Matt Stoltzfus – Lead Student Pastor
Have you ever felt like God was out of reach? Have you ever felt like your world was caving in on you? Have you ever felt like you have been in a tunnel and you can’t catch your breath?
Recently I was traveling an Arizona freeway through a tunnel. This tunnel took me back to my childhood. As a kid I remember countless trips to Ohio from Pennsylvania. I remember riding in the back seat of an ‘82 Plymouth Voyager and every time we would go through a tunnel I would have a contest with my siblings to see who could hold their breath the longest. We would hold our breath just short of passing out. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but as an elementary aged kid that’s how it felt. There were even back-to-back tunnels at one point on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This one was especially difficult. Children passed out by the dozens.
I think all of us have had our share of tunnels, some where we thought we would never catch our breath again, some where we catch our breath just to enter another tunnel. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel!
What if in this moment you are at the perfect place for God to do something incredible in your life? Even in the darkest tunnel, God may be using this tunnel to make you and shape you into the man or woman he has designed you to be. As a matter of fact, God specializes in using what Satan thought would destroy you to make you stronger.
There is a young man in the Old Testament that must have felt this way. Daniel was taken captive along with a few of his friends and taken to a Babylon. Their world was turned upside down. The Babylonians didn’t speak the same language, dress the same way, eat the same food, or more importantly serve the same God. Daniel and his friends lost their identity. Everything they knew as normal was gone.
Imagine being fifteen years old and about to get your drivers license, but now you are being handcuffed, taken to a new country a 1,000 miles away, not knowing the language, hating their food, and oh by the way… you have a new name. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be, was it? Surely God wouldn’t allow this to happen. Surely it wouldn’t last long right?
Wrong! This was the beginning of seventy years of captivity. God could have stopped it but chose not to. This is quite the tunnel. I can’t imagine what must have been going through their minds.
If I were in their shoes I would have been crying out to God! “Why would you let this happen? Why are you not delivering us? Where are you God, have you abandoned us?” But here is the deal. Sometimes God’s answer to prayer is “no” or “not yet.” Sometimes God uses these moments for our own good.
But there was hope. It may have seemed just a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, but there was hope. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah. This was written to Daniel and the Israelites while in captivity.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Isn’t it interesting how God says I will be found by you versus I will find you? God doesn’t need to find you because he is here. He is right next to you in your tunnel. Finding God is up to us. We must seek him out.
God is here. He has a plan for you. The plan may not be to bring you out of a situation but to walk with you in your situation. In fact, it may be totally different than what he said to the exiles in Babylon through Jeremiah. But the plan involves God being with you.
So I ask again, what if in this moment you are at the perfect place for God to do something incredible in your life? Do you still believe that God is active and present in your life even when things seem bleak? Are you fully dependent on him?
So if you are going through a tunnel and you find yourself holding your breath, just know that God is right next to you and he can use this to make you stronger. You just need to reach out and hang on to him.