In the space of four days, opposite events occurred:
- Someone said something with an intent to destroy.
- A friend took me to the National Art Gallery in London.
I sat before a painting with my friend – The Raising of Lazarus.* It mirrored my circumstances… Lazarus was dead, and I felt the same. But, four days later Jesus told the mourners to open to tomb. An awful smell poured out. Yet, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come out!”**
…I sat there. Lazarus was me. Jesus was calling. I lived! Lazarus tore off his shroud. I could tear off mine. I could be free!
You see, death-like words don’t have to hold us down. “Come out!” Jesus calls to each one of us. We can choose to get up and LIVE!
* Sebastiano del Piombo, 1517-19 **from John 11
Sometimes what we experience is not understood. “But I do!” people might say. “I can totally relate! It’s just like when I got a bicycle puncture. Deflating.”
Our heart sinks. We fall silent. We feel like we are sitting at the bottom of a deep well. Alone. Unheard. If only someone understood. If only we could share our heart.
Yet, something good can come out of a well. There is a light, and it is up above. It makes us lift our heads. There is a person we can talk to – God.
Jeremiah also ended up in a well. He said, “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You came near and said, ‘Do not fear.’“ (from Lamentations 3: 55-57)
Have you ever been caught in a darkness so deep, you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face, even when you held them right up to your nose? Maybe you decided to sit still and wait things out.
But, imagine, your child starts crying. Deep darkness or not, you feel your way forward, crashing into furniture, calling out comforting words. It takes a desperation to actually walk, without sight, without light. The Bible says, “Let him who walks in the dark and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
Are you walking in darkness? I am. Let’s follow the unseen God within our hearts.
All of us make plans of one kind or another. Most of our plans are good. But, will we ever get them fulfilled?
Many of us will. But a few of us will get lost, ending up somewhere we never intended. Others of us will spend our entire lives trying to make our dreams come true. Others will just laugh at the thought that plans ever work.
Yet, I have noticed that some have a goal that transcends all plans. They don’t even have to say what it is. Their lives speak it out for them in silent words. “I will show you the most excellent way… Follow the way of love.” (1 Corinthians 12:30, 14:1)
By God’s grace, I want to follow…
You might remember… my memoir wasn’t published because of a threat of legal action. A full year later the threat still exists. Yup! It’s an accomplishment that deserves the equivalent of a boy-scout badge.
It was also a test to find out what is really inside me. Sure, I found anger and the desire for revenge, but I also found something else. The strength to get back up. The ability to forgive. The courage to consider that I might be getting another badge next year.
I find God does that with troubles. He uses them to teach us about ourselves. He uses them to make us deeper and truer. “It is God who arms us with strength and makes our way perfect.” (from Psalm 18:32) It is God.
Sometimes life seems to throw us more than we can cope with. Sometimes these troubles come at once… the washing machine breaking, the fridge, the car, the printer, the telephone, my boots… emotional griefs… death, rejection, and exhaustion… My tears flowed unhindered. I was truly in a deep, dark valley.
Then I got a paper cut and spilled lemon juice on it. I started to laugh. The solution was so simple, I rinsed my finger in water. When life stings, I immerse myself in God, his Word. I drink his peace and perspective. “As we pass through the Valley of Weeping, we make it a place of springs.” (Psalm 84:6)
I’ve been working too hard, and have gone over the edge. Have you ever done that?
The sun was already setting. I had to get outside. And it was as if God was there. The sun spread out its arms, soothing me. I followed it until it set.
Maybe I’ll start chasing sunsets every day. God is bigger than work.
When God said, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places…” (Isaiah 45:3), it was a promise. A promise always implies hope. It implies that God is able to do what he said.
But what if God had not given that promise, it would have been absurd to expect him to fulfill it. Faith needs a promise. But faith also needs a promise keeper. In the Bible Abraham embraced God’s promises even though they seemed impossible. It says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope, believed,” (Romans 4:18). Abraham couldn’t see how things would work out. He accepted God’s promises in the dark. He trusted God in that darkness.
“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3)
One of the treasures of darkness is faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1) When we walk in faith, we walk in darkness, so that we might know the One who calls us by name.