Lately, I have been seeking to walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, moving forward both reverently and cautiously, yet excitedly and confidently to live out each day as a follower of the Triune God. But what does this look like? Below is the first step I have found helpful in this process.
American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.”
This phrase is most often filled with despair, hopelessness, sadness, regret. Sorrow permeates our “what ifs,” sometimes to the point where any sense of comfort or joy we previously felt vanish as a vapor into the air. Put any number of scenarios on the phrase — it might have been — and there is little chance you will experience positive and hopeful emotions. A loved one killed prematurely, a job interview squashed before it began or a witnessing opportunity squandered. This last one, more than any other, can leave us feeling as though not only are we not walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, but also that we are actually being shunned from feeling this longed-for comfort.
In an ideal world, we would replicate the early church: like Peter, Paul, Philip, Stephen, Silas, and others found in the book of Acts, we would hear the voice of God and immediately go — before councils, individuals, religious leaders, skeptics.
We may find ourselves both desperately excited and yet dreadfully fearful of one simple statement found in Acts 4:20, which Peter and John courageously exclaim: “…for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard!” Oh, that that would be true!
We must speak, yet we are afraid to speak!
We must share of the wonderful things God has done, but we are terrified to speak of what God has done!
And when we let the fear outweigh the hope we have within us, we fall upon that one awful phrase: It might have been.
So what is the first step toward moving forward in walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit as we witness to our neighbors, loved ones, and those we meet? It is meditating on this phrase: It might have been. First in our own lives, then in the lives of others.
- It might have been that God didn't call me into his family. But he did.
- It might have been that God kept me blinded to his kindness and goodness so that I would continue to stumble in darkness. But he didn't.
- It might have been that God didn't send one of his children to share the eternal hope of heaven with me. But he did.
- It might have been that I would still be sinking in sin, and without hope in the world. But I'm not.
The first step in walking is pausing before we begin, and considering all that God HAS done, and as a result, all that now IS NOT. It is praying that all that isn’t now for us — our hopelessness, despair, lostness — would also vanish like a vapor in the lives of those God sends us to. And then we put them in our shoes.
- It might be that God isn't calling _____ into his family. But what if he really wants _____ to join his family?
- It might be that God wants to keep _____ blinded and stumbling in sin. But what if he doesn't?
- It might be that God doesn't want to send one of us (maybe me) to share the hope of heaven with _____. But what if he does?
- It might be that he wants to keep _____ sinking in sin and without hope. What a pity!!!
Remember what God did for you. That is the first step toward walking.
I attend a great church in Wheaton, Illinois. During a recent service, we sang the lyrics to “We Will Remember.” Perhaps nothing could be a better first step toward walking. Let’s meditate on these words as we take that first step toward walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness
You’re our creator, our life sustainer
Deliverer, our comfort, our joy
Throughout the ages You’ve been our shelter
Our peace in the midst of the storm
With signs and wonders You’ve shown Your power
With precious blood You showed us Your grace
You’ve been our helper, our liberator
The giver of life with no end
When we walk through life’s darkest valleys
We will look back at all You have done
And we will shout, our God is good
And He is the faithful One
I still remember the day You saved me
The day I heard You call out my name
You said You loved me and would never leave me
And I’ve never been the same
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my path secure.” (Psalm 40:1-2)