Monthly Archives: August 2012

Wrestling In the Fog

There’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when you’re standing on the shore with the land at your back and the smell of the salty sea is in the air, to pause from all of the pressures of life and take in the entire expanse reaching to the horizon… …that is, unless it’s foggy. Yes, I will forever be grateful for being born and raised by the shores of the North Atlantic where we could go and see the ocean any time we wanted. But the hard reality that each of us Maritimers must face in our beloved, quaint environment is the dreaded porridge-thick fog that so often dims our days. I can remember tense moments as a teenager (with a shiny new driver’s license hot of the presses) driving home along the winding shoreline roads from my grandparent’s home in Chance Harbour. The density of the fog was not just thick enough to prevent you from seeing a car 20 feet ahead of you, but sometimes it even got thick enough to hide the road or the painted center line right under your car’s nose.

Mourning a deep loss can be just like that sometimes.

For the Christian, truth (more specifically the truth of scripture) is our mooring, our anchor, and our reference point for the rest of life. Emotions and feelings are constantly placing pressure on us to lose sight of our reference point and wander. It seems that more and more Christians are suffering from depression, discouragement, frustration, anger, etc. These are nothing more than feelings. There are real legitimate triggers for these feelings in most cases. For instance, in my case over the past 5 and a half months, my deep sense of sadness and loss is related to the ending of my relationship with my best friend and wife, Heather. Sadness is a perfectly legitimate and even healthy response to such a scenario. But here’s the catch; even an appropriate feeling to a legitimate life circumstance can try to steer you off course in your beliefs and actions.

This is where truth-wrestling comes in.

When I was a student being prepared for ministry at Northland International UniversityDr. Matt Olson used to stand in chapel and warn us that difficult days would come because all who will choose to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. Boy, was he right (not that ministry is all tough; it is both rewarding and challenging). He taught us repeatedly that when those days come, we have to fight and wrestle our minds and hearts back to a grounding in what we know to be true about God. Cut through the fog, find your mooring in truth, and cling to that anchor in Christ.

The Apostle Paul – though in a different context – instructed the Corinthians how to use this same critical life-skill. II Cor. 10:5 is often memorized and quoted by struggling Christians as they battle the temptations of lust. But I believe it goes so much further than that, and I believe that mastering this skill will help any Christian navigate the often foggy terrain of feelings – even the deep feelings of grief. Learn to capture your wandering thinking and wrestle it back to the truth that will keep it within its bounds and steer it towards right actions for God’s glory.

How do you do this? I’m still learning. And part of my motivation in writing this blog post is to help challenge myself to be living this way consistently. But the simple place to start is to be saturated with God’s Word – our standard for truth. Second, surround yourself with godly friends and counselors who will lovingly speak truth to you through your times of difficult feelings. Then third, speak God’s truth back to Him humbly in prayer. Acknowledge it to Him, accept it as true and ask for the grace to live it out. He will answer. He promised.

“For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” (II Cor. 10:3-5 HCSB).


A Journey to be Shared

Welcome to Finding Out His Greatness.

I’d like to take a quick minute to introduce you to this blog and share a little bit about the purpose and vision behind it. Chances are, since you’re here reading, you or someone you know has heard at least some of the story of what God has been doing in my family over the last 10 months. Here’s the short version of what’s been happening – in case you’re not already aware.

On November 19th of 2011, after only 2 weeks of strong headaches, doctors in the emergency department at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton discovered a 3.5-inch wide tumor in my wife Heather’s brain. Within a few days, and after a major surgery, she was diagnosed with stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme – brain cancer. Life was abundant, filled with the joy of two young boys aged 2 and 7 months old, and a wonderful, vibrant young church in which we were serving full time. But suddenly we found ourselves walking down a pathway that meant facing the most unexpected movement of God’s sovereign hand imaginable. In short, life was drastically altered overnight, and we didn’t see it coming. All of our training for full-time pastoral ministry together, all of our knowledge about truth, scripture, and God Himself were to be put to the test. After two additional surgeries and a growing realization that the aggression and speed of her cancer were far higher than the average, we became increasingly aware of what God’s will was for the outcome of our journey together as a couple. After the privilege of having weeks in which to say our goodbyes to one another in many different ways, on March 6, Heather took her last breath of this life and stepped into the immediate presence of her Saviour.

A journey of tears. A journey of joys. A journey of deep, intense heartache that defies description. But also, a journey of deep growth in dependence on Christ and the grace that is found in His hand. A journey that could best be described as a journey of finding out His greatness.

And that brings us to the purpose for this blog…

I vividly remember a favorite holiday of mine. Heather was several months pregnant with our first son, and we knew that romantic couple time together would soon be harder to find. We rented a cabin in British Columbia overlooking a valley where the mighty Fraser River wound past, working its way towards the Pacific. And at the end of this short valley stood Mt. Robson (Canada’s highest peak) with its huge, towering cliff faces down the north and west sides (see the picture from our cabin’s front porch above). I’ve always been an outdoor adventurer at heart and can’t resist a great hike. I was hoping to be able to do a bit of hiking during an afternoon sometime that week while Heather was resting. But I was disappointed to find out that the trail leading to the best views of Mt. Robson (where 3 different glaciers split off the mountain’s ice and flow down over steep cliffs into an icy lake) was 21km long (13 miles) one way! Obviously, an afternoon stroll was out of the question. So, out of necessity, I chose to be content with the view from the visitor center parking lot. Looking around the small lot I saw hikers just returning from their several-day-long excursion up to the small mountain lake. I had seen photos of this view online (like the one below), but I knew that the views the photographers had experienced in person could not be matched by a computer screen – not even Apple’s new Retina Display! The hikers that day looked tired, but satisfied and invigorated. Their faces seemed to reflect a small bit of the wonder they had seen on their journeys. And I wished there was some good way for them to share that experience with me.

Sometimes – as a result of God’s designs – you can only imagine what the view looks like from another person’s vantage point. I can’t tell you why He does it, but God chooses certain individuals to experience differing views of the majestic vista of His greatness. And He chooses very different ways to bring them to the places where they can see those views – and its not always a quick easy hike.

After all that I have been through – steep climbs, falls, heavy loads, scrapes, bruises, chilling ice, biting winds, slippery steps, cliff-hugging trails, and muscle aches, I can truly say the view was worth it! Just like there was no effective way for those returning hikers to give me the full experience of what they had seen, I don’t expect that I will be able to adequately communicate the full scope of what I’ve seen. But I feel compelled to try. And if I can in some small way lift your impression of this mighty, majestic mountain that is God’s greatness, then my goal is reached.

I’ve been encouraged by a couple of folks to write a book and share what I’ve learned, relate it to the truth of the gospel, and encourage others through it. But there are several factors that have led me to the conclusion that the blog format will be a far more effective medium for my goals. First, Im am now learning the ropes of single-dad-hood, and these two precious sons of mine need a closeness with their dad right now that a book writing project would not allow for. Second, I am not sure I’m ready for the weight, the challenge, and the load of such a large project both emotionally and spiritually.  Third, I am still walking the journey. A book lends itself far better to a more formal “looking back on a finished process” format, whereas a blog allows for the far more informal and desired “come along for the journey” format.

So, stay tuned. And if God blesses as I am hoping He will, His Spirit will use these thoughts and observations over the next months and years to strengthen you and get you more excited about finding out His greatness. Come along for the journey – its worth sharing.

“…so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.” (Eph. 1:18-19, NET)