Other than the months after the death of our son in 2011, the spring of 1978 was the most excruciating period of our lives. They were weeks of intense spiritual warfare as Harriet and I wrestled with God over our call to ministry. That struggle concluded when Psalm 40:1-3 came into focus. These verses are now my Life Verses.
Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King vividly describe struggles like that one in their classic Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (B & H Books, Revised September, 2008). Their study indicates that when God speaks to us, there is a crisis of belief before we obediently respond. And, that's what those months were, a genuine crisis. The clarity of his call wasn't really the issue. Harriet and I, along with many others, affirmed a ministry direction for us. No, our response to his call and willingness to walk away from a comfortable life in the business world was the tripping point. So, for three months we wavered, decided, wavered some more, decided again, and you know the drill.
One night we were tossing, turning, praying, talking, and going through the motions of indecision. We finally settled in the den and turned on the TV for a distraction. There was an old movie showing on our only late night channel about a young woman who had been diagnosed with cancer. She was alone in her hospital room tossed by a sea of emotions. After a while she reached into the bedside table and took out the Bible the Gideons International always made available. In one of those drastic open and point moves her fingers landed on Psalm 40:1-3. She read it quietly then read it again, out loud. The words struck me instantly----
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
The part about lifting me from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, resonated with what we were experiencing right then, you know, the quicksand of indecision. The promises of those verses settled our doubts---set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure, putting a new song in my mouth than many would hear--- seemed to be new directional signs for us. That week I resigned my position as Assistant Administrator of Wayne County Memorial Hospital, we put the house on the market, and presented ourselves to our church for their recommendation for me to enter Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
That was thirty-seven years ago. Psalm 40:1-3 are my Life Verses and hang in my study. They have been guiding verses in thrity five years of pastoral ministry.
Good bye miry bog. Hello new song!