had never experienced before. My body was exhausted, I couldn’t talk without heave crying (you know the ugly snot kind of crying), I felt nauseous for weeks and I lost all desire to do anything that brought me joy (like figure skating my recent passion). I hadn’t seen her since our last visit to South Africa 2 years earlier, and what broke my heart was that I hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye.
I kept asking “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”.
Things spiralled down, my business fell apart and I had what some would call “a spiritual identity crisis”. Everything I had believed before, I now questioned. I felt like Isaiah 64:6 “all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags”, as the things I had previously valued now seemed meaningless.
My mind became the battlefield. The enemy bombarded me with lies and discouragement, and I constantly questioned my self worth. It felt like the season I was in of “the dark night of the soul” would never end, yet I knew God was up to something. All I could do to keep from drowning was to focus on Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”.
As I prayed for my son’s recovery and my family’s healing, God was doing a deep work in me. Once I decided to stop pretending that everything was fine, and was willing to admit to myself, my family and God that we have a problem; only then could God start the heart healing process within me.
The biggest lesson I learnt is that it is during the wilderness that we get to demonstrate our faith by being obedient first. Our blessings are contingent on us taking those steps of obedience, we don’t get the blessings or breakthrough before. It seems counter intuitive but in God’s economy we get the the test first, then the lesson.
Being willing to put aside my pride, to stop looking for validation from others, and having a willing attitude of servanthood was the key to my breakthrough. For years I was addicted to approval and accolades, yet it’s once I let go of expectations that God was able to heal those broken places of my soul.
1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Being part of the Elevation volunteer team for an entire year helped me take my eyes off my own problems and focus on doing God’s work by being obedient and serving others. Every weekend I spent under the Word, listening attentively to the worship songs as I worked CG and camera, helped saturate my heart and soul with God’s truth.
The words to the worship song “Echo” became my battle call as I confessed in song God’s promises over my life.
“When night has fallen, and fear is calling, still You’re calling me,
When faith is lost and, my hope exhausted, You will be my strength,
When my mind says I’m not good enough, God You’re enough for me,
I’ve decided I’m not giving up, you won’t give up on me, you won’t give up on me!
Your love is holding on and it won’t let go, I feel it breaking out like an echo,
Echo in my soul, Soul ”
In Proverbs 13:12 it says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” God was bringing me out of the wilderness of “hope deferred”.
God used the year that started with me feeling like I was in the lowest depths of my soul, to slowly elevate my faith, confidence and spirit in Christ.
Soaking myself in His presence slowly but surely was healing the crevices of my broken heart. God the Father was revealing himself to me as He gently lay me down in green pastures and helped me to rest in His presence.
The worship song “Here in the Presence” has been a soothing promise to me of God’s love.
“I know your past is broken, you can move on it’s over now,
Here in the presence of the Lord,
Tired of running running, Be still and know He’s in control,
Here in the presence of the Lord,
Pour out your heart before Him, open your arms He’ll hold you now,
Here in the presence of the Lord.”
Psalm 30:11 has become my faith stand ”You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy”.
God has turned my mourning, pain and heartache into dancing for His glory! What the enemy planned for evil He has turned into good by bringing back joy into my life.
Just like the song “There is a Cloud” I believe….
“To the skies heavy with blessing, lift your eyes offer your heart,
Jesus Christ open the heavens,
Now we receive the spirit of God,
We receive your rain.
Every seed buried in sorrow, you will call forth in it’s time,
You are Lord of the Harvest, calling our hope now to arise,
We receive your rain.”
Even though we are still holding onto the promises for our son, we are standing on the Rock and promises that God has given our family and we are walking it out through faith.
The production team at Elevation welcomed me, without judgement, and made me feel like part of the family. I’ve been humbled by the servanthood heart attitude that every staff member and volunteer has modeled. Every persons contribution is valuable, no one is more important than the other, and there is no room for pride. I was so impressed with how teamwork has made the dream work and how God has used each and every purpose to pour into His Kingdom for His glory!
God used my silent season to burn the wheat from the chaff, to refine me and purify my heart motives. Looking back it was one of the most painful seasons of my life, but now that I’m through the other side I’m grateful for the experience. I now feel more equipped, more mature and more ready than I ever was to pursue God’s ultimate purpose and plan for my life!
We are not meant to do life alone, and it’s only when we reach out and become part of the community do we realise just what God meant about working together as the body of Christ.
No matter the circumstances, He never fails or forsakes us, we just need to wait for change to come knowing the battle has been won. His promises still stand!