“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
Reflexes grabbed control. My hands clenched as I simultaneously stiff-armed the steering wheel and braked.
Just seconds before, I’d been on a hilltop marveling at the snake of fog that followed the Cahaba River and filled the valley. How beautiful the ground-cloud looked lounging among the green pines and the yellow-red-orange mix of oaks, sweetgums, and hickories!
Now the dense gray-white had swallowed me. I couldn’t see the road ahead. Or the guardrail that would keep me from plunging over the edge of the bridge into the river below.
I had to remind myself that the fog didn’t continue forever. If I kept going straight, the road would soon rise out of the valley. A blue-sky morning awaited. I exhaled and prayed: “God, please help me make it safely to the other side.”
Many times in my walk with God I’ve felt like that: in a fog-filled valley, blind and panicked, praying to survive.
Never has that spiritual fog been more impenetrable than when I flew to Houston to deliver our twenty-three-year-old son to The Menninger Clinic for inpatient treatment. For six weeks, he’d be locked behind doors in a last-ditch effort to rescue him from the depression and anxiety he battled. I feared for his life. And I feared for mine if I lost him.
My fears had festered into anger. Why didn’t God save our son from such unbearable pain? He could. But He hadn’t. No matter how much I’d pleaded.
For six years, God had been silent, and I had been in the fog.
In the confusion of the crowded airport, I became vaguely aware of music playing. I hadn’t yet seen a sign directing us to baggage claim, but I found one equally important: Women’s Restroom. After soliciting a promise from my son that he would wait by the door, I fought the unease of leaving him alone and went inside.
Out of the noise of the crowd, the music became louder: “Be still there is a healer.” My heart quickened.
Lord, I want to believe that.
I closed the door of the stall and sang along with Chris Tomlin: “His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy, it is unfailing. His arms are a fortress for the weak.” Each truth countered my fears and doubts, calmed my anger.
“Let faith arise.”
I repeated the words as a prayer: Lord, help my faith arise.
The next words came like an answer to that prayer: “I lift my hands to believe again.”
Reflex–not faith–had controlled my response to our circumstances. Helplessness and hopelessness had taken over. My faith had become dependent on God’s proving Himself through a miracle. But if I wanted my faith and belief to arise in the face of difficulties, I first had to choose to have faith.
In faith, I lifted my hands to believe again. Whether or not the healing came.
Just as peace began to envelop me, realization dawned. The music was coming from my pocket. From my cellphone! This was weirder than butt-calling someone. My cellphone had to be turned on and unlocked, iTunes had to be tapped, and Tomlin’s album had to be selected.
I could think of only one explanation: God had orchestrated the coincidence to soothe a desperate daughter.
In the midst of the fog of our crisis, I was barely holding together, certain I would plunge over the edge right along with my son. But God wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone. He was there, offering His strength, mercy, and love. He was the morning sun that would burn away the fog.
I still wanted healing for our son. But it wasn’t going to be a requirement for my faith. I sang the end of the song like a prayer to chase away my disbelief: “You are faithful, God. You are faithful, God, forever.”
When fog settles in life’s valleys, we can find it difficult to “let faith arise.” Hope vanishes. Worry sets in. We’re afraid. Or angry. Or both. Where are you, God? we wonder.
The only way we can make it through is by choosing to trust. Trust that God is who He says He is: healer, refuge, strength. And trust that He keeps His promise, not to prevent or rescue us from all pain, but to be with us always.
It’s trust that lets our faith arise, out of the fog, toward a blue-sky morning and the arms of our Beloved.
Have you ever been in a fog-filled valley? How did God help you make it through?