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When Darkness Falls


well it's been a really busy season for my wife and I we with launching a for the city there's been a lot of adds to our schedule with conversations that we've been having with people in our church and in our community it's an exciting time but it's been a tiring time so we decided to take two weeks away one of the weeks was at our annual pastors conference that I have to go to so I don't know if that counts this vacation or not my wife is shaking her head no it doesn't count and then one of the other weeks we were in Savannah Georgia because the conference was in Nashville so we took the opportunity to go down and visit our great nice and great nephew there there the son and daughter of our niece and nephew but we went to see our great nice and great nephew sorry Grady and Allie anyway and we had they live in Fort Stewart down in Georgia and we had a wonderful time with them but we have you ever had a vacation where it's like the first week you just you don't even feel like it's vacation and you just you can't wait for that second week and it was kind of that way and then we came back and this is a really hard season for us next week as as I'll share with with you next week even as the third year anniversary of Chase's death my oldest son chase died three years ago in a car accident he was 21 years old and and this time of the year is just really hard we don't like it actually we hate it I've contemplated not speaking during this season because I get pretty raw in these moments because we miss him we miss him and I don't think we'll ever stop missing our son he brought so much life to our family and it's hard it's hard without him and so I'm a bit raw about and just in this in this message and then I'm releasing my book walking in the dark which chronicles kind of my journey of faith through that dark season over these last few years and and so yeah this is kind of a hard season so if I get a little raw just know that we're authentic here and we're real and we're not gonna hide it and I'm glad that we don't all of us though have our own stories don't we pastor Ken last week the former lead pastor this church actually shared very intimately about his own struggles he used words it caught my attention of his dark night of the soul using words like cold dark alone and he Kroenke said that there's over 65 million Americans who suffer with depression I mean this is the story of anxiety and heartache and loss is common to us all even last week as I was going through the prayer lists of our church every day we get prayers through our email and the prayer cards in the seat back in front of you and and I was praying through some of these let me just list off some of the things that I prayed for a husband who has prostate cancer a difficult mental health issue with my son a brother's wife who's had a massive stroke and recent brain surgery healing for my depression was another request and there are seasons all of us go through where we feel isolated we feel alone we feel scared or uncertain we have doubts were confused ashamed rejected we all go through seasons where it's like the light goes out and not just like it goes out it's like a bright light that was shining in your face all of a sudden goes off and for that that split moment you can't see anything and that's what my wife and our family experienced after the death of our son it was like everything went off what we held to be true went away what what we what we thought we knew went away there was these questions and these doubts that we wrestled with and I remember writing in my journal in October of 2016 just a few months after chases death it feels like I'm on a vast ocean of sadness drifting at the whims of the waves and the winds which blow the horizon is far away on every side and I'm not sure where the currents will lead me so after chase died some of you might remember this if you were here journeying with us is I jumped right back into preaching if those of you that were here you remember that I took one Sunday off the chase died on a Thursday and I didn't show up on that Sunday Jay Swoboda was was speaking and then and then that very next week I came and I said hello and thank you for your prayers kind of moment and then that next week I was up preaching again and I preached through this summer and and then in October just at the very beginning of October I hit a wall I remember the moment it was another Thursday and I was sitting in my office preparing for a message and I was reading I was looking at my Bible I was looking at my notes and I had nothing nothing I mean like I was I didn't hear God's voice I I didn't know what to tell you I didn't know if I should just try to fake it and pull something from some other message from some other place and and I remember I can't I can't do this I understand I'm Suzanne I can't do that I can't do this so I called my team in and I didn't know what they were going to say you know preaching is one of my primary things that I do here you know and so if you tell your team I can't do this like you know and so I didn't know what to expect I didn't know if they would be like okay start looking for somebody else that can I mean you know I didn't know what to expect so I gathered my team around me and I told them I can't I can't get I can't get up and preach I just I'm done I just can't do it and I remember about pastor bow was the first one to say something and she said I'll never forget it and she said I wondered when you were gonna get here Steve and then the team just came right around me and just supported me and like how much you know however much time you need Steve no problem and we've got this and and I'm like what about this Sunday and said no you're gonna like your sabbatical starts today actually we don't want you coming back for however long you need you know and so I took three months Suzanne I took three months sabbatical at that time and out of that came the book that that were releasing next week but in that it you'll find it took a long time a long time for me to rediscover the light titute to hold on again to truths that I thought I once knew I love what Nicholas Walter store if he's a guy that wrote a book called lament of a son and he and he and I walked together he doesn't know who I am but read him in his book that he wrote right after that he after the tragic death of his own son and this is what he writes in his book I shall look at the world through tears perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see so I've seen some things that over the next three weeks I want to share with you new things that I haven't shared with you in the past things that are fresh and what God is doing with me today and and the things that I've learned in walking in the dark and I hope that is something that will you can take and give you something to hold on to when your light goes out if you have a Bible go ahead and turn to Genesis chapter 32 there's one story and that I want to share with you today one of the principles that I kind of hold on to now after this season of walking in the dark as you're turning there let me say this I grew up in the church I don't know curiously how many of you grew up in the church you'd say that you kind of born and raised in the church all right quite a few of you see you get this you grew up I grew up in the church and I grew up hearing the old Bible stories you know of how God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt how God saved the the really everyone through Joseph during the famine in Egypt I the story of crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land just over and over and over again I remember being taught the stories of how if you obey God if you do what he says if you follow him then he'll deliver you and I and I and I grew up on those stories I love those stories because and the reason we love those stories because we believe that their story should be our story but here's the tension is that we often forget or it's never really talked about the in between pages the in between pages of when okay yeah God delivered the people of the famine in Egypt through Joseph in Genesis chapter 50 every God's guys gonna work everything out it's gonna use everything I get that I know that but we don't we forget the pages cuz there's just a few of them but it's actually decades of being thrown into a pit in prison confuse misunderstood I mean those are the stories that we live in but we didn't focus on those when I was a kid growing up in the church we focused on God's gonna set you free I mean think about it God delivered the people out of Egypt through the Red Sea but we forget the centuries of slavery they had to endure the when when God brought them into the Promised Land across the Jordan River we Furr we forget the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness prior to that see that see and so what happens so what happens when we forget that is that what we what we end up doing is that when we when when when life throws something at us when when suffering and struggle and heartache doesn't line up with what we thought we knew about God and the Bible our faith is rattled and many people decide to tap out so if you're like me and you held on to truths that you were taught as children accepting them without question until something happens to you or to someone else that you know and it doesn't match up with what you thought you knew what you were told what you do next is extremely important what you do when things don't seem to line up with your experiences that seem to line up with the promises of God in the Bible what you do next is extremely important it will it will determine the future of your life of faith there's three options that I've seen in in my life and in other people's lives when they hit that moment that many turn away too quickly from those old truths and simply conclude that they were misinformed many tens of thousands of young people in the United States have decided that they cannot follow a God who allows suffering because they heard that God somewhere they heard that God delivers his people they can't they don't know what to do that and so they tap out another thing that people do is that we we hold so tightly yet sometimes blindly to the truth that they never become ours they're always someone else's well I heard someone tell me this about God that he's good okay I guess he's good and you never really wrestle with them yourself and here's the third option that I wouldn't that I've been through and I want to encourage you to go through is that that that that you can deeply question the truths that you hear and that you grew up on or that you've heard from Westside or other churches and see what is real and reliable in them don't just don't just take it because I say it as we're gonna look at a story here in Genesis 32 I want to encourage you to get in the ring with God and have it out with him and there's no lightning bolt that's gonna come down and judge me right now because I'm telling you to go toe to toe with God because you're gonna see he wants to he wants to be with you even in those moments of questions and doubts and heartache and uncertainties okay let's dive in Genesis chapter 32 we see a story of this very thing happening with a guy named Jacob Jacob is been running from God he's been running from his history he's been running from his purpose he's been running from his brother Esau and finally there's this culminating moment in Jacobs life where where he reconciles with Esau and-and-and and then we see here he reconciles with God there is something so profound that happens that and I want you to see not just Jacob in this story but the man that is also included in this story is a is is some people actually think it's Jesus that shows up the pre-incarnate form of Jesus because it's a man that Jacob believes is God and there's no reason for us to doubt that so here it is verse 22 the night Jakub arose and took his two wives as two female servants and as 11 children and crossed the fort of the G balk and he took them and he sent them across the stream and everything else that he had and Jacob was left alone se alone sometimes we're alone intentionally and sometimes we're left alone unintentionally sometimes we we intentionally find ourselves in a place I just want to be by myself with God I just want to be by other times you're like I didn't want to be by myself but I am bummer you know that kind of a thing right we've all probably have experienced these things these moments and Jacob was left alone and that's an important thing to kind of grasp because some of these things do happen in isolation some of these things these encounters with God have to happen alone and a man wrestled with him this man is an image of God wrestled with him until the breaking of the day and when the man saw that he had did not prevail against Jacob he touched his hip socket and Jacobs hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him and then he said let me go for the day has broken but Jacob said I love this I will not let you go I will not let you go unless you bless me and he said to him what is your name and he said Jacob and then he said your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed and then Jacob asked him please tell me your name but he said why is it that you asked my name and there he blessed him and so Jacob called the name of the place Peniel saying for I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been delivered the Sun rose upon him as he passed panel limping because of his hip therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh it's funny how religion takes moments like this and likes what should we do to commemorate this ah let's not eat the hip I don't understand that anyway when my boys were young I have four signs and when they were young we had a tradition like it was almost a daily occurrence where we got on the floor and went for it I mean we wrestled I mean it was like you know and when chase was born it was just one on one no problem you know I get into it and then Hudson Hudson was like Hudson could hurt me I mean not only could he he wanted to I mean there was this level of intensity that my boys kept asking forth like dad bring it come on you know I would take you you know this kind of a thing and so as they got older I had to keep you know for them to have the enjoyable experience they wanted I had to keep on leveling it up a little bit till there was a point and Suzanne remembers this moment where it was like I can't keep doing this they are actually going to hurt me because I knew my boundaries they did not know theirs and they thought kicking in certain places was okay and it wasn't anyway but my boys were never afraid to wrestle with dad they were a little nervous it kind of made it more fun for them to like dad could actually hurt me if he wanted to kind of feel to it but they were never ever afraid to wrestle with me but most of us are afraid to wrestle with God most of us are afraid to get in the ring with him I mean think about this Jacob was demanding a blessing I and my wrestling with God was - I was demanding answers to my questions and the thought and the thought has to come through your mind who do we think we are to stand toe-to-toe with God and question him or demand a blessing from him who do you think you are but this is a wonderful thing about Scripture is that God invites this he encourages this he he wants to be in the mix he wants to be a part of this conversation he wants to be with you in your doubts in your questions in your struggle of faith he wants to be there so I decided I was a little scared of asking such I'll be honest I'm still a little nervous at times but I decided to get in the ring with God and to wrestle with him and to ask him for answers and this is what I found I found a God who was willing not only to listen to my cries in my pain but to give me some answers now you'll find out in this series they were not the answers I wanted but they were answers that spoke to my pain and to my confusion and to my doubts and as a result of me being willing to get in the ring with God and stayin with him through the struggle and the pain what I've come to believe is stronger and more sustaining than before chase had died it's like it's like because of being in the ring with God it was like the ground I mean everything was just I got all the way down to bedrock where it was just what something see we stand on so many things that aren't strong enough to sustain us in the struggle and the pain of this life is there's some things that just aren't they're not meant to do that for us but there's something there's bedrock there's bedrock underneath it sometimes you got to dig and sometimes you got to find it but there's something so strong and so stable that I've discovered that will not shake when everything else shakes but I would not have discovered that if I wasn't willing to stay in it with him to stick with it and to push back in three years after the accident I can tell you I'm still very much in process not everything is resolved as will come out in the message a little bit I still have questions but what little I know about God and by the way I used to know a lot about God I used to have him figured out I mean he was boxed up nice man I got him and let me tell you who he is you know and what I know now is less than what I used to know but what I know now is more solid and certain than anything else I ever knew before it doesn't shake the stuff that I hold on to about who God is doesn't shake when life happens around me it's something that's secure and foundational and and simple not only did I not only did I find truth that one shake under my feet when everything else shakes I also found which is as important is a deeper and more intimate relationship with God I don't know what it's like to raise girls so I don't I don't know how you reproduce intimacy with girls the way that that wrestling with my boys produced intimacy with them maybe I don't know I have no idea what that looks like for girls sorry - for those of you that have girls I don't know how to help you with that but but I know that me getting on the floor with my sons when they were young and holding them and wrestling with them and throwing them and pushing them and them pushing back on me there was this intimacy that developed in the contact and the closeness in the proximity that I could not we could not have experienced without it it must have been similar for Jacob as he wrestled with God all night long an intimacy was created out of that wrestling out of that conflict and think about this even after God wounded Jacob which by the way I still think is a cheap shot just I'm still wrestling that one out with God he didn't give up even after God wounded him he stayed engaged with him see it's easy I get this I understand this it's easy that when we see or experience injustice in the world to give up on God to say to say man I can't do this I'm tell it's easier to walk away and tap out it's much easier to do that but let me tell you when you do that you will not get any answers for the questions the deep questions and in wrestling's that you have in your life if you tap out there's no other place and I've looked there's no other place that can give you answers that are a bedrock to your life today there is none and I'll share with you what some of that bedrock is in my life but you have to stay in it with God long enough otherwise your wander you'll wander through this life without answers recently I was talking with a close friend who is going through his dark matter the soul and this imagery came to my mind and I remember what I told him and I wrote it down and I want to share with you what I told him it helped it at least helps me and my questioning and in my doubts and in my dark nights this is what I told him you have to get in the ring with God you have to put on your gloves and wrestle with them until you get what you need the answers you're looking for and the blessings you desire he's not going to kill you he might wound you a bit as he did Jacob you'll probably walk with a limp for the rest of your life but you'll also have the kind of intimacy with God that only wrestling with them can produce if you've been here for any length of time at Westside you've noticed my limp I used to try to hide it I used to try to not make it evident you know I'm fine I've got everything together I'm good I'm good I still tried to do that I still try to do that we try to cover it up in which I say it I'm I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay okay but deep down we know that we're not I don't I've come to a place where I just don't trust anybody that doesn't have a limp I mean I know that's bad and that's like shallow and I'm working on that but I'll never walk the same but I have a relationship with God and my family and my friends that I did not have before my wrestling match with God if you're going through a duck a dark night if you're here and you're going through a dark night don't let go of God if you have trouble trusting him because of what you see in the world that's gonna get it but don't run away don't back away if you're walking with someone who is walking in the dark don't give them Pat answers religious glib sayings but walk with them and listen to their doubts and their questions be with them let me finish by telling you a story from Lord of the Rings and everybody every time I say his story for Lord of the Rings somebody calls me a nerd but whatever powerful story and if I cry I cry who cares Mike who cares if I cry alright two of the main two of the main characters from Lord of the Rings if you haven't seen the movies or read the books are Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins and Frodo just give you a backstory quickly is I've been given the task to take the ring of power to where it was produced the mountain mountain of Mordor and he has to take it back there and throw it into the fires of Mordor for it to be destroyed and so it's this great weight that he has to carry and really the whole book all three books are about that it's about this this this narrative of Frodo and his friend Sam trying to do this and it's overwhelming and Frodo gets to a point several times actually where he can't continue on he's ready to give up and he's feeling the weight of this and and so I just want to read you the commentary the dialogue from one of these moments where Frodo Frodo says to Sam I can't do this Sam I can't I can't do this sam says I know it's all wrong by rights we shouldn't even be here but we are it's like in the great stories mr. Frodo the ones that really mattered full of darkness and danger they were and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy how could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened but in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow even darkness must pass a new day will come and when the Sun shines it will shine out the clearer those were the stories that stayed with you that meant something even if we were too small to understand why but I think mr. Frodo I do understand I know now folk in these stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't because they were holding on to something Frodo what are we holding on to Sam that there's some good in this world mr. Frodo and it's worth fighting for today is Pentecost Sunday [Music] I got a text from a friend who has been supporting me through my journey and doesn't live here and he texted me this morning knowing that I was starting a series on this and he reminded me was Pentecost son dad actually it wasn't on my radar in and he encouraged me to to help again because of the coming of the Holy Spirit and to be a bridge for that hope in some of your lives and thinking about Pentecost when the early church went through their dark night of the soul when they saw Jesus crucified and buried and and yet he rose from the dead and they were so excited but then he went to heaven and he said prior to him leaving he said I went up before I when I leave I'm gonna I'm gonna send to you the Holy Spirit I want you to wait in Jerusalem I want you to wait because I'm gonna send you that what he called the Paraclete in the in the Greek language which means the one who comes alongside the one just like me Jesus says one just like me who I wanted to present to you he's gonna be with you and live in you and he's gonna walk with you and his other names are comforter and counselor the one that will be with you and in you when you walk through this trials of life I mean you look at the early church and you see that that though there was they lived in the resurrection of Jesus they suffered greatly I'll talk more about that next week but they suffered over and over and over again but they never lost hope why because of their own strength no because of the power of the Holy Spirit that they welcomed on the day of Pentecost and every time that you and I walk through the valley of the shadow of death the promise in Scripture is that he is with us and the witness of Jesus Christ is found in the Holy Spirit living in us so when you walk through the dark when you walk in the dark with you whether maybe it's maybe it's shining really brightly today you know and like how you still need the Holy Spirit this is a moment that would encourage you to invite the holy spirit again to fill you to refresh you to enliven you friends don't let go don't give up on God don't turn your back on him so we sing this song with you would you in some way would you get in the back in the ring with him grab on to his his neck and his shoulder and say God I'm not gonna leave and I'm not going anywhere no matter what happens in this life I'm sticking with you I don't understand everything I don't even understand you all the time but I I'm not going anywhere because as Peter said where else would I go no one else has that has the words of life so grab onto him and don't let go [Music]

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