I have had a really interesting year. I am talking about last year. I suppose I am still stuck in last year — just a bit — because this year has involved a protracted cold where I spend most of my time laying on the couch reading a book or catching up on movies. This year has not really started yet. I digress.
This year — that is, last year — I embarked upon a season with the Lord so unusual and yet so absolutely beautiful, so harrowing and difficult and yet so profoundly sacred, it left me spinning. I mean, I felt like I simultaneously touched Heaven and found myself in a place where all hell was breaking loose. Really strange.
I suppose the strangest part was while all hell was breaking loose, and I did what I always do when all hell breaks loose — namely, beg God to do something — God would just encourage me to keep going. I mean, I would be like, “Clearly I took a left turn somewhere. Please deliver me from this mess I have created.” And He would be like, “You are doing great! I am SO proud of you. Life is good! Oh, and you are right on track!”
Then after several months and several moments of me begging God to deliver me from the mess I thought I created and God just encouraging me to keep going, I finally realized what was happening: The Kingdom of God had come upon me.
Sometimes we speak as though the Kingdom of God is more of a concept than a reality. We think our relationship to God is one in which He is out there, and we are right here, and one might say the only thing that connects us to Him is the Book he left behind. But if we can trust what that Book says, then that is not the situation at all. The reality is that from the moment we said yes to Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come upon us.
The tricky thing in this life is that the Kingdom of God is another world entirely. I mean, really. It operates by an entirely different set of principles. And in a great sense, it is a Kingdom at war with the kingdom of this world — that is: life as we know it. When the Kingdom of God comes, it often does not come quietly. It will often come as a declaration of war. And the result of all this is a season of incredible conflict, where what God is telling you seems to be in direct contradiction to the very circumstances you find yourself in.
The real difficulty in the Christian life is to fail to recognize the war we may find ourselves in because we do not recognize the Kingdom we now belong to — or who we are in it. (Mel Wild wrote a great piece about this recently.) When this happens, we tend to sacrifice our new identity and birthright at the altar of what is reasonable or safe or sensible or practical or even responsible. We think ordinary. Peter made this mistake with Jesus by rebuking Him. I mean, think about it: Your best friend just tells you He is going to Jerusalem to let himself be killed. Ordinarily this is not a good idea. Ordinarily you would be responsible by talking some sense into your friend. But by doing so, Peter found himself on the wrong side of history.
I also think of Abraham and Sarah. God had given them an extravagant promise. But it seemed reasonable and even perhaps responsible for them to give birth to a son through Hagar. After all, the main avenue was blocked and seemed impossible to resolve. And time was running out. But they failed to recognize they were partnering with a Kingdom that did not know such a thing as the impossible. They sacrificed the promise at the altar of the ordinary: What they themselves could achieve.
Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do in the Kingdom is to wait and be patient as God lets His plan unfold. And in the meantime, simply believe. I think of the father who summoned Jesus to pray for His daughter who was dying. As they made their way to his home, his servants met him and said, “I am sorry: Your daughter is dead. There is nothing more that can be done.” But Jesus turned to Him and said, “Do not be afraid. Only believe.” It takes courage to believe. It takes courage to quietly look beyond what we see with our own eyes and trust what we see in God’s eyes.
If you find yourself in a place where what God is saying to you seems to be in direct contradiction to everything you are walking through, almost to the point that it seems life itself has declared war on the absolutely beautiful and profoundly sacred things God has shared with you in secret, then do not be afraid: Only believe. And be of good cheer: The Kingdom of God has come upon you.