Puzzled

 

 “. . . I was puzzled . . .”

I was depressed and ill for several days. Then I got up and went back to the work that the king had assigned to me, but I was puzzled by the vision and could not understand it.” (Daniel 8:27)

What a maze!  During my last trip to the ocean I stared at the sand patterns left on the beach by the retreating waves admiring the design, but then realized it was like a giant puzzle or maze.  Somehow most of the water that washed ashore and cut the grooves in the sand eventually found its way back to the ocean.

That meant that somehow all of these intricate formations were connected by a channel that the water had to cut in order to make its way back to the next incoming wave.  Wow!  Just imagine, if I had the time before the waves washed it all away I could follow the channels like a maze and trace the water’s meandering route. 

The best mazes are interesting and fun to follow for at least a couple of reasons.  First, we often can’t see the next opening we need to take until we’ve stepped through one opening and traveled around a few twists and corners.  Second, there are often openings that lead to dead ends and require us to backtrack and try again.  As I contemplate the celebration of Christ’s birth and the anticipation of his coming again, I find myself thinking about mazes and my life journey.  A maze we chose to enter for fun can be challenging and enjoyable.  Life as a maze might not be so much fun.

When we plan a trip either with our paper maps or GPSs we want to know not only the next turn but also the end of the journey.  Think about it – what would it feel like if someone sent you on a trip but only called and gave you one turn at a time and no destination?  To even further complicate the journey – what if they also threw in a few incorrect turns and you found yourself at a dead end, left only with the option to return to the last turn and await further directions?  This could lead to some really high anxiety and maybe even cause us to abandon the journey and sink into depression.

Seems to me that’s not such a bad description of life’s journey.  Many times in my life I’ve found myself starting down some path, not really knowing the next turn or the outcome, and hitting a few dead ends along the way.  Seems like that’s also what Daniel was describing in this story from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.  He was given a vision by God and an explanation of the vision.  However, even the explanation left him without a full picture of the eventual outcome and it first left him depressed and ill.  Then something very important happened for Daniel.  The Bible says he had the faith to get up and go back to work, even though he was still puzzled about the next turns in his life.  His faith informed him of the final outcome – God would be with him, no matter what the next turn required.

It requires a leap of faith to face life when a maze or puzzle is presented.  If we could see the light at the end of the tunnel we could walk a straight line to the entrance,  but often we’re given only the light for the next step and we proceed not knowing what obstructions and turns lie ahead.  When we give ourselves to God through Christ we are assured of the outcome – the assurance of God’s presence every day forever more.  That assurance can give us the courage to stay on the journey, not to be overcome and side-lined, and face each new step in the maze with hope. 

Depression, anxiety, and other illnesses can easily overcome and side-line us.  The assurance of God’s presence when we’re depressed does not simply mean that we can then pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and carry on. For some of us that simple spiritual awareness of Gods guiding presence is enough to keep us on the journey.  However, for those suffering from potentially debilitating illnesses like depression and anxiety the assurance of God’s presence means something more.  It also means that God is present with healing that may take many forms – prayer, counseling, medications, exercise, diet, sleep habits, healthy relationships and more.  The important thing I hear in Daniel is that it is critical that we stay moving, even when we’re puzzled.  As we approach this season of Christmas some will celebrate with joy and some will feel the power of depression smothering them.  To all I say – “Keep moving!”  The child whose birth we celebrate and return we anticipate brings the assurance of God’s presence we need for the journey.  I pray that God will help me to keep moving.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Gary
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit http://www.survivingteendepression.com.

 

My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at http://www.wipfandstock.com and http://www.amazon.com.

 

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1hSpxC_G24
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~ by revgenelson on December 11, 2013.

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