What do you do when serving God leads you into a long, dark tunnel?

You keep walking – and talking – even when something in your head screams “Run the other way!”

Most of us didn’t sign on for hazardous duty when we sensed the call. We’d heard of others walking through ministry minefields, but we figured our predecessors weren’t so skilled at leading people. Maybe they weren’t heedful to early warning signs of people’s discontent. No doubt they were simply not as bright as we, or in some other way flawed.

But soon enough in the fullness of timing””not our own””we reach the discovery that we, too, demonstrate our own deficiencies as spiritual and corporate directors. Well, once in a while at least!

That first realization seems a cruelty imposed upon us. Right then, in the aftermath of the drive-by shooting by church terrorists, when we’re most exposed it’s no small thing to receive the consolation of well-placed loyal friends.

Helped by those who’ve been blindsided

Then after some time””and it took me a couple of years during my first go-around with personal reclamation””with the help of friends who don’t give up on us, we muster the courage to begin a cursory look at who we are and what we’ve been about. Compassionate words we are given, occasionally gentle, other times piercing, across tables over coffees. These friends who themselves have been blindsided help us take a deep-down look and redefine our motives. They wait for us at the other end of the tunnel, allowing us to come to a dead stop when we doubt the darkness could one day yield to the light of renewal.

God is good””even in dark tunnels.

That’s the refrain, the chant; “God is good, all the time.” Right?

It’s in that tunnel we give ourselves the go-ahead to suspect we just may have a jaundiced view of God’s goodness. Can he be trusted? Did he fake me out? Can I trust him? Isn’t that what we ask in the tunnel? And ours isn’t a condition of rebellion, although we find ourselves angry with him. It’s more our way of revealing how we yearn for him to once again prove himself. Will he see me through the tunnel? Will I believe again he is very, very good?

A lot of years ago, out of ministry and with nothing to look forward to, my despair immobilized me. My wife asked if I wanted to pray. I said, “No, I’ve got nothing to say to him.” Then she said, and it rocked me, “It’s okay to be mad at God. Just don’t close the door to talking to him, no matter what.”

No matter what.

And guess Who is waiting for you, pastor, when you come out the other end of the tunnel?