“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me until I came into the sanctuary of God then I understood…” — Psalm 73
During the darkness of a cold January night, I had a dream God did not exist; that there was no creator or created order. All that existed had been the result of the chance structure of billions of suns and the permutations of chemistry. The dream had gone deep, awakening my deepest fears, shaking the very foundations of my life and who I was. I was startled into consciousness, oppressed by the weight of my unconscious musings. I stayed awake for an hour afterward, mentally shaken, trying to put my faith back together.
I can’t remember if it lasted one month or three, but I moved about the familiar patterns of my life in a bit of a daze. I searched Scripture for understanding and took some comfort in the requisite apologists and theologians. Religious observance became dry and lifeless, and it seemed as if every friend I had was on some extended vacation. During this time I traveled to a church famous for its fervor, where someone had a helpful word for me: “Your questions will be answered.” It gave me some solace for a couple of days, but it too seemed to pass out of my hands to somewhere. I don’t know where.
As God would have it, during this time, I had a handful of weekends to myself. Friends had moved, were working or were nowhere to be found. Rather than blow empty Friday nights on movies I didn’t want to see, I decided to make the 25-minute drive to the chapel of a nearby Methodist college where I could be alone to cry out to God.
The first time that I went to the chapel, I spent most of the time just trying to quiet myself; looking for a way to silence the barrage of thoughts that played like some broken tape through my mind. I remember that I just began to sing, anything at first, just to order my mind around something else beside doubt. Then, as I sang, the Lord began to speak directly to my heart. He effectively brought me into His sanctuary. It was there, in that empty chapel, that I began to come out of the doubt and unfaith that had been so oppressive to me. Each time I went back, I was strengthened and encouraged by the God who created the universe and was not the result of “cleverly invented stories.”
More than a year later, I was reading through the Psalms, studying worship, when I came to Psalm 73. As I read Asaph’s struggles with doubt and faith, I found myself pulled into the story, commiserating with the psalmist. When I came to verse 17, where Asaph speaks of finding understanding in God’s sanctuary, something broke inside of me. I rejoiced because God had showed me, experientially, the truth of that verse. And it is so true, in a time when so many are “high on intellectualism,” understanding is not to be found in the academic articles with cleverest arguments, but at the feet of the Master himself.
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