Today, Chambers speaks of a spiritual discipline I’ve not heard of or considered. It comes from a brief description of Jesus traveling with His disciples and telling them that He will be taken by the chief priest and scribes, condemned to death, delivered to the Romans, mocked and flogged, killed, and after three days rise from the dead. They were filled with wonder and apprehension. This amazement and fear is the “discipline of dismay”!
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him . . . (Mark 10:32)
I know this feeling of being dismayed concerning other people. A person I thought I knew has taken a path that dismays me. It seems to me the wrong path (and probably is), but this action was so unexpected that I am dismayed. How could this happen?
The disciples felt dismay to the extreme. Jesus would be arrested? Jesus would be condemned and mocked? Jesus would die? That was overwhelming. I wonder if they even heard the last item on the list – that He would rise from the dead.
As Chambers says, we first begin our journey with Christ in a sense of delight and love. We want to cling to Him and do everything He says. However, a time comes when the direction He leads us is strange, filled with pitfalls and difficulties. We wonder and may even ask Him, “Lord, what are You doing?” And into the discipline of dismay we plunge.
My view of the Lord changed over years of multiple disciplines or seasons of dismay. As a new Christian, I thought He was like my earthly father who was a loving dad who gave me pretty well whatever I wanted because he was told I would not live past sixteen. However, God taught me that He is not like that. He would give me what I need, but my wants are not always in line with His will. Sometimes He gives me things I never wanted, and in the process I’ve learned that my Father is much wiser than my father (whom I also love).
The journey of life has been filled with surprising and dismaying circumstances, all designed to discipline me so that I would become more like Jesus . . .
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . . (Romans 8:28–29)
Getting to that “death and resurrection” in my own experience is also called “put off the old and put on the new.” It sounds wonderful at first, but the process of putting it into practice is a great and dismaying challenge.
But it is also filled with wonder, particularly after I realize what God is doing in those life-changing experiences. Hindsight generally comes after those dark places. When in them, I rarely understand the full purpose of God, even though I understood the above verses right after my conversion. When life makes no sense, dismay easily takes over, pushing truth to the side. People say, “Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light” yet that is easier to remember when in the light than when in the dark.
Another danger in dismay’s discipline is being so enamored by the familiarity of “knowing Jesus” that I want to restore that comfortable feeling and try to do it by setting a “little fire” of my own and walk by my own light. One way of doing that is by inventing “truth” which feels better than that awful dismay of not knowing the will of God. But it does not work . . .
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10–11)
God is teaching me that when the darkness of dismay comes, endure it, letting it discipline me to simply trusting Him. If I avoid any attempts to create my own light (or try to imagine what is going on), then when dismay has done its work, He gives me an amazing result; I have a deeper understanding of Jesus than before, and along with it a deep and unspeakable joy.