I shared last week about the pit - a place no one ever wants to be in, yet for better or for worse, we all spend seasons there. I spoke of the thirty-three miners rescued from a two-mile deep hole (a record by any standard).
One thing that caught my attention was how each miner was given tasks and duties to perform in the place of their confinement. This would keep them from feelings of hopelessness, depression, and a host of other emotions that come from constriction. From their account, we can see that being in a pit never means being idle. There is always something that must be done in dark places. So how do you let the light in?
Focus on doing the right thing, not feeling right. As human beings, there is a tendency to process, analyze, and brood over how we feel, followed by behaviors that make us feel better.
An alcoholic will take a drink. A person may eat a pound of chocolate in front of the TV to feel better. When we do things to feel good, it does nothing to address the reason we are on the dark place - It only gives temporary relief. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “Don’t ask yourself how do I feel, but what do I believe”. If this were multiple choice, I might feel like: A. Rotten, but instead I chose to believe B. There are 7000 promises in God’s Word for me.
This explains why Paul was able to write from prison - a place of confinement, both literal and spiritual - with such joy. His focus was not on “How do I feel today?”, but “What has God said?”. I am going to focus on that. This is how Paul let the light in.
Focusing on doing right versus feeling right is not about denying your emotions like Mr. Spock on Star Trek, but on coming to the conclusion that even though you feel X, you will do Y. You will not be defined, nor make decisions, based on X, but on Y because you chose right choices over feelings.
The danger of being in any pit is that we can become self-absorbed with our perspective of the pit, missing what God put in our hands for that moment. It is possible to waste your time and even extend your visit in the pit by not doing what God has put in front of you.
Joseph didn’t squander his time in prison by just waiting to be released, or by focusing on how he felt - He used his gifts of interpreting dreams and administration.
In fact, some of the most powerful accounts in the Bible occurred in a pit. Paul and Silas received their greatest breakthrough in prison when they chose to worship instead of sulk. Paul chose to focus on doing the right thing instead of his feelings, gifting us with the powerful prison epistles. Paul’s mindset is best exemplified by his words:
For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:19 (NASB)
In these moments of darkness, are you allowing the light to come in?