By Dale Sellers
Gina and I traveled to southern Indiana several years ago to attend a surprise birthday party for a dear friend. We had been going through a challenging season at our small church and were anticipating an emotional reprieve during the time away. The surprise party was to take place on Saturday afternoon. Our travel plans included staying around on Sunday to attend their home church before we headed back home to South Carolina.
As we were en route, I began to get this impression from the Lord to be prepared to preach on Sunday morning just in case their pastor asked me to do so. Therefore, I used our travel time as an opportunity to meditate on what the Lord would have me say should the request from the pastor materialize.
As the party wrapped up on Saturday, right on cue Pastor Daryl approached me to ask if I would be willing to share a message during the Sunday service. Of course, I told him I would be honored to speak. I began to anticipate that Jesus would use this message to help someone. However, I soon discovered that the person receiving the most help that day would be me.
A Word From The Lord
Once I completed the sermon and response time, I turned the service over to Pastor Daryl. I could tell the Lord had moved in his heart as he approached the platform because he was visibly emotional. However, I did not anticipate what was about to happen next. As I was transitioning off the platform, Pastor Daryl asked me to wait a moment. Then, he informed me that he had an impression from Jesus that he needed to share with me.
Once he regained his composure, he shared these words with me,
“Dale, the Lord has shown me that you are about to go into a difficult season. It will be like you are entering an extremely dense cloud. It will be so dense that you won’t be able to see your hand that is right in front of you. There will be no way to escape the cloud. You won’t be able to go around it, nor will you be able to go over it or under it. You will have to go through it. And as you do, He wants me to tell you that you will come out on the other side better than you went into it. Just hold onto Him and trust Him. Let Him lead you through it.”
In all honesty, I’ve never been one to seek out words from people. It’s not that I discount the timely help instruction can bring. On the contrary, I’m confident in hearing from the Holy Spirit. I have had times when a trusted friend or mentor shares something with me, confirming something I’ve already been praying for or sensing.
Yet, I knew on this day that Jesus had undoubtedly spoken to Pastor Daryl to pour into my life some clear direction He wanted me to follow. He was letting me know to prepare for some difficult days ahead. As the next few weeks unfolded, our family embarked on a season of betrayal, disappointment, and heartbreak, unlike anything I had ever experienced. Pastor Daryl’s illustration was spot on when describing an extremely dense cloud engulfing me.
There is no need to rehash the personal devastation that took place during the following years. Suffice it to say, the stress of that season was a major contributing factor to the bypass surgery I would have many years later. The stress was so great that I developed a widow-maker heart condition. I was days away from a catastrophic health event that would have ended my life if it was not discovered soon.
Pastor Daryl’s instruction to hold onto Jesus when you don’t understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, or even where you’re going was something I went back to repeatedly.
For many of us, the past few years have transpired as if going through a dense cloud. Sadly, the toll it has taken on a lot of ministry leaders has led to them resigning from ministry altogether. Some have even gotten involved in things they never anticipated they would ever do. Although the symptoms appear to show cracks in their character, many of our fellow leaders had deeper issues happening in their lives that coincided with bad habits that have manifested themselves. When the stress became too great, they resorted to something to help them ease the pain.
How To Hold Onto Jesus
You may also describe the last few years as similar to living in a dense cloud. So the advice to “hold onto Jesus” through difficult times is valid. . . but a bit ambiguous, too, if I’m being honest.
So the advice to “hold onto Jesus” through difficult times is valid. . . but a bit ambiguous, too, if I’m being honest.
I’m a practical thinker. Therefore, I felt it would be helpful for you if I shared some of the ways I’ve learned to “hold onto Jesus” over the years. My intent is not to create an exhaustive list. I just wanted to encourage you with some things that worked for me during those difficult days. I did find these things to be progressive for me, meaning one thing led to the other:
#1 – Hold On To Hope
“Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (CEV) This verse helps us to see that the precursor to faith is hope. I find this extremely important when navigating a difficult season because my inner strength to muster up great faith is depleted.
Therefore, it’s necessary not to put me in situations where great faith is required. Instead, I intentionally withdraw into a spiritual cocoon where I allow the Holy Spirit to comfort and restore me. Any attempt to keep pressing on has always resulted in bad decisions for me.
#2 – Hold On To Rest
The difference between this answer and the first one relates to my spiritual life versus my physical life. Most of the advice I hear from fellow leaders during difficult seasons is almost always in the spiritual sense. Suggestions like, “You just need to pray harder.” Or “Dive deeper into the Word” are often the go-to response to most pastors from pastors.
Suggestions like, “You just need to pray harder.” Or “Dive deeper into the Word” are often the go-to response to most pastors from pastors.
However, a focused study of Elijah when he was discouraged in 1 Kings 19 reveals that he had to address his physical exhaustion BEFORE he went to meet with God at the cave. . . too many of us still undervalue the need for physical replenishment and rest.
#3 – Hold On To Honest Prayers
I’ve spent much of my life trying to live up to a standard that Jesus never placed upon me. Yet, trying to attain this false standard led me to constantly attempt to do and say the “right things.” This internal pressure to maintain my own standard was unbearable. In addition, difficult seasons tended to increase my self-imposed stress.
Sometimes the most significant prayer you can pray is the simple prayer of, “Help me!”
While there is no way to put a value on praying God’s Word, there is also no way to quantify the value of honest prayers. He already knows how you feel and what you’re thinking. Transparently sharing your inner thoughts with Him through prayer creates an intimacy that formulaic prayers will cause you to miss. Sometimes the most significant prayer you can pray is the simple prayer of, “Help me!”
#4 – Hold Onto To Proven Passages
Difficult seasons are a great time to remember. “Remember what?” you may ask. Remember what the Lord has already done for you. Remember those passages of scripture that have comforted and encouraged you in the past. Let the stories of God’s miraculous intervention for those who’ve gone before us stir your hope that He can do for you what He’s done for others.
Meditate on your favorite passages instead of doing a deep dive into a new teaching series. There will be plenty of time for that in the days ahead. But for now, remind yourself of the many times He’s proven Himself to be faithful in the past.
#5 – Hold On To Your Family
I committed at the onset of my ministry that I would always choose my family over the ministry. While this seems to be an obvious decision, I also acknowledge that many of you may have been taught differently. I’m amazed to hear stories of seminary professors who have erroneously provided instructions like, “If you take care of God’s family, then He’ll take care of yours.” Or, “You can never allow your congregation to see you have any problems.” Far too many of our fellow spiritual leaders have sacrificed their own families while simultaneously trying to save everyone else’s family. How sad.
Speaking with all integrity, my family is a huge reason why I was able to go through the cloud. But, in all reality, they should be because they went through the cloud with me!
Speaking with all integrity, my family is a huge reason why I was able to go through the cloud. But, in all reality, they should be because they went through the cloud with me! My family didn’t get a pass or the opportunity to take a detour while I was going through the difficult season. On the contrary, they went through it with me.
Recognizing this helped me to let down my guard and be more present while I was with them. Although I tried to shield them from what I was experiencing, I soon realized that they knew I was hurting, even if they didn’t know the specifics, and rallied around me to hold onto me as we walked through it together.
There are many other ways to hold onto Jesus while you’re in the midst of the cloud. These are just some of the things that helped me. If you struggle to find direction in a difficult season, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at 95Network. We’ve created helpful resources for you, including our Soul Care Essentials Resource on our website. We want you to know that we are here to help.
You can contact Dale at: Dale@95Network.org
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