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I have been awash in a sea of change, feeling lost as I strive to navigate the vast waters surrounding me. My season of life has shifted on so many levels, and what I have been experiencing is not the sure footedness I imagined a well rounded “grown up” 45-year-old woman would possess. It feels more like the teetering toddles of an inexperienced child lunging, flailing, and falling as I try to maneuver through my new surroundings.

The past five years have held more change than I could have ever anticipated, but now at the end of this most recent chapter, stepping into a new, more stable one, the seas are beginning to settle. Some days I feel like I can finally rest, gently rocking in my boat, soaking up a bit of warmth while enjoying the deep blue skies overhead. While others, I am so aware of the boundless ocean stretching in front of me that I feel a level of uncertainty envelop me. My compass seems to have been jostled and disrupted, and I’m still working on getting my bearings.

After 17 years in full time ministry and three years working cross culturally, my family returned to the States in June 2018 to begin—again—in a new location, new culture, new well, everything. Our return was a response to a clear leading from God, yet it was still a blind leap. My husband moved immediately into a new job and our daughter integrated into a new school, yet I had no guidance on what to do next.

The busybody Martha-type in me wasn’t coping so well. My husband gave me permission in this new season to take time to figure things out. I quickly commenced seeking God and asking Him to show me the next thing: “What should I do? Should I work? What is my ‘calling’ now? I need to hurry up and figure it out!” I was looking for a quick and easy answer so I could move beyond the uncomfortable unknown. But God doesn’t move and work on our terms. He reaches deep into our souls, anchoring us to Him, in His time and in His way. He is more concerned with our trust and willful abiding than our doing.

The sunken ships of our imaginations, laden with riches and beyond our reach, are not shimmering just below the surface. Rather, they are resting on the ocean floor, waiting to be uncovered. The deep places hold untold treasure. And treasure is not easily discovered. In fact, it is there in the darkness and the silence, that the real work begins.

 
LOOKING FOR LIGHT

Several years ago, we had a very difficult span when we were living overseas. The culture shock was heavy and the spiritual warfare intense. Depression and anxiety were my constant companions, bringing with them sleepless nights and loss of appetite. In the midst of all this, I was asking, “Why? Why won’t God take this from me?” And my husband gently suggested, “You want rescue. But maybe what God wants is to meet you in this place. Maybe He wants to reveal Himself to you in it—not take you out of it.” His words of truth stung my heart and my eyes as tears surfaced. It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but it was exactly what God was doing and continues to do in my life.

These last months, I have so desperately wanted to glimpse just a sliver of light. Just a bit of illumination. I have longed for a clear, well-defined answer. To be honest, though, I was so busy filling my days with movement and noise that I was completely missing the point. God was calling me to stillness and I was fighting it. Those deep, dark waters were not where I wanted to be. I was intently focused on finding the treasure, yet unwilling to stay in the dark long enough for my eyes to adjust to what God wanted to reveal.

What felt so disorienting was not so much my new locale, but rather, my new life stage. Midlife hit me with full force. Gray hair is emerging with ever-increasing speed. My body, too, is telling the same story. In full vulnerability, menopause came early, and I was not prepared for the roller-coaster ride of emotions I have experienced as a result. These physical and hormonal shifts, along with my relatively new role as a stay-at-home-mom—devoid of position or public affirmation—caused me to question my value and contributing power. All my bearings suddenly left me feeling adrift in these uncertain and restless seas.

Thankfully, in this sea of change, my heavenly Father is gently teaching me to navigate the ripples and currents. Psalm 139:7-10 rings truer than ever before for me:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?

     Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me.”

As I have both drifted along and plunged into deep places, God is there. His Spirit holds me even when I cannot feel His palm beneath me.

 
ILLUMINATION

God met me in the dark and deep places—where light seemed non-existent—revealing parts of His character that I may not have otherwise known. Psalm 18:4-19 is one of my favorite passages with its vivid descriptions of Almighty God’s rescue. He comes for us, but sometimes He comes in clouds and thunder and lightning. There is an intensity that precedes the drawing out of the pit. And it is in this reality that we come to know the intense, unfaltering love of God. It is in the stormy seas of life that we most clearly perceive and personally experience the character of God—our Comforter, Sustainer, Helper, Lover, Protector, Shield, and Rescuer.

This is the season into which God is graciously inviting me. In the middle of learning to simply be, in the quiet calm, I’m finally beginning to recognize that all of the striving to figure out what comes next has only been keeping me from what He really has in mind for me now. What God truly desires is for me to sit with Him. I don’t have to spend a lifetime searching for His valuable treasure trove. Instead, it is ever-available for the receiving, if I’ll only stop long enough to recognize and acknowledge that His presence is the treasure.

It is actually in the stopping—in the ceasing to strive—that the jewels are found. In the familiar story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42, I imagine Jesus’ response to Martha in her striving something like this: “Martha, Mary has chosen the best way to spend her time. She is not scrambling to do all the things. Those details can wait. She is sitting at my feet—listening, observing, learning—and this is the best thing.” Martha was “distracted by much serving” (Luke 10:40), and consequently was missing the treasure of the One she was seeking to serve. Like Martha, my internal need to be constantly doing has prolonged my learning process. Gratefully, I have found that my heavenly Father’s patience is long.

In the last year of my searching for His will for me, I got so busy thinking I needed to find ‘the thing’ He wanted me to do. “Just hurry up and tell me already, would you, God?” But His purposes and ways are so much deeper—more hidden. Better. What I need more than anything is to stop. What He desires for me is to sit at His feet long enough to truly know Him—to see and experience the exquisite facets of His character.

To be in His presence—this should be our daily pursuit.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Matthew 6:21 reminds us. If we assume the treasure must be hunted, then our hearts will be on a constant quest. And while we must seek Him with all our hearts, God also tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a). Our hearts will finally be at peace when we surrender to the idea of resting in Him, discovering the treasure of His presence. If I—if we—could just stay in that place! What depths of riches could we plumb?

The landscape of the ocean can be so deceiving. While the surface may be calm and tranquil, giving the illusion that nothing is happening, underneath the waters are teeming with life. There is movement and growth, conflict and resolution, vibrant color and murky depths. And far below is the shiny, glittering stuff, the treasure chest filled with gold and gems and wonders galore.

If His presence is the treasure, then His presence is worth our time. Will we have the patience to sit and stay, allowing Him to draw our attention to what lies hidden in the deep places? Will we be willing to peer into the darkness long enough for His grace and glory to come into focus? When our surroundings are thick with tangible pitch-blackness, as we wait for the sliver of illumination to split the inky waters, we can cling to the promise that His clarifying presence can and will penetrate our murky surroundings:

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and the light about me be night,’

even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

Even now, as I wait for more hidden treasures to be exposed by the light of God’s presence in my life, I am so thankful His nearness really is all I need. When I stay mindful of His presence, everything else becomes clear. He is the treasure I seek.

In the fierce storms, He is our Peace. In the murky depths, He is our Hope. In the profound darkness, He is our Light. And there, in our moments of greatest uncertainty, He points us to the unfathomable riches of His character. He meets us with Himself as we cease to strive. His presence with us is the treasure. May we have the courage to wait and trust that He will reveal the hidden treasures of the deep.

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29 comments
  1. Thank you for sharing. I have found myself experiencing many of the same things as this mid-life arrives. Your words ring truth and encouragement.

    1. It’s such a new and challenging time, isn’t it? I’m so thankful that God meets us right in the middle of it – real feelings and all! I pray He meets you there in beautiful ways! ♥️

  2. “ God was calling me to stillness and I was fighting it. Those deep, dark waters were not where I wanted to be.” Thank you for these words today, Carlee…such a timely reminder to me and so much truth. Stillness in any season does often feel like deep, dark waters and fighting against stillness always seems the easiest response—but your words are such a reminder to me that it’s in the stillness that God reveals Himself to us.

    1. Sandi, thank you. It’s a daily decision for me, for sure. Why do I fight when He has so much better? Grateful He continues to lovingly lead us back to Him and His ways. ♥️

  3. Thank you so much for this, Carlee. It’s even a help to us old gals in our mid sixties. I’m have been deeply wrestling with this same issue for a couple of years now and just recently started to figure out that maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m having a very hard time staying settled in the Lord though.

    1. Oh, so good, Sandy! “Maybe we are right where we are supposed to be.” YES. And when we stop trying to figure it out, my hunch is that we find much more settledness and more joy and peace than we knew was possible. Blessings as you keep walking it out with Him! ♥️

  4. So hit home for me! It’s been a year of a lot or rough times and “Be still and know I am God” has come to me many times throughout the day. In the stillness is so where he speaks to us, tweaks us, molds us and is where I’ve found peace. Thanks for sharing this which reiterated what God has been speaking to me for months now!

    1. Sara Jo, I love how He reminds us over and over, in various ways, the things He wants us to really know, deep-down. Thankful that you heard Him in these words. ♥️

  5. Sweet, Carlee! Thank you for your vulnerability! God certainly is less concerned about our comfort than He is in building our character!! Can’t wait to read more of what you write!!!

  6. Beautiful, Carlee! My journey echoes so much of this – looking for the solution, when God wants to give me his person and his presence. I’ve had many “hurry up and teach me, God!” conversations with him — only to learn the real lesson in the deep dark places. It’s truly a gift.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. I could do much relate to this in the early stages of motherhood and not knowing “what to do”. God has been patient and loving with me. I had dark circumstances pile on top of my uncertainty, but I’m finally in a place of illumination, like you do beautifully wrote. God bless, and thank you, Carlee.

    1. Amber, I’m not sure my reply landed in response to you – as I intended. Operator error, I’m sure. I did, however, want to reply directly to you. Your comment is greatly appreciated. Here is what I intended for you yesterday:

      You are welcome. And what a joy that He has brought you to that place! It’s such a daily thing, and I, too, am grateful for His grace and patience. ♥️

  8. You are welcome. And what a joy that He has brought you to that place! It’s such a daily thing, and I, too, am grateful for His grace and patience. ♥️

    1. Desiree, thank you for your encouraging words. I’m humbled that God is using the story He’s writing in my own life to touch others. Blessings! ♥️

  9. This will help so many women who are in a time of struggling, not sure what or where they should be in their walk with the Lord. We are all so busy and don’t take the time to focus on Him. Thank you for sharing from your heart and being open and honest about your struggle. God will use this to touch hearts of women and you will never know this side of Heaven all those you have ministered to through this article.

    1. Marilyn, thank you so much! What a blessing to think that others can find encouragement from my struggle – that He uses each of our stories to tell His… I’m so humbled at this! Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. ♥️

  10. Thank you for helping me to open my eyes and ears! As I read your article my soul was crying out “YES, YES, YES!”

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