Stories… “Arise, My God”

When a person survives a life-threatening situation, we tend to focus on the miracle. We rejoice and give thanks for God’s goodness. And that is good and beautiful and absolutely appropriate. But it’s only a glimpse of the story, an incomplete picture at best.

This weekend, we were blessed to hear the other side of a miraculous story. The parts that we don’t usually ask about, the pieces that–while they’re not often celebrated–may actually contain the greater miracles. Kent’s story is a powerful one. It is a story of a dire diagnosis-Acute Myeloid Leukemia-that took him immediately away from home and into the throes of chemotherapy and hospital living. He endured infections, septic shock and at least one night at death’s door. We have seen God show up and do the impossible time after time in Kent’s life since the day he was diagnosed. From the perspective of someone who battled in prayer for him, it seemed that God was so near, so close–that He never left Kent’s side.

And He didn’t.

But what we learned as Kent shared so transparently with us, is that he wasn’t so sure. And after hearing about the less than glamorous side of this walking miracle, I am convinced that the greater miracle is what God did in the dark…

Kent shared with us that in the beginning of this journey, he sensed God telling him, “I’m going to teach you something more”. He said that when he heard this, he expected God to take him to new heights. Instead He took him to new depths. In this unfamiliar place, God seemed different than He had before. Kent was unsure of who He was. It was a dark, fearful, lonely place, and God seemed to have a harshness to Him that Kent hadn’t known before. Have you ever been in a season like that? A dark night of the soul, when God seemed cold and distant and out of reach? I imagine you have. To varying degrees, we all have probably experienced what Kent expressed.

It is in these places, these seasons marked with confusion and the threat of chaos, that we have a choice to make. Do we succumb to the fear, the loneliness, the lack of understanding and sink into the shadows of despair? Or do we lean in, trusting in what we know to be true of our God-even when we can’t feel Him near? There is a word for the honest, grief-filled cries of the soul that rise from our depths when we choose to lean in. That word is lament. The Psalms are full of laments. There is a whole book in the Bible dedicated to them. Choosing to lament before our Father requires a willing vulnerability. To lament is to bring your tattered, worn, aching heart before God without holding anything back. To lament is to implore God to listen, to act on behalf of our grief. It is bringing our hardest questions and asking our Father. It is ugly crying. It often includes shouts and wailing and indecipherable groans. It can look and sound different for each one of us. But it is always brutally honest. And it happens during dark, uncertain times, when we’re not sure God’s even listening.

What we rarely see in the moment are the treasures that are found in the darkness.

Isaiah 45:3, in the Amplified Bible, says this:

And I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

In a book I keep coming back to, the author talks about these “treasures”. She writes, “We do not go through dark nights of the soul for nothing. We enter into these regions to find treasures that they alone hold. Jewels and precious metals are rarely found on the surface but rather are mined deep underground. Likewise, God’s treasures are unearthed when we enter, willingly or unwillingly, into dark regions and dig deep within ourselves and within the caverns of who God really is.” (This Beloved Road, Amy Layne Litzelman)

This same author writes elsewhere, “…a season of transition always stands between where we are and where He wants to take us. Something must be left behind and something gained in order to go on… We don’t understand how we can do what He has asked of us. And yet, know this: the moment we say with Jesus, “I want Your will, not mine”, mighty and glorious grace is released for the journey ahead.” 

During Kent’s dark night of the soul, he chose to lean in, to lament. He refused to let his journey be wasted, whatever the outcome. I believe the “outcome” is multi-faceted. There are pieces of his miracle left to unfold, as is true in all of our stories. But however the rest of his story unfolds, he found treasures in his darkness. As he placed his life in the hands of a God he couldn’t even feel in the moment, glorious grace was released for his journey. He saw God differently, he found unexpected beauty in unlikely places. His story speaks to the miracle of a healed body–and it testifies to an even greater miracle: A heart renewed in the truth of who his God really is. A God who never leaves us in our loneliest moments. A God who leads us into the darkness where we would never choose to go–because He wants to give us treasures that we can find no other way.

Are you living through a season where God feels far away? May Kent’s story encourage you to lean in, lament, and hold on-there are treasures to be found…


I cried this morning while Kent spoke. I didn’t anticipate crying, but there was such beauty in the rawness of his season in the dark that it brought me to tears. He shared with us treasures, the type of treasures that Laura wrote about above, that if we are willing, they can be gems for us as well.

John asked Kent “What’s changed?”  Kent told us that upon receiving the life altering, possibly life ending diagnosis he asked himself, “What am I living for? What is truly important?” All of a sudden the treasures of this world didn’t matter anymore, and Kent had to wrestle, even in the spiritual realm with whether he wanted the things that Jesus offers—comfort, peace, presence—or if it was Jesus himself that Kent desired.  That’s a powerful question for us to wrestle with. Is Jesus alone our treasure? Kent pointed out in first service that there were only three, out of all the people who followed Jesus, only three that went to the cross. Are we willing to go the distance with him, to the hard places with him, the dangerous places with him, because he alone is who we desire? Or do we only “follow” him to get the benefits?

Kent talked about how alone he felt. For a portion of his lengthy hospital stay, after his closest call with death when he had to be intubated and coded, he couldn’t feel the presence of God, he couldnt’ feel the power or the warmth of the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t sure in that moment who God was,  the experience felt harsh, and it didn’t feel like something a loving God would do. In addition to that spiritual isolation, anyone who entered his room had to wear a mask, gloves, a gown, booties—no one could touch him. So not only was there no sense of God’s touch, there was no human touch either. There was fear, there was confusion. Isolation.

As Laura wrote above, Kent turned to lament. He reminded us that many of the Psalms are laments, that it’s okay, it’s healthy to lament; yet in the lamenting hang on to God’s truth.

And then the unanticipated beauty—Kent asked for someone to bring him his guitar. He sat in his hospital room at night and played songs of worship and sang. He did not know it at the time, but outside his door nurses would gather and listen, some patients would gather and listen. As Kent reached through the darkness for God, God was using him to minister to others in the hospital. That’s not why he did it. Kent was honestly seeking, searching, reaching, lamenting, praising, and God was using Kent’s raw honesty to reach others on that floor. Eugene Peterson once said that the people who made the greatest difference in his life were the people who weren’t trying to make a difference. Kent wasn’t trying to make a difference. He was merely being his authentic raw self—no masks, no pretense, no knowledge that God was using him—yet God was using him. What a beautiful reminder that when we walk humbly with our God, the world is impacted.

John asked Kent, “What would you say to someone who is battling today—who sees God as distant?” Kent emphatically replied that God is not distant, that He is here when we can’t feel or touch him. And then he said what may have been my favorite part of his sharing—he said that even though he couldn’t feel Jesus he got to see Jesus through the church, the body of Christ. Jesus touched Kent through our prayers, cards, text messages, visits, and Kent reminded us that this is what we are about. This is what the church is to be about. He encouraged those who may want to isolate, to stay connected because the Church truly is the hands and feet of Jesus—we are how the hurting get touched. Kent shared with us other major events from his own life, he called them “possible soul destroying” events, but his soul wasn’t destroyed because Jesus showed his love in each of those hard seasons through the body of Christ.

Then he reminded us that the church has a choice.  He said, “We can bless or we can curse and both go a long way. Be a blessing to those around you; love, pray, reach out, touch—it’s not about condemnation, it’s about calling people to a higher place…We know Jesus redeems but it’s the body that puts the touch to Jesus’ redemption…we point people to Jesus by being him.” 

I don’t know what those words do to you. I know that they fan the flame in me. My passion for Jesus’ prayer “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is really this simple. Know the Jesus of the gospels well enough to be Jesus to those around you. All others.  Bless, lift up, love, touch, reach out, listen to,  pray with, pray for, don’t condemn, don’t curse…we point people to Jesus by being him.  Can you imagine if the entire capital “C” Church made this our mission? That’s what I want my life to be about. How about you?



2 thoughts on “Stories… “Arise, My God”

  1. This week I have to comment.
    I can’t really remember if it is 4 or 5 times that God has stopped me in my tracks at times when I was doing nothing of a spiritual nature—maybe I was folding laundry or walking from one room to the next—and clearly whispered in my spirit—“Will you drink the cup?” That is a very long story in itself but I’ll only say that each time I said “Yes”, the “Yes” was harder to say because I remembered the time before.

    The last time I heard that question was in May of 2016. I hesitated a long time, I’m sorry to admit, before I said that “Yes”. I always knew that I COULD say no, but I never did. I didn’t have Acute Myeloid Leukemia or any other physically life threatening illness. I wasn’t in a strange city without human touch. I can’t fathom his walk. Yet, in my own way, I felt all the things Kent talked about.

    I spiraled down in the deepest, darkest depression—dark night of the soul—I’d ever been in. The only place I actually functioned was at work. I’m grateful He allowed that. I’d come home, shower, and curl up in a ball and just spend time in the darkness with the Lord. I couldn’t hear Him. I didn’t sense Him in any way. But He was all I had and I knew that–somewhere inside me. I prayed like never before. I inhaled His words of Scripture. When Kent started his journey something happened in me that I will never be able to explain—not even to myself. Yes, this was for Kent, but it was also a desperation deep in me. I paced for him, I was up at all hours for him, I laid face down in my own snot praying over him. Yes. I joined the “C”hurch and set myself aside and what little light I had prayed for Kent. I still felt like I was praying to a floor, or a ceiling—but I PRAYED.

    When Kent turned a corner my desperation turned to crying…a lot. During this time someone I loved dearly moved away. That was hard stuff for me in a place where I wasn’t doing real well standing anyway. I knew it was right and it was good but it was painful for me. The downward spiral continued. Finally, I decided I was going to die. In retrospect that makes me roll my eyes and, at the same time, thank Him for His unbelievable love and forgiveness for my absolute arrogance.

    I wasn’t suicidal. I just lived every day, to the best that I could function, as if I was dying. I was putting things in order. I was writing letters to people for when I passed. I was planning my funeral. I distanced myself from as many people as I could. I was, in my own way, saying “goodbye”. I kept people at even more of a distance than I usually had. I did all I could to stop living.

    One part of this journey I really disliked but couldn’t seem to stop was I became very critical of everyone and everything. Looking back, as tight as I tried to cling to God with “God” things—praying, reading His Word—I wasn’t even sure He was real. And, if He was—I really thought I missed the boat when it came to knowing Him. Then the worst….SHAME set in.

    I saw an amazing counselor. They gave me sound advice. They told me to write the 8 greatest laments of my life. It took me a month and with each one I spiraled down further into the darkness. Yet—I just said this was an amazing counselor, didn’t I? I did and they were and are.

    One lament brought back the greatest shame of my life. I couldn’t write the details. I still haven’t but I can and will because I need to, but that was sort of a breaking point for me. That was my isolation. I was unforgivable by anyone except God. I knew HE forgave me but…I couldn’t forgive me. What I had done cemented my need to die.

    I finally cried out to a few very trusted—as much as I was able to trust—women about the place of death and desperation I was in and begged them to pray. I needed help and I couldn’t find it. Nothing changed right away.

    Then not long after I felt driven to do a strange (but very healthy and good) thing. It was SO out of character for me, but I was determined. As I feared–a big word in my life—my anxiety kicked in when the day arrived to do this and normally I would have just cancelled but…I went none the less. I am SO glad I did. It was a turning point for me. Oh, it was physically quite miserable at times, AND worth it.

    Around this same time one of the friends I trusted was telling me about the Freedom study she was doing. She said something that changed everything—everything. She said, “I was so struck in group when I heard that I wasn’t made better, but I was made BRAND NEW!”

    I’ll leave what followed left unsaid. I’ll close with this—first, thank you for the venue to share. I needed to be real and to do just that. My life is totally changed. I’M FREE! I’ve NEVER been free before in my life. Does satan try to steal that? EVERY DAY! But I don’t have to stay free by my ability any more. That’s what “free” means. My entire perspective changed regarding my relationship to Jesus. I don’t have the words to tell you how good life looks to me now.

    Yesterday, at church, a dear lady hugged me—as I am so blessed that so many do—and was so genuinely excited for my breakthrough that it just made my heart scream “THANK YOU, GOD!!!!!!!!!! I CAN FEEL HUMAN TOUCH!” At a little after 5 AM, also yesterday, the person who left my life (we have since reconnected) texted me with a prayer need. All I could do was thank the Lord that He allowed me yet another day to LOVE in His name by offering up that very needed prayer.

    My life has lumps but my life is in a place I’ve never known before. I may have 20 minutes or 20 years but, like Kent, I now know what is really important. Luanne said she cried at Kent’s testimony. I cried through all 4 times he sang his song. I want the entire world to hear that song. I want that song to play over and over and over again in my heart and deep into my spirit. Kent’s words are my heart’s cry. ARISE MY GOD! ARISE!

    In retrospect, though I was hundreds of miles away, I think God was allowing me to listen to Kent play his guitar during his darkest days. I can’t explain that, but it is truth to me. His journey was what made me keep fighting. I can’t explain that either. I just know it’s true. And—I’m so, so thankful for every day that the only thing I must do is as easy for me as breathing—just be love with my Jesus. HE does all the rest!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARISE MY GOD—ARISE! and use me today to just love.

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