Do you know the phrase, "There's an elephant in the room?" Do you know what it means? Let me explain. Maybe you found out your husband was running around. You went to a counselor together, but you can't bring yourselves to talk about it when you get home and are alone together. There's an elephant in the room.

Maybe you became a Christian and left your family's church — the one you were raised in. Nobody's forgiven you, yet. You've tried to explain, but no one wants to discuss it. It's hard at family gatherings. There's an elephant in the room!

It could be a misunderstanding between you and your coworker. You've always had a close working relationship, but since it happened, it has just not been the same. It makes it hard to go to work every day. There's an elephant in the room.

Perhaps something happened at church. An argument erupted over church matters that grew into a huge thing. Somehow it's never been dealt with, and every time you're in worship, you're super conscious of the elephant in the room!

This can happen not only between people, but between people and God!

Do you ever have your devotions when there is something you are really worried about, yet you never get around to talking to God about it? Even though it dominates your thoughts, you manage to avoid addressing it with the Lord. It's funny, isn't it, that you can have a long devotional time, finish, and be as worried as you were when you started. Why is this? How do we manage to talk to God about the world and this life without ever mentioning the elephant in the room?

But then, how can the elephant be in the Throne Room in the first place? The answer is he's there because I bring him with me! Yes, I do. You wouldn't think an elephant would fit through the Throne Room door, would you? But the front door is large enough for any old elephant, and he comes in because he refuses to stay outside. There I am clutching my Bible, prayer journal, calendar of Bible promises, a book about faith, and a map so I can pray for all the missionaries in the world, and there he is looming as large as life! The most amazing thing is that even though the animal sort of dominates the landscape, I manage to have my prayer time AS IF HE ISN'T THERE! In fact, at the end of a seemingly balanced time with God, (you know, like we've been taught: praising first, confessing next, praying for others, and then praying for myself) I get up and leave with the elephant in tow just as I came, pretending he's been invisible to all those heavenly beings (who we learned in Sunday school have eyes all over them!). In other words, it's possible to have a huge problem that you know only God can throw light upon and help with, but you won't allow yourself to LISTEN to what He wants to say or be enlightened and encouraged by Him.

Have you ever known you had to talk to God about a heartache, but if you were honest, it wasn't really the talking you were worried was the listening? Maybe you didn't know if you wanted to hear what He would say.

I was working through a particular worry one worrisome day, and I found myself sitting just inside God's front door of His Throne Room, I had tied up the elephant behind a beautiful tree with evergreen leaves and fruit all over it where I thought he wouldn't be noticed. I waited for the difficult conversation to begin. At first He and I talked about other things...lots of other things. To begin with, I sang some songs of praise to Him. (It's only here I do this really loudly as He didn't give me a wonderful voice like He gave others. However, He's promised me one in heaven to praise Him with once I arrive.) But strangely, when I'm sitting beneath the praise of angels and singing to Him, my voice sounds really nice! It changes into an altogether different thing. In fact, if I'm not careful, I can even find myself listening to me and really enjoying the sound of my own voice instead of listening to Him and enjoying the sound of His — which is really silly and does no good at all!

Anyway, I sang as many songs as I could remember by heart, and then we talked about Tajikistan. It wasn't that I was really interested in Tajikistan at that moment, but there were lots of things wrong in Tajikistan and that meant using up a lot of the time I had allotted for my devotions. I got out the mission letter about it and put it on the top of my Bible so I could cover everything. Things were going along really nicely and there was still a long list of prayer requests when He took the letter off my lap and smiled at me.

"Let's talk," He said.

"We are," I said hesitantly.

"Not really," He replied. "Let's talk about what's wrong and what you are worried about. After that, you will find you can really pray about Tajikistan and do some good!"

My heart began to beat hard! "I can't — I can't go there, Lord."

"That's because you usually go there on your own," He said. "Just you and the elephant. Come with me." And before I knew it, He was walking me toward the big beast behind the evergreen tree with the lovely fruit. "Remember, Jill," He said ever so gently. "Go on. Remember what you've been trying to forget." I'd spent so much time with the elephant that never forgets that when I was this close to him, I found it was easy for me to remember, too!

And then we were surrounded by the mess and the hurt and the impossible things that needed to be faced and dealt with. I wanted to run or distract myself by singing more songs or finishing my prayers for Tajikistan, but He held on to me very gently and firmly and just kept looking at me.

He kept me there as the pain of the hard situation came closer and closer to the surface and began to take over. I cried. He tightened His grip. The pain receded a bit. But I found myself in so much emotional turmoil, I could hardly breathe, much less talk about it. He read my pain and heard my soul weeping. I knew it. It helped.

"Listen to me, Jill." Then He was talking, and I realized why I hadn't listened to Him for a while. It was because I hadn't wanted to hear what He had to say about the worry in case it was a hard thing to bear. If I stopped talking and began to listen, He might sneak it in there. So I had been keeping my listening distance, if you know what I mean! I had just kept singing songs to Him; talking about Tajikistan; and memorizing promises about the weather, harvest time, taxes, the Babylonians, and things that had nothing to do with anything — though I got them all from the Bible, of course — all to avoid the elephant in the room.

But here I was, at last, daring to stand with Him and let the dark shadows of my memories engulf me. As long as he was holding onto me, I could stand my ground, even though the shadows darkened. And then I saw the light. It was coming from Him who is the Light of the world, of course. "Though you walk through the shadow of death," He was saying, "I am with you. My rod and my staff will comfort you" (Psalm 23:4). And I remembered that where there's a shadow, there's always light for the believer. No valley on earth is ever totally dark for the one who loves Jesus. He talked then about the worry I had tried to pretend wasn't there...the worry that was making me ill. He gave me a perspective I'd never had before as I dared to listen with all of my worried heart. I said I was sorry I had been afraid to be still and let Him near my pain. He smiled and forgave me. Right there! Right then!

A lot of His words sounded very familiar and I remembered they came from His Book. But when He said them to me in the presence of the dark reality of the situation, I found myself seeing everything in a new light. I can't really describe it to you, but suddenly, I didn't want Him to stop talking, and I didn't want to stop listening. It had been a long time. Too long.

We talked then of how I could begin to learn to live well with the consequences of the situation that had arisen until — or if ever — He changed them. Today suddenly looked doable. We stood in the shadows of my sorrows, and I watched the Light of Life chasing those dark things back where they belonged. Later, as I walked out of the Throne Room into my day and its challenges, I found myself thinking about my breakfast!

Oh my! How long was it since I'd felt like breakfast? As I made myself a nourishing meal and bowed my head to give thanks, I suddenly couldn't speak. I didn't have to. "I hear you, Jill." He said deep down in my life. As I readied for the day's work, checked that the doors were locked, and all was safely in place, I realized something was missing. My elephant! Where was he? For a moment I considered taking time to find him. I felt sort of lonely without that immense hulk dominating the landscape. And then I laughed. At "this" moment in "this" day, I was free. Why on earth would I look for the elephant? He would be back no doubt, or one of his kind, and I determined to enjoy my freedom while it lasted.

Tomorrow was another day!

Why don't you take time to climb inside my prayer? Take the elephant with you. Don't keep your listening distance.

Right here, right now,
As before your throne I bow,
Turn my darkness into day
May I trust you, come what may,
Right here, right now.

Right here, right now,
As before your throne I bow,
Hear my heart in speechless prayer,
Ask for faith to replace care
Right here, right now.

Right here, right now,
Worried, weary, here I bow.
Deep inside my life hold sway,
Hear me Jesus; have your way,
Right here, right now,
Right here, right now!

Jill Briscoe

Do you know someone dealing with an elephant? Feel free to pass this on!