I am a product of the best in evangelicalism: converted 32 years ago in a flood of tears after hearing the gospel, discipled by a strong prayer group, taught by great theologians. I know the strength of evangelicalism in bringing people to an intimate relationship with Jesus.
But what happens when you have relied on this intimacy and the day comes when God seems distant? What happens in the dark night of the soul?
I found out this past year. Weeks after finishing The Good Life, my son Wendell was diagnosed with bone cancer. The operation to remove a malignant tumor took 10 hoursâ€”the longest day of my life. Wendell survived, but he's still in chemo.
I had barely caught my breath when my daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with melanoma.
Back in the hospital, I again prayed fervently. Soon after, my wife, Patty, underwent major knee surgery. Where was my good life?
Exhausted from hospitals, two years of writing The Good Life, and an ugly situation with a disgruntled former employee, I found myself wrestling with the Prince of Darkness, who attacks us when we are weakest. I walked around at night, asking God why he would allow this. Alone, shaken, fearful, I longed for the closeness with God I had experienced even in the darkest days of prison.
What happens when you have relied on intimacy with God, and the day comes when he seems distant?
An answer came in September. I was standing alone on the deck of a friend's home in North Carolina, overlooking the spectacular Smoky Mountains arising out of the mist. I was moved by the glory of God's creation. It's impossible not to know God as the Creator, I realized, for there is no other rational explanation for reality. God cannot not be.
It struck me that I don't have to make sense of the agonies I bear or hear a clear answer. God is not a creature of my emotions or senses. God is God, the one who created me and takes responsibility for my children's destiny and mine. I can only cling to the certainty that he is and he has spoken.