How to Navigate Difficult Times with Your Heart
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4.
The eagle is the king of the air. It is known for its ability to soar above the storm. With sharp vision it can spot its prey from miles away. Covered with majestic feathers and armed with powerful talons, they are designed to perform extraordinary feats.
Several times in the scripture, the eagle is mentioned as a metaphor to describe God’s nature and intentions. Speaking to the nation of Israel, God said, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4. Likewise, as believers, we are likened to eagles. We can read in Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
We all go through seasons in life like eagles. Every season has its promises, challenges, and blessings. Molting season for eagles is the time when: they shed their feathers, their vision blurs, and their beak and talons break off. It is one of the most painful times in an eagle’s life. It is a death process. Although it may seem like the end for the eagle, it is actually a renewal process that enables the eagle to lead a longer life.
I went through a molting season in my life. It was a difficult time that affected all aspects of my life including my ministry as well as a life-defining transition point for me. I want to share with you some of the nuggets of wisdom that sustained me through my ‘dark night of the soul’.
What do we do when we are in the middle of molting? I find great inspiration from David’s experience. David’s molting season came abruptly. One day he was in the courts of the king then the next day he was a fugitive and an outcast because King Saul, driven by jealousy, wants him dead. David escaped to the wilderness of Judah and found refuge in the Cave of Adullam. That was his molting spot. During the hardest of times, when everything is being stripped away, the core of David’s heart was revealed. Like a flint, he postured his inner being towards pursuing God despite his external circumstances. This is what sustained him in his molting- he learned to navigate the hardest season internally. We see a glimpse of this internal navigation in Psalm 63, a Psalm that he wrote during the fleeing from King Saul.
1. Divine Desperation
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (v1)
We can imagine David being exhausted from running, thirsty, emotionally drained and alone inside a cold cave. Yet despite the hostile environment, he cried out to God in desperation, not for food, safety or a softer bed, but for the ultimate desire of his heart-His Presence. Desperation is a raw expression of a deep longing for God from a place of humility, hunger and total dependence. With his heart, David used his external circumstance to push him deeper into God’s presence. Divine desperation aligns our internal reality with the eternal reality of heaven. When this happens we are transformed to bring transformation to the world around us.
2. Remember your history with God
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and glory. (v2). David’s desire is to pursue God no matter what. Growing up he’s had moments with God that marked him for the rest of his life. In the most difficult time, David remembered his history with God of how, in the secret place, alone in the wilderness, he played his harp for the One, standing in His sanctuary and beholding His power and glory. When we don’t know what God is doing in the now, our history with God becomes a clear compass to where He is leading us next.
3. Lift Him Up
Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. (v3-5)
We praise God all the time, especially during hard times. Praise and worship help us focus on who God is and who we are to Him even amidst our circumstances and failures. When we declare His character in the midst of our difficulties, we are aligning our whole being to His heart and affection toward us. As we keep our heart in the right position, we find ourselves empowered by His grace and encouraged by His goodness. We begin to see from His perspective not ours. This will keep our heart in the right place through the uncertainty and pain of molting.
4. Rest in God
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. (v6-7)
In rest, silence and solitude we become more aware of His Presence. Rest positions us to hear and receive from Him. This is so important because oftentimes when we go through difficult seasons we react in a number of ways: escape, isolate, fight or blame. To meditate on Him is to be immersed in who He is and understand that He is with us and for us. Rest is making room for God to work a work that He only could do in us and through us.
5. Hold On
My soul clings to You; Your right hand takes hold of me. (v8)
During the difficult times much of the work of God happens deep in us. During those times, His promises and His Presence will be our sustenance. When we don’t have the capacity to see what’s ahead and the confidence to continue, His Word will be the bedrock on which we anchor our hope in the midst of the storm. What a revelation David had about this, that when he clings to God with all that he is, he sees himself embraced within His mighty hands. No wonder he ends his song declaring, “But the king will rejoice in God.” (v11) Who was the king he was referring to? Certainly, it wasn’t Saul. Nothing has changed, he sees himself as the anointed king although there was no throne at all inside that dark, cold cave. He was king by heart. God said it and David held on to Him and His promises. Nothing and nobody could change that.
When I went through my molting season, I was desperate and broken. I was doing ministry for 16 years. I’ve seen many amazing things that God did through me in the past, yet during that period I felt like I was fading, passionless, helpless, and exhausted from years of striving. But all that shifted in one moment of encounter with God, on May 26, 2006. I was attending a conference with my wife Ahlmira. It was the first time we heard Leif Hetland speak, who later on became our spiritual father. Through the revelations from his messages on the Baptism of Love, The Three Chairs and the Molting Eagle, our eyes were opened. We experienced a powerful impartation that moved us out of the molting season renewed, revived and transformed. He prayed over us and we received a life-changing baptism of love that continues to come to us in waves. It’s been 14yrs from that moment and we are still overwhelmed by all that happened in us and through us since that molting season that prepared us for a life-altering powerful encounter with the Father. Indeed, the deep work God is doing in us during the molting process prepares us for the greater work He’s about to do in the next season.