When Clouds Cheer

I wonder if this scenario sounds familiar.

You’ve found a moment quiet enough to hear yourself think. It might be in the middle of the night, or maybe it’s when the rush of the day has paused. Your mind wanders to what God has called you to, whether general Christian obedience or a more specific dream. Either way, you know it’s got His fingerprints all over it even if it’s been hard or scary or slow going so far. The enemy slinks in as though he’s been waiting, oozing loneliness into your heart. He makes you feel isolated, like no one will care if you succeed or not, so it’s better to just give up now and be done with it. You’d probably screw it up anyway. No one sees, no one would even know if you called it quits. So why keep plodding forward? You could stop fighting and just go with the flow.

Anyone? Am I just crazy? I deal with this situation all the stinking time.

And then the fog clears—usually in light of Hebrews 11. Oh, friends, it’s beautiful, and it’s exactly what my heart needs. This chapter is one of my personal gospel lyrics.

Go ahead and read it. (It’s really hard to not imagine epic music building in the background as the passage progresses.)

Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses and his parents. The people of Israel. Rahab. Gideon. Barak. Samson. Jephthah. David. Samuel. The prophets. This chapter, also known as “the hall of faith,” runs like a parading army against the ridiculous notion that I’m on my own. Add the vast number of believers from the time of Christ up to the present, even into the future, and you’ve got the biggest crowd ever seen. Revelation 7:9 calls it a “multitude no one could number,” all testifying to the Lord’s goodness and power. Of course we’re not on our own.

I’m not the first to follow God into scary things, and I certainly won’t be the last. The idea that I’m all alone is a trick. I’ve got historical backup, and these blazing examples of faithfulness despite all odds give me the injection of reality courage I need. Jesus stands next to my great-grandmother who stands next to Ruth who stands next to the women who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, and they make up just a tiny portion in a long, long line of beauty and strength.

I don’t know what your earthly family is like; maybe rare and perfect, probably some kind of dysfunctional. But I do know what your spiritual family is like, and Hebrews 11 is the best portrait we have. Our heavenly family tree is filled with bravery, faith, hope, holiness, flawed people doing glorious things. You may have no one else in your life clapping for you, cheering you on, but these big brothers and sisters of ours wave invisible pompoms.

Our obedience doesn’t have to look pretty. We aren’t expected to appear effortlessly graceful, blowout hair shining lustrously behind us as we casually saunter away from explosions on the enemy’s camp. We can crawl to the finish line covered in mud, tears on our faces from just too many hard days. This family has never been about false exteriors—only ever grace.

My favorite part of Hebrews 11 is the section right after it:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis added)

We have a race to run. And we never run alone.

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