But there are times when the only way out of the trial we find ourselves in is to go through it. I think of those as Tunnel Times. Imagine yourself walking the road of life when suddenly you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a tunnel.
We all go through the valleys of life, right? So no big deal. You just keep walking.
But in a Tunnel Time, the darkness seems to stretch on for miles, until you wonder if you’ll ever see the light again. If you do see a light, you may just be discouraged enough to wonder if it’s a train…..
I’d like to share with you the tunnel we’re walking through, then share some truths to cling through when you find yourself in the midst of your own tunnel.
The Only Way Out…
My husband took a position in July as a plaster instructor (think smooth walls and stucco interiors) for young men and women coming out of tough situations. It’s a dream job for him. He has a heart for mentoring teens and young adults, he has a great personality for the job, and he loves what he does. Teaching the next generation is a fabulous opportunity. The position is great for our family, too. For the first time since the housing crash of ’08, we have a dependable income and covered health insurance.
Ed’s job is a little over 100 miles away over a mountain pass. We made the tough decision to sell our house (where we’ve lived for 15 years and raised four kids), leave our community of two decades, and move. We knew we had a fair amount of work to do on the house to get it ready to sell, so we hired some help and I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. It was expensive and time consuming, but after a two and a half months of work the house sold in two weeks, we found a new home over the pass, and we were ready to go!
That’s when things started to get hairy. We were supposed to close on both our sale and our purchase the first week in December. There were some major unexpected repairs to our home that needed to be done in order to complete our sale. These weren’t optional repairs, and to date we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars and weeks working on them (via other contractors). It’s been pretty stressful, especially with my husband Ed driving four and a half hours a day to and from work.
The day before Thanksgiving, in the midst of contractors coming and going and with an optimistic hope that we would soon be through our Tunnel Time, I went in for a routine outpatient surgery. I was assured by everyone involved that the liver biopsy my specialist ordered would be easy and nearly painless. I had no fear of the results–we were just checking my liver because of a medication I take.
The surgeon inserted a metal straw into my liver and removed small sections of tissue through the tube, guided by ultrasound. On the third (I think) sample, I told him something had gone terribly wrong and we needed to stop the procedure.
I’ll spare you the sordid details. Following the procedure, I had excruciating pain, difficulty breathing, and I fainted. The surgical recovery team eventually told me my recovery time was up and sent me home where I spent five days in the worst agony of my life, despite my protests. I didn’t know it, and I was too sick to properly articulate my alarm to my husband, but my liver was filling with blood. At some point, my liver burst and the blood spilled into my abdomen, surrounding my internal organs with blood, and sending me into shock.
I went through one urgent care center, one emergency room, and a long ambulance ride to a second hospital where there were qualified GI surgeons. I spent four days hospitalized in an ICU step-down unit while the bleeding stopped and the blood in my abdomen clotted.
The recovery time for my massive surgical injury is at least four months, and the pain is still substantial. My daily activity has been radically altered, and I find myself exhausted all the time. What looked like a long and dark Tunnel Time in my life has become significantly darker. I’m grateful to be alive, but I have days when I find the lamentations in the book of Psalms are the only thing that describe the depths of my struggle.
Truth to Cling to When the Only Way Out is Through
Here’s the think about the tunnels in life: they all look completely different. Your pain is not relative to someone else’s pain. No matter what your Tunnel Time looks like, I’m willing to bet you’ll have one or two tunnels to travel through. Here are a few truths you can cling through as you trudge along.
Trials are a Part of the Believer’s Life
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)
Peter knew we would face suffering as Christians. Those trials test the genuineness of our faith bring glory to God. Your tunnel is actually a foundry furnace–the Lord is burning off the dross.
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:5 (ESV)
As followers of Christ, we share in suffering, but also in comfort. That’s excellent news.
God is Sovereign Over the Events of Your Life
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. ~ Acts 4:24-28
Every time I read through the Bible, I am overwhelmed by the fact that the Lord is sovereign over all things. While He is not the author of evil, He allows events in our lives that can be difficult to understand from our perspective. (See the entire book of Job). Is He disciplining us for our good? (Hebrews 12:4-11) Is this trial a way to burn off the dross? Or, as with Job, is there some way this will bring glory to the Lord?
This is For Your Good and His Glory
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ~ Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)
Sometimes it’s really (really) hard to understand how a particularly painful time in our lives could possibly be for our good. But we can trust the Lord when He tells us that He works all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I sometimes remind myself that the good being worked may not materialize in the way I expect–it could be that our painful circumstances are for someone else’s good. I remember, too, that this life does not end at death. We are eternal beings and sometimes what looks like a tragedy to us is a part of God’s eternal, glorious plan.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
In our weakness, Christ is glorified. If I accomplish great things in my strength, it may erroneously appear that I am great. But when the Lord works in my weakness, it becomes evident that He is great. I trust Him, but He is the One to be praised in all things.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)
Our trials enable us to comfort others, as we were comforted in our times of trouble. What a glorious thing to be able to sense suffering in another, and be able to provide comfort. The Lord equips us to serve His children through our pain. Wild, right?
Praise God for the Tunnels
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~ James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Praising the Lord in a trial for the trial is a tough discipline for me, and one that still requires practice. When I’m going through pain, or I’m suffering in some way, I thank God for the trial He’s allowed in my life to grow my character and for His glory. Oh, how difficult that is to pray some days. Some days I’ve asked God for the strength to pray that prayer. Yet, that prayer changes my perspective and allows me to stand in gratitude before my King.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
Romans 5:1-5 is one of my favorite passages when I’m in a situation where the only way out is through. What a wonderful thing to remember that suffering produces endurance, character, and hope. How wonderful, too, to remember that my hope is in the Lord, not in my circumstances.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. ~ Job 1:20-22 (ESV)
When you’re deep in a Tunnel Time and you struggle for how to respond, remember Job. He praised the Lord, acknowledged His sovereignty, and praised Him again. In that response, Job did not sin nor did he accuse the Lord of wrongdoing. May we all respond like Job.
Don’t Fear the Dark
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” ~ Luke 12:4-5
As a believer, I have nothing to fear. I stand in awe and reverence of the Lord, but those who can harm the body are not to be feared. We do well to remember this. Death is not the enemy–our sin is.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
I love this passage so much. Look to Jesus, friend. Cling to Him and cast off your sin. Don’t lay down–just keep running. Crawl if you must, but don’t quit. Remember that the only way out is through, and that Christ is not unaware of your pain.
I leave you with one of my favorite songs right now:
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.