Looking for the light when all you see is darkness

Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? I know, because I’m one of those people. Practically Pollyannish, people have called me. Unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.

It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a Christ-follower, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we should grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.

We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?

All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.

In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.

Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a Christ-follower, He’s there somewhere. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.

On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this effusive cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light. And don’t stop until you find it.

So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend. He’s seen them, and they’re good.

 

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Haven Sunrise

My BFF is a blazing ball of hydrogen gas?

What does mean God to you? Is He some great spirit in the sky who grants wishes when you reach a certain level of perfection? Is He some distant intellect who created everything and then left it to rot? Is He your homeboy, someone you chill with and shoot the breeze with after work? (Louis Giglio has a talk about this option that you should see.)

I think Christians, American Christians specifically, have a skewed misconception of who God is and how He works and what He does. We Americans with our entitlement mentality have the feeling that God owes us something if we obey. And if He doesn’t answer our prayers, well, He must not exist. Or if He does exist, He doesn’t care, so why bother? And the rest of Christianity that isn’t stuck in the performance trap treats God (and Jesus) like some casual acquaintance they can punch in the shoulder when they greet each other.

I can’t tell you which perspective is more wrong because they’re all wrong.

How do you describe God? How do you explain Him? If you know how, I would gladly hear your take on it because words fail me when I set about accomplishing that kind of a task. So instead of me fumbling around trying to find the right words, I think I’ll let Scripture take care of it this morning.

Haven Sunrise

Haven Sunrise - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 84:11.

 For the LORD God is our sun and our shield.
      He gives us grace and glory.
   The LORD will withhold no good thing
      from those who do what is right.

The Bible often uses metaphor to describe things that we can’t understand in their entirety. Metaphor is a powerful writing tool that enhances a story or a manuscript because it helps to communicate a concept even if the actual fact is too big for us to grasp.

Think about that first statement: For the LORD God is our sun.

I took this image on Christmas Eve 2011. It was 20 degrees outside, and I had made the mistake of assuming the sun came up at 7:00. So I got up at 6:00. Well, if I would have Googled it, I would have known that the sun wouldn’t come up until 8:00. So I was outside in my simple coat and my Crocs for two hours. Yes, I was frozen. I actually had to come in at one point because my right foot had gone numb. But after I ran hot water on it until the feeling came back, I went back outside. It took a hot shower and two cups of tea to get the feeling back into the rest of me after that.

But I noticed something. I live out in the middle of nowhere, as evidenced by the photo. There are no lights. I have yard light and the stars and the moon at night. And I have the sun during the day. But until the sun comes up, my world is pitch black. And it gets cold out here in winter. Like I said, it was 20 degrees. But once that sun came up, even though it was freezing, I felt warm because of the sunlight.

Is the metaphor becoming clear? God is my sun.

I think that’s a good way to put it. In the darkness, He brings light. In the cold, He brings warmth. He is the center of my universe. My whole life revolves around Him, or it should.

But this verse doesn’t just identify God as the sun, it also calls Him our shield. And those two terms aren’t usually synonymous.  If you’re a sun, you’re blazing hot and powerful and unrelenting. But a shield is quiet and confident and steady. And God is that way too. He’s a shelter and a refuge, a safe place to go in times of danger where nothing can hurt you if you take cover under Him.

And God doesn’t just light our paths and protect us from harm, He gives us grace and glory, according to this.

And you realize that He doesn’t have to do any of this, right? Unless you think you can walk up to the sun and demand your rights? Unless you think you can throw your arm around the sun and talk irreverently about what you think is wrong with the world? If you tried to do that, you’d burn up. Can you be best friends with someone whose very presence can turn you to ash?

Well, yes. Because Jesus made it possible. Jesus bridged the gap between us and God, welcoming us into a relationship with God. But we can’t forget that. We can’t forget that Jesus is the mediator and without His sacrifice, we could have nothing to do with God, not because God is limited but because we are. God is our heavenly father. He loves us, and He tells us to ask Him for what we need. But I think we forget our place sometimes and in trying to understand God, we present Him as Someone Who is like us — and He’s not. It’s not up to God to become like us; it’s up to us to become like Him.

So the next time you present a request to God, think about Who He is. Our sun. Our shield. Strong enough to bring light into the darkness but compassionate enough to protect us. And remember to approach Him with respect, not in terror but in humility, understanding that you can’t understand everything.

Night Vision

I live out in the country so there aren’t a lot of people around me. My closest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away. When my family first moved out to this crazy old farm, though, we had a lot of trouble with the electric company. It wasn’t that they were unpleasant. It was just difficult to get the electric utilities set up because everything was rural. And even after we got everything set up, it wasn’t reliable.

I can remember how we had to stock our basement cellar full of candles in expectation of all the power outages that were going to occur. It didn’t matter what time of year it was. The power would just go out.

In the summertime, it wasn’t such a bad problem. We kept water in jugs to drink and water in a huge tank to flush the toilet with. Since our well pump is electric in the house, when the power goes out, that means no water.

The times when the power went out in the winter, though — that was difficult. No heat in the wintertime doesn’t make for a very pleasant evening. I remember one time when the power went out during a bad winter storm. We have a wood stove in the basement, and it’s the only one on our section line. So our closest neighbors at the time came over and camped out in our basement until the power came back on.

The other part of winter that makes power outages difficult is the dark. The days get shorter in winter, so the world stays darker for longer. And when you live out in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t any lights.

During many of those winter power outages, I learned pretty quickly that my night vision is fairly good. But it’s not perfect. So whenever the power would go out, we’d all tromp downstairs to the basement and light the candles we’d stockpiled.

I can still remember being curled up in a blanket on one end of our basement couch with my family all around, watching that one candle burn. It’s amazing how much light one candle can put out when there’s nothing but darkness around you. It can light up an entire room just by itself.

Today’s verse is Psalm 119:105.

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

The Bible is often called a light or a lamp because it gives us everything we need to be able to navigate through the darkness of life, just like that candle in my basement all those years ago.

If you have a candle when the power goes out, wouldn’t it make sense to use it? Or does it make sense to rely on your own night vision?

My night vision is good. I can make out people and objects. I can maneuver in rooms full of obstacles. And maybe I can do all of that without stubbing my toe, but what I can’t do is see the details. And I can’t see colors. To see detail and colors, I need light.

I think it’s the same with living life without Scripture.

The world is dark. It’s full of darkness all the time. And maybe some of us have better night vision than others, but no one has perfect vision in the dark. You need a light. You need a light to show you what path is the best to take or what the obstacles in your path mean. And that’s what the Bible can do.

I know as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to prefer using a candle to just relying on my own eyes. But just like a candle, the Bible is only good if you use it. It isn’t going to put off much light if it’s just gathering dust on your coffee table.