Tired, confused, afraid and powerless before evil. That’s the disciples on the mount of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-43a).
Have you been there? I have.
Once, after making a momentous decision, I sat down with a wise man in the church. After a bit of chit chat, he said, “How did you know?” How did you know what to do, where to go, what the right decision was? I gave an answer that wasn’t bad, but I remember what I was feeling inside. I probably should have said: Know? I don’t know anything!
What I’ve discovered is that often, even when we think we’re doing the right thing, we’re going to feel mixed emotions. Even when we’re convicted in our hearts about something, we’re going to experience confusion and doubt and second-guessing. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything important in my life that I haven’t second-guessed — at least a little bit. I’ve been there with the disciples, stumbling in the cloud.
The reality is that Jesus has created discipleship so that it involves trust. Even his first disciples, glimpsing Christ’s transfigured nature and hearing the very voice of God rumbling in their ears, had to learn to trust.
Part of what I think this means is that when we don’t know what’s going on, when we’re tired and confused and afraid and powerless, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other following Jesus. He has not called us to perfect knowledge. He’s called us to trust in him. He has not called us to have it all together and to always know what to do. He’s called us to rely on his power. He’s called us to keep moving, not to try to hang on to and build a little shelter around whatever experience we’ve had with God in the past, but to keep seeking him in our lives in the here and now. We stick with Jesus in the cloud.
Jesus gives us what we need to follow him, but not necessarily to understand him.
I think this is because God doesn’t really want us to grow as rule-followers. And look, I’m a first-born. I’m all about following the rules. (I married the baby of the family, so you can imagine how that goes.) But the reality is that anybody can follow rules externally and still not have a heart that loves God and neighbor. Anybody can drive between the lines, keep the speed limit, properly adjust the rear-view mirror, but be filled up with anger and hatred and judgmentalism. God desires that we be transformed into the image of Christ (Eph. 4:13), that we become the kind of people who have drawn close enough to him that we intuitively know what he would do in our shoes.
This also means that we need to stop waiting around for the right answers. I admit, it would be handy if God gave us a to-do list each morning. But most of the time, God doesn’t work that way. The people who have seemed to me most guided, grounded and led haven’t usually been the ones who are most self-confident about what God has told them. They’ve been the ones who have been most willing to step out into the cloud and take a risk.
Faith is not about certainty in the cloud, it’s about walking.
Jesus will be with us in the dark and cloudy places, those places of tiredness, confusion, fear and powerlessness. Maybe what we need to do is not wait around for Jesus to give us all the right answers, so much as commit to sticking with him no matter how thick the cloud gets. Even when we’re not sure where we’re going, we keep reaching out for Christ in the darkness. We put one foot in the front of the other.
We walk with him in the cloud.
Brad Roth is pastor of West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kan. He blogs at The Doxology Project, where this post first appeared.