I didn’t know how to plan for that day — those weeks and months — when that test of overwhelming heartache came. It came in the form that we all face, in failures of relationships and the hardships with those we love. Yes, our Lord knew the road ahead of His friends that night when He looked them in the eyes and said, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34).
Relational hurt can be some of the hardest. A cold wind that blows upon the heart, bitterly.
I remember tears that wouldn’t stop and heartache that I couldn’t hide. That’s the thing about pain. It’s messy and unpredictable.
And though I thought I knew what I would do when the troubles blew in – thought I knew how I’d respond to the Lord when “the hard” things came – I just couldn’t have anticipated the layers of confusion, sorrow, and fear that whip through the soul, unrelenting.
In honor of this new skin on the old blog, I’m throwing an open house. For the month of July and into the first days of August I am going to introduce you to some others in my life who have their real stories of how He has used the seemingly “bitter” to create new space for Him (and sandwiched in between I’ll have some of my own writing). Though I could write a whole post about each one of them, I’ll let their stories speak for themselves.
Today, I introduce you to Dana Candler. She makes me want to know Him more, just by me watching her life and the way she loves. You know …the kind of friend who speaks things you want to write down to remember later, but who also lives those words. She’s rare. (And Nate is currently reading her book Entirety and has me convinced it needs to be on my bedside table next.)
And the hardest part? Harder than the disappointment and the heartache of injured relationships? Even the Lord’s presence felt far. I could not find the nearness of Jesus. Nothing is more painful or difficult to navigate than the two-fold test of pain with those we love and the seeming absence of the Lord’s presence.
When the cold winds break in upon the little house and even the warmth of the inner fire cannot be felt, oh the testing in those winds. The coldness of aloneness.
It was one morning, amidst those streaming tears, as I was fighting my way forward in the place of prayer, that I found a perspective that changed everything.
Heart heavy and eyes clouded with inability to navigate my way ahead, I opened my heart to the Lord — pushing away those lurking temptors to offense and bitterness — and I whispered a reaching prayer:
Even here. I love You. Even now. I trust You. I don’t know why You’ve allowed it and I can’t see my way ahead. Still, I say I love You, Jesus. You’re still the One I love. You’re still the One I trust.
And then, right there as I lifted my prayer, I saw something with the eyes of my heart, saw it and knew it was from Him — for me. A picture of truth to hold me steady.
I saw Him looking down at me, there from His balcony seat. He was hearing my song in the middle of my pain, seeing my sorrow as the wind beat upon the harsh gusts engulfed my shivering soul. And He found there something so precious to Him – a heart unoffended in the middle of offensive circumstances, open and vulnerable and trusting. Such a thing is so rare and breathtaking to Him. It moves His heart so deeply.
He then turned to the flurries blowing hard upon my soul and gave a command opposite than I was waiting for. He charged them,
North winds, do not relent just yet. Her song right now is too sweet to My heart.
And as though turning to the angels who watched in wonder, He continued,
She will only sing like this a few times before she finally sees My face. And I’m not ready, just yet, for her song to change.
She sits alone now, stripped and bare, her future uncertain, her confidence little. Hear the piercing quality of that song, sweetened with tears?
She only has Me right now. She sings with that quality and singularity that one only sings when they’ve no second plan, no escape route.
It’s for Me she sings. She’s no other audience now.
And she has ravished My heart with her song (Song. 4:9).”
He paused, watching…waiting. As though He knew something I always forget. He knew how few sing without offense here. He knew the eternal beauty of a song sung out of love and without bitterness in the space of the age of faith. He knew the preciousness of this faith working itself through love — a preciousness I’d see so clearly in the age to come (Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 4:5).
And with one last word He called, “North winds, just a little longer, for the sake of My heart.”
When biting winds howl and all is cold and bare, when God seems far and all signs of hope seem lost, we have to remember: He watches us in these times and our response to Him moves His heart. Greater love is always the highest thing He is after – even love that sings blindly, trusting Him from within the gloomy chill and darkness. Sometimes, He holds back the changing of the seasons for just such exchanges.
For me, in that time, winter held on and clung tight a little longer. But all was different now. Love had already had its way…and won.
If we give Him our hearts here, lift our voice to Him unoffended, then we extract from these times a sweetness that cannot be wrung from other times. Only here can we find the intimacy with Him won in the testings, the fellowship found in the sufferings (Phil. 3:10).
And in the midst of that cold and that darkness, He watches and hears with a bursting heart. Our loyal love and trust in Him moves Him unspeakably.
And in the end, from within the very bitterness of the winter winds, we are wrapped in the burning flame of fellowship with Jesus that withstands any test and sustains us through every trouble … until we finally see His face.
Dana Candler is wife to her favorite person, Matt Candler (who taught her to love coffee and hike mountains), and Mom to four amazing kids (three girls and a boy). She and her family live in Kansas City where they have served on the leadership team at the International House of Prayer for the last 15 years.
Dana is a writer and a speaker. She is the co-author of The Rewards of Fasting and the author of Deep unto Deep, Entirety, and Mourning for the Bridegroom. You can find her writing at danacandler.com or on twitter: @danacandler.