The Dark Forest

I’ve realized during several of my previous posts I’ve spoken of going on an adventure with Christ. However, I haven’t fully explained what that’s like and what is included along the way. Thus, I would like to do so today — in a tour kind of way — if you are willing to walk with Jesus and I for a while.

The best place to begin is where it all starts: being lost in a dark, foggy forest. Imagine there is no sun — at least none we can see. Although we know we’re lost in a forest, it is so dark we can only see the trees that are an arm-length away. Plus, there is a thick, heavy fog. Every time we turn, moving this way or that, we either smack face first into a tree or trip over a root. Eventually, we slow down, using extended arms and cautious steps to traverse the forest without hurting ourselves. Unfortunately, there are still branches that come out of nowhere to tear at our clothes and skin, thorny vines to cut us, and…was that a howl?

This is a frightening place to be in. Now and again, we may have rest from our fears in what seems like a safe place to linger but it is only temporary. The fear returns, the scraps from the branches and vine sting, the howl seems to draw closer, and we become desperate to get away. Loneliness is a common emotion in the forest, even though there are several others we stumble upon. The other people we find are just as lost as we are. In their fear and pain they either latch onto us to have a friend who understands or lash out in the blindness of their own dilemma.

As we gain new wounds, new scrapes and bruises, we begin to wonder if there is an real hope in escaping this tormenting forest. Then, like a breath of fresh air, someone appears to us shining with a light. The lamp this person holds pierces through the fog and the darkness shrinks away from it. We can see more around us than we’ve ever seen before. We hesitate, though, because this person is different. They don’t immediately run into us out of blindness or hurriedly start a conversation in an awkward attempt to reach the status of acquaintance. There is no panic, no fear, no pain in this person’s eyes. Only kindness, understanding, and love.

Even more bizarre, this stranger reaches out gently and offers to guide us through the forest. He claims to know the path, where we are to go, and what will greet us along the way whether it be other people or situations we will face. The question is: do we trust him enough to go or do we throw up our internal walls and try to make it on our own efforts?

Each lost person is faced with this question when the one with the light appears before them. This ‘stranger’ is Jesus, and trusting Him by accepting His help through this dark world and admitting we’re lost, having made several sinful mistakes is salvation. He may be a stranger to us in that moment, but we aren’t a stranger to Him. He knows we’re lost and don’t know the way. For some, He sends a few of His children to light up the darkness so the lost may find their way to Him.

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”

John 1:6-8

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

The difference between their light and His, however, is His is eternal and theirs need to be constantly renewed. For those of us who know Christ in our hearts, we are still imperfect and still sin. Thus, we need that renewal to keep us going, to keep us motivated. God’s word isn’t just a lamp for our path, it’s food for the soul. When our light begins to dim, we must eat from the word.

Going back to the beginning of our adventure, we still stand before the ‘stranger’, hesitating to accept His offer. If we don’t, we remain lost, wondering aimlessly around in the dark forest, thinking drearily that this life isn’t worth living because it has no point and no purpose. Which is true: a life without the love of Christ pumping through our veins is one without purpose. On the other hand, if we accept, He will not only show us the way through the forest, but will wrap us in righteousness, comfort us in love, adopt us into His family, and awaken our soul.

Upon accepting His offer, Christ leads us to a safe place to rest by a warm fire until we are ready to continue on. We still have wounds that need healing; some can heal along the way, but there are some that need immediate attention. Also, having been chased relentlessly by fear and pain, we need a breather while protected to recover our strength. Jesus knows this and will patiently wait until we’re ready; He will never force us to do something we don’t want or are not ready to do.

Once we’re ready, Jesus takes our hand and leads us down the path towards our destination and what we are to become. We can’t walk this path without Him, even if He hands us a temporary lamp to stop and help someone lost. That temporary lamp will fade if we try to take off with it and then we’ll be stuck again, lost in a dark, foggy forest. No, only Jesus knows the way, only He has the true light, and only God can give us a life with a purpose. We must trust our guide throughout the journey to lead us down the path of righteousness.

No adventure, though, is without trials. Be warned, the enemy will again and again send his minions to attack us as we journey with Jesus. Fear will attach with its daggers, anxiety with its arrows, deceit with its charm and good looks, and so on. That’s why God gives us armor. Yet, we have to be confident enough and trust in Him enough to believe the armor He gives, that we must put on, will protect us. This adventure is also not journeyed on a straight, easy path. It has twists and turns. It goes over mountains and under hills. Storms ranging from drizzles to super typhoons beat the not-well-beaten road.

Thankfully, amazingly, and astoundingly, Jesus refuses to leave us despite all that will come with this adventure. It would be so easy for Him to do, yet He does not. He refuses to let go of our hand, never abandoning us –whether we walk with Him or stray from the path — simply because from the moment we accept our salvation we are His. His to protect. His to love and be loved by. His to comfort and help grow. We are His children, and no one else’s.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

1 John 3:2-3

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:16-19

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