"Chess is life." -Bobby Fischer
Have you ever felt checkmated by God? Have you ever been hemmed in by circumstances that feel overwhelming to the point of despair?
"We are troubled on every side..." says Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (4:8), "but not in despair."
Paul wasn't afraid... Maybe this resolve and centeredness can only come about through suffering? If that's the case, then our sufferings are eminently valuable. Peter says that the "trial of your faith" is "much more precious than of gold which perisheth" (1 Peter 1:7).
There are things that you go through in your life you wouldn't wish on anyone. There's a lot to be said for letting an individual on the outside go through the bliss of ignorance thinking they'd never make it through the misery you did. But isn't that pride? It's certainly not love. And if you went through misery in order to not only grow closer to God (or meet Him for the first time), but also to return and rescue others who were in the same situation, wouldn't you want God to open someone else's eyes too? Is the beauty of which you regularly partake worth having gone through the fire of your particular desert experience? It most certainly is.
"Lovest thou me?...Feed my sheep." (John 21:16)
But before we get there, sometimes God has to block off every possible escape route, crowd us into a dark corner and show us that He loves us.
Notice what Jeremiah says in Lamentations (3:9-10): "He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places." Ways. Paths. Secret places. God is getting closer to you. And all of God's negative press and wrong opinions you've gotten from others and from your old, wrong thinking are coming to light. Anytime we would think that God is mean and spiteful and uncaring shows we harbor those thoughts and opinions above all else. Towards God, ourselves and others. By the same token, sometimes God has to let the glowing opportunities that are slowly—or quickly, whatever—leading us away from Him turn into the dark and deceptive mirages they are. He'll let them fall apart to show you that not only is He the way, but that He also has something better in store for you. Something that He has carved out and set aside for you to do. It takes time. Maybe some pain, but it all works out.
Proverbs 3:6 (emphasis mine) "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." Or as the New King James version puts it: "He shall make your paths straight." In other words, "not crooked".
My dad taught me how to play chess at an early age. Never became great at it and I still enjoy it, but anymore, it's all about having the right person to play with. With a computer, or a person over a network, it's just not the same. This being said, think about life as an incredibly intricate, multi-layered and long game of chess. The truth is, if you believe on and in Jesus, you're on God's team. And He always wins. But if it seems that God is slowly and systematically capturing your pieces one-by-one (or even sacrificing them!) and driving you into a corner, don't despair. It wouldn't be happening at all if you weren't (ignorantly, of course) playing against Him.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word." (Psalm 119:67)
Next time you sit down to pray, ask God if there's anything that is keeping you off the path that He has for you. And be sure to meditate on the fact that He loves you. Because without love, we are unable to go through the fire of purging that might be required to rid us of the mirages in our lives. And the desert is full of them.
"The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." (Psalm 121:7-8)