I was praying one morning recently for God’s help to guide me away from the paths of thought and actions that take me down. I had been wrestling lately with old sin and losing the battle.
I do not often get so personal on this blog, but God knows all. He knows my heart, my thoughts, my actions – everything. He knows the words I speak before I even say them (or write them as the case may be). Nothing is hidden from Him.
I do have people who are close to me who I confide in and help me sort through these things. Still, being so personal is hard.
To get to the point, I have been married for 38 years as of November, but my wife informed me last June that she hasn’t been happy in a long time, and she moved out. I have been sad and depressed since she left.
Her leaving, and the present silence and emptiness in my life without her have filled my thoughts and haunted my waking hours since then. I have spent most of my life working to support my family. Our kids are out on their own now, and I was beginning to let myself think about retirement for us.
Now, everything has changed. At the age of 63, I am adrift. My future is uncertain. I am sad for her, and I am sad for me and I fear the future will not be easy for either of us.
I doubt she will not be happier now. I have often said and believe that the grass isn’t always greener….. But, she doesn’t seem to see it that way. Perhaps, she is willing to trade one kind of unhappiness for another.
Maybe I haven’t been happy myself for a long time, but I don’t really think about it. I have come to believe that happiness is fleeting. I can live with unhappiness. I would rather search for a joy that lasts forever than settle for mere happiness that is here today and gone tomorrow.
Maybe that attitude doesn’t make for a good marriage. I don’t know. I do know that I am no hero in this story. I have failed in many ways, and my failures hang like a dark cloud over me. They threaten to crush me.
I have not written much since June because of these things. I haven’t had the inspiration or the energy to write. Yet, I feel God called me to write, so I am trying to plod on.
I don’t want to dwell on these thoughts, but this is where I was when I approached God one recent morning. My failures, disappointments, regret and other negative emotions are ever before me, and they threaten to undo me.
Not the least of which is the gravitational pull to give in to old ways of thinking and to succumb to old habits. I have at various times lost the will to overcome and fallen back, and I have despaired in my falling back.
As I asked God to help me, to rescue me from my thoughts that threaten to take me down, a verse I read in my daily Bible reading that morning seeped back into my conscious thoughts, and I engaged with it:
“And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.”
Genesis 7:7 NIV
Noah, who was said to be “blameless in his generation”, was saved from the judgment of God by building an ark. That ark was the vessel that lifted Noah and his family above the waters and carried them on to safety.
Scripture does not say that Noah was blameless. Full stop. Noah was blameless “in his generation”. This phrase suggest that he was blameless in relation to the rest of his generation. It almost sounds like God was grading on a scale, making morality relative.
We know, however, that “no one is righteous” and “no one good except for God, alone”. We know, therefore, that Noah wasn’t good or righteous, yet he was called “blameless in his generation”.
We have little in the text from which to identify what made Noah “blameless”. One thing we do know from the short passage in Genesis that differentiated Noah from his generation is that he listened and responded to God.
Noah had faith. He trusted God, and he acted in response to God’s warning by building an ark.
The thing that seems to have made Noah blameless is his faith: his willingness to listen to God and respond with action. His faith prompted him to respond, and his response in faith saved him.
But not just naked faith. It was his response that was prompted by faith.
This seems to be what God is wanting me to get out of the story right now. Noah didn’t simply trust and have faith that God would rescue him from the floodwaters to come. Noah paid attention to God’s instructions, got to work and built an ark.
Noah was active in responding to God.
Noah didn’t build that ark in one day. It likely took him many days, many weeks, and many months and maybe even many years to build the ark as God instructed him. Noah responded to God, and he kept on responding – daily and continually – to do as God instructed.
Noah’s carried out his trust and faith in God in the ongoing response to God’s instructions to build an ark, and that ark became the vehicle God used to lift Noah and his family above the floodwaters that destroyed everyone else.
God promises to do the same thing for us. He promises to save us from the wages of sin and death. Not because we have earned this salvation, but simply because God loves us and God will do as He promised if we respond, and keep on responding.
God invites us to trust Him. He invites us into an active trust/faith that is carried out by our ongoing, daily response to God; and that daily, ongoing response to God will raise us above the floodwaters that threaten to destroy us.
I am encouraged today to trust God anew. I am reinvigorated in the simplicity of trust and faith. I also realize that my trust and faith must be carried out into action. I cannot sit idle dwelling on my circumstances and sadness and hope to rise above them.
I cannot count on God carrying me, either, if I do not respond and do the things He calls me to do. If I do them, however they will carry me – not because of my great actions, but because I have listened and responded to God, and He is faithful.
This is my goal today: to listen and respond to God, to seek to understand what He is saying to me, and to do it the best that I can as far as I understand it.
I imagine that Noah couldn’t fully conceive of the flood to come. We don’t always see or understand why God asks us to do certain things. We cannot see the outcomes God has in mind.
That’s where faith comes in – simply responding and doing what we believe He is saying and leaving the rest to him is enough. This is all God asks of us.
Postscript: I didn’t really see it the first time through: Noah and his family were saved. Perhaps, I didn’t see it because I was so focused on myself and caught up in my own circumstances. Noah’s response to God didn’t just save him; it saved his family. This is my hope.
This life is fleeting. Happiness is fleeting and elusive. These things, however, remain: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. Therefore, I am reminded:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I cannot allow the darkness to overcome me or pull me under. Abiding in love and allowing love to abide in me is the ark that carries me: this, I believe, is God’s instruction to me. God, who is love, is my salvation, and I place my hope and faith in Him.
I want to apologize for being so personal, though I am not sure I should. We all have struggles and experience darkness in our lives. We do not walk alone; we walk with God and with each other. Perhaps, my experience will be helpful as I have been helped by others who have had similar experiences.