Well, it’s finally happening again. I’m doing another play.
I moved to this new city almost two years ago, and it has taken me until now to do some community theatre again. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but theatre was not only how I decompressed and distracted from work stress, it was a big part of my ministry.
Two years ago, much of my personal fuel was the fun of the stage combined with bringing new people to Christ there. But instead, I’ve participated in around 25 funerals for my church in the heart of the city. Restarting an engine that’s been rusting for 30 years is tough work. The new couples joining the church and babies in the nursery are encouraging, but the growth rate can hardly keep up with the number of people dying or homebound.
To say I’m spent would be charitable. You’ve probably been in that place in your own life once or twice. Hopefully you’re not there now. But where you are in the midst of that valley, there are some mornings that functioning takes more Bible verses and prayer than you’d get in a month of Sundays.
So being in a show again is a welcomed distraction for me again. We’re letting a theatre group in our community use our church’s stage for their latest production. They were kind enough to invite me to play a significant part in the show.
It’s occasionally been funny explaining church stuff to some of these folks who’ve rarely set foot in a church. Two guys asked me about the “Jesus tub.” I didn’t know what they meant until they pointed to the baptistry at the back of the stage area. They wondered if it had jets like a hot tub. Might have to recommend that addition to the deacons!
I’m playing two characters, so I have to slip offstage alone to change costumes and make entrances in my other role. I’m spending quite a bit of time backstage, waiting. I play one very eccentric character, so many of my entrances take the audience by surprise. They rarely see me coming before I bound onstage and startle them all.
I guess that’s what I’m waiting on God to do now–to hop on the stage of my life and take me by surprise. But when you can’t see what he’s doing backstage, it’s quite a test of your faith…
…because at times, it looks like no one’s back there and your story is never going to change.
I’m certainly not in Job’s shoes, but I can relate to his search for God in his trials:
“Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.” – Job 23:8-9
We get discouraged not just because we’re going through a hard time, but because we think there’s no purpose in it. If we knew what God was doing backstage, how he was preparing the next game-changing scene, we’d be fine with the present direction of the story.
We look to see him working, and there’s no evidence. Our eyes and feelings tell us he’s abandoned us. Maybe he realized we weren’t worth his trouble. Maybe we fell far too short of his plans for us. But for whatever reason, our story is swirling down the drain and God is nowhere to be found.
And yet, there’s a wonderful word to start off the next verse from Job: “but…”
“But He knows the way that I take,
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10
It’s really not important that “you know where God is.” What matters is “He knows the way that you take”…He knows where you are!
He never promised you’d understand his ways. They are intricate beyond description, and beyond our ability to comprehend. So he doesn’t bother telling us what he’s doing every step along the way, just as a father doesn’t tell his child every turn it takes to get to Build-A-Bear and the cookie shop in the mall.
Instead, he simply says, “Trust me. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Only a brat would demand to know everything. And only an ungrateful child would presume a good father is taking them to visit a tax attorney and eat broccoli.
“When He has tested me…”
Remember, this is a test. It’s a test to see if we’ll trust him while he’s working backstage. To build our trust in his faithfulness when we can’t see his face.
“…I shall come forth as gold.”
And by going through the test, we become something better than we were before. If he indulged our doubt by telling us every single move he was making, we’d never grow to trust him. Our faith would remain weak and infantile.
But through the test, we grow stronger like gold. We grow purer like gold that has been through the fire. All the dross has been melted away. And we become strong enough for the new adventure he’s been preparing for us.
I trust that adventure is coming any minute now. I believe my Father is working backstage, about to move the story along with an exciting plot twist.
The next scene is almost ready. Any moment now the curtain will come back up, and we’ll see what he’s been working on backstage.