The Narrowing :: By Jeffrey Ady

2 Corinthians 1:7-9, Amplified Version:

“And our hope for you [our joyful and confident expectation of good for you] is ever unwavering (assured and unshaken); for we know that just as you share and are partners in [our] sufferings and calamities, you also share and are partners in [our] comfort (consolation and encouragement). For we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about the affliction and oppressing distress which befell us in [the province of] Asia, how we were so utterly and unbearably weighed down and crushed that we despaired even of life [itself]. Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead.”

If you’re feeling pressed upon from every angle; if you find that many of the options formerly available to you have been decimated; if almost all of the doors that used to be open in your life have been shut; if you are feeling imprisoned by circumstances; if the spotlight of the universe has suddenly centered upon your inability to cope and everything else is darkness, you are not alone.

I call it “The Narrowing.”

Paul wrote of his journey in Christ: “I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances… I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want” (Philippians 4:12). Our Savior said, “…[T]he gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:14).

It is a predictable pattern for me that, when I start feeling comfortable in the catbird’s seat—fairly certain of my ability to appraise people and data—God puffs in my direction, knocking me out of the catbird’s high perch. I tumble to the ground, voicing no small degree of discomfort. Now turn that sharp wit and tongue upon yourself. I’m right here with you, son. Trust me and build others up. Being an ordained minister and pastor doesn’t change this dynamic for me—in fact, my way is straight through the kiln of heat that compacts for all time, just like anyone else’s path who is in Christ.

As Christian Post contributor Dan Delzell puts it: “The Holy Spirit is always working to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That is to say, God gives man what he needs in order to lead him to a place of repentance, faith, assurance, and humble submission to his Creator. This in turn produces plenty of good fruit in the life of a believer.” [1]

This process is most Scripturally seen as a manifestation of God’s mercy, not anger. The time for God’s anger to be unleashed on people in the world at large has not yet arrived; we live in the Age of Grace, and we must interpret His discipline—or at least His hand in constraining our “wiggle room”—as mercy.

An abundance of “grey space” is giving way to sharper definition: Grey areas are devolving into black-and-white spaces in every area of life, it seems, and very quickly.

This trend runs contrary to general thermodynamics, indicating that Someone beyond the created universe is very actively at work, everywhere, always patiently drawing us to Christ as the “Day of Christ” approaches.

Christians in particular must remain mindful of our Father’s work in our lives. God must be allowed to work in us before He moves through us (though at times He does work and speak through us in spite of our opposition to deeper influence).

Of all things, these times and circumstances that have come upon the entire world remind me of playground carousels. The old metal discs are turned by the biggest and strongest while the little children hang on for dear life. Those of us who can remember this staple of American childhood got perhaps our very first lesson in physics, in angular momentum and centrifugal force. Lean into the Lord and hang onto the “bars” of His Word in faith. While the world seems ablur, you’ll stay on the carousel. If you lean in, you can control the sense of that pull. Look deep into Christ the Center, and your dizziness will be relatively controlled. Look outward, and you’ll lose your lunch. Lean away from the Lord and don’t hang on—and you’ll move at speed onto the gravel!

The glorious Lamb of God speaks to believers in the ancient city of Philadelphia (Revelation 3, Amplified Bible):

“I know your [record of] works and what you are doing. See! I have set before you a door wide open which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and guarded My message and have not renounced or denied My name. Take note! I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and learn and acknowledge that I have loved you.”

This could be a message for Jeremiah—he faced overwhelming opposition. Nobody in Israel believed his warnings. They imprisoned him because he was faithful in communicating God’s words. For all of his travail and obedience, Jerusalem was overrun by Babylon following a ruinous siege.

“The Narrowing” Jeremiah had proclaimed for Israel had come upon them, like a hurricane, despite their refusal to acknowledge it. And it came upon Jeremiah, who suffered just as much as they did but righteously so; he remained faithful to God through the storm. This was both Jeremiah’s suffering and his joy. Thus, Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul had a great deal in common.

Doors were shut to both of them, but also doors were opened; God is keeping all the gates.

“The Narrowing” has come upon the whole world—for its good. Grey areas are divided into more distinct black and white so that individuals are personally accountable for where they take their stands. “The Narrowing” is especially difficult for Christians, but this too is a blessing.

The Narrowing is good.

It’s a giant sign of God’s love.

And it’s a sign of the times—specifically, indicating that these days are drawing swiftly to a close.

Believe—and keep on believing—that the Living Jesus is your King and that He will come for you any moment now.

Because He is, “you can face tomorrow”!

John 14:1-3, Amplified Bible:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you. And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Luke 21:28, Amplified Bible:

“Now when these things begin to occur, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption (deliverance) is drawing near.”

Jeffrey C. Ady, Ph.D.

[1] Accessed August 11, 2020