Last summer, my family spent the hottest day of the year at an amusement park. When we stopped to refill our water bottles, we somehow lost one of my sons in the crowd. It probably wasn’t much longer than a minute or so. But as soon as we realized he was missing, my husband and I grabbed our two other boys and ran in search of him.
We turned a corner, and there he was - our precious little seven-year-old, standing in the middle of the concrete pathway, sobbing. We sprinted towards him and enveloped him in our arms. We spent several long moments holding him and comforting him. “We didn’t abandon you. We didn’t forget you. We’re here. We’re with you. We love you. You are back in the arms of mommy and daddy. It’s okay, little one. You are found.”
There are days in leadership, or let’s be honest, in life, when we lose our way; when we feel lost, afraid, far from our family, far from our Father. We stand in the middle of our path and become stuck and scared because we don’t know what to do next. We don’t know how to move forward. We can’t seem to find our way home.
I’m currently part of a church planting team that’s developing a discipleship pipeline for leaders. We’re working to create a strategic, salient, sequential path in which leaders can be equipped and unleashed to go. The work is energizing and fun. It takes lot of brainstorming, praying, dreaming, and researching (and cups and cups of coffee). I love every second of it. But two years ago, I never would have guessed I’d be here.
Two years ago, I was that scared child trying to find my way home. At the time, I had been hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease. I spent the next year feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. It was my year of lament; a year asking God, Why?; a year feeling lost and afraid.
During that difficult season, I often thought that if I could just learn whatever lesson God was trying to teach me, then I could wrap up my hardship up in a pretty little package, send it on its way, and graduate to the next stage of my spiritual growth and development. But as time goes on, I’m beginning to realize that our seasons of loss and lament are not about learning lessons; they are about experiencing greater measures of God’s love. Our pain is an invitation deeper into the presence of God.
In the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, there’s a story about King Solomon, who, having built the temple, asked God—though infinite in nature—to reside within the building’s four walls. Later, God appeared to Solomon in a vision and answered his request: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; and so, I have consecrated this temple which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there (1 Kings 9:3).”
When we come to faith in Jesus, his ineffable Holy Spirit takes us residence in our finite beings. He transforms our frail and failing bodies into living, vibrant temples. In fact, the Old Testament calls the Holy Spirit Ruach, the Wind of God or the Breath of God. In Genesis, we read of God breathing into the nostrils of Adam and filling him with His Spirit. Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus breathed onto His disciples and filled them with the Spirit’s presence as well (John 20).
This, to me, is one of the most incredible claims of the Christian faith: God breathes His own life into us.
And because of the Spirit’s life within us, the truth of 1 Kings is true for us as well—if you’re a follower of Jesus, God’s name is engraved on you. God’s eyes always are focused on you. God’s heart is in you and with you forever.
No matter how lost you feel, no matter how much pain you’re in, even if God’s presence truly seems absent—in your darkest hours, you are never alone, never abandoned, never forgotten.
Woman, Leader, Friend, - if you’ve lost your way, if you’re suffering, or if you’re just off your leadership path for some reason or season, remember this:
You are known by God.
You are named by God.
You are seen by God.
You are loved by God.
You belong to God.
You have the very breath and wind of God inside of you.
When things look so blurry that you can’t find your way home, don’t give up. Stay faithful to Jesus. God’s Spirit will take your spirit by the hand and lead you back—time and time again—into the arms of your loving Daddy. He will breathe life back into you.
It’s okay, little one. You are found.
Aubrey Sampson is the author of Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan) and an upcoming book on lament and hope with NavPress. She and her husband Kevin, and their three young sons, planted Renewal Church in the Chicagoland area, where Aubrey serves on the preaching team. Aubrey is part of the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College and travels around the country speaking and preaching at a variety of churches. Find and follow Aubrey @aubsamp, Facebook, and www.aubreysampson.com