Here we are, well underway with the start of a new year, the new decade though just beginning. With all the promise and potential that new beginnings hold. Even more so, we have this wonderful promise filled truth that our God rejoices in offering us a new beginning. Something that supecedes a calendar date. It’s a new beginning for life and for eternity. Any mistakes or messups, failures or betrayals we can leave behind and take hold of the grace that God gives us for every new day.
The truth is we don’t know what the future holds. We have our hopes, dreams and plans and dates on our calendars, but nonetheless the days ahead are unknown. But no matter what we step into this year, what opportunities or obstacles we face, the good times and the challenging, we do have the certainty that God is there with us.
What better way to start the year, than in the hand of God.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
(Excerpt of poem by Minnie Louise 1908)
“I will give you treasures hidden in dark and secret places. Then you will know that I, the LORD God of Israel, have called you by name. ” (Isaiah 45:3)
The greatest taonga, the greatest treasure is found in the hidden places. In life, in the hard places and amongst the darkness, there is treasure to be found. Just like earth’s precious jewels are all found buried and hidden. Whether it is gold, pearls or diamonds, they are all hidden and buried beneath rock, water. Hidden from earth’s surface, hidden in the dark.
When we go through challenging times, there is treasure for us. God takes the darkness of pain in our lives to make something extraordinarily beautiful. In the dark places of brokenness, heartbreak, and loss God brings forth His light and the darkness flees. He brings His healing and His peace. And if we but look, we will see touches of His grace everywhere. All the darkness, all the pain, He will use for good and we will find joy.
Someone once said “The cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day be the receptacle of joy.” What the enemy means for harm, God will use for good. Your testimony and story will become the breakthrough that someone else needs. And where once pain was, joy and blessing will be found.
“Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessings filled from the rain of an outpouring.” (Psalm 84:6)
“The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” (Isaiah 60:20)
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)
“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one. I’m not scared, what a beautiful day!”
A popular children’s story, That shares the story of a family going on a bear hunt and facing various obstacles on the way. Long wavy grass, a river, a dark forest. Each time, they realise they can’t go over it, or under it. They have to go through it.
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!
And there’s a lesson for all of us – it’s the same with life. Trials and hardship can come our way and the only way to the other side is through it. That might feel like a harsh reality. But no matter our circumstances, Jesus is there with us, beside us as we go through.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4, ESV).
In order for there to be a shadow, there also must be a light. And that light is Jesus. He walks in the valley with us and we are not alone.
“Fear sees only the dark of the valley. Faith sees the light of the shepherd.” (Jenn Rothschild)
It must have felt so odd to the Israelites. They’re facing an impenetrable walled city. They must take it. But how? You can imagine them looking to Joshua. Wanting the plan, the tactics. The clever strategy to win this battle.
Yet, the simpliest, most illogical of plans is presented. To walk around the city, for six days and on the seventh day, to do so seven times. It seems like one crazy strategy, for as James Boice wrote “high walls do not fall to the noise of tramping feet; cities are not won by trumpets.”
But the walls did fall and Jericho was taken. The battle though was not fought by the Israelites for God had already won it.
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:2)
Before the march around Jericho had begin, the Lord had declared victory already.
How often do we in life face battles? Insurmountable odds. We want the clever strategy too. We want the silver bullet. But if there’s one thing that we can learn from the Israelities and Jericho is to trust God even when it doesn’t make sense. To remember that the Battle belongs to the Lord.
This is how we fight our battles.
“I will rest in your promises. My confidence is your faithfulness”
We all have those tough days, tough weeks…tough seasons. Sometimes even the very present minute is hard. Then there are the times when there is nothing more to be done. It is out of our hands. When we begin our walk through the valley.
We all know these moments – the ones just before we walk into the board room, or as we sit in the Hospital waiting room. The moments waiting for the exam to start. When there is nothing else we can do. When the enemy wants us to begin to doubt, to fear. When he wants us to lose our peace. And that we would lose our awareness of the presence of God in our situation.
Whatever your valley looks like. Have confidence in the promises of God. He is true to all His promises. This is the time to lean into God. To rest in His promises and who He says He is. He is in control. He is there with us, every step of the way. Our confidence doesn’t need to rely on the circumstances or people around us, we can place our confidence securely in who Jesus is.
“Faith in Christ has been the great empowering presence in my life, helping me walk strong when so often I feel so weak.” (Bear Grylls)
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4)
All His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:18-20)
I’ll praise before my breakthrough
‘Til my song becomes my triumph
I will sing because I trust You
I will bring my heart, I will lift my song
Sometimes we can find ourselves in life where praising God just seems too hard. Entering into praise seems the exact opposite of what we feel like doing. But praising God when you don’t feel like isn’t fake, it’s faith. Lifting up praise about His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles is faith. It’s not pretence. It’s not saying our circumstances are all good when they’re not, rather it’s about putting our trust in God, regardless of our circumstances.
When we look at King David, he lived a life of worship. In good days and bad days, in all circumstances. He praised God as a king in his palace. He also praised God while living as a hunted man hiding in a cave. We too are called to worship God in all seasons of life. For praise to be a lifestyle. Indeed, it says in Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all times”.
Praise puts the focus on God and who He is. It keeps Him in His rightful place. Above. Above our circumstances, our realities, battles and pain.
The good news too is that praise is a weapon like no other. When we praise God, things happen, atmospheres shift, breakthroughs come. In Acts we read of Paul and Silas, worshipping while shackled in prison. Suddenly there was an earthquake that caused all the prison doors to open and everyone’s chains become loose. Praise opens doors, breaks chains and sets us free.
Praise makes the enemy flee. It pushes back the darkness. Praise allows God to step in and fight our battles for us.
I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me
In the face of praise, giants of fear, of despair or hopelessness all fall. Praise is how we fight our battles. Praise invites God to step into our circumstances.
“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise Him” (Exodus 15:2)
It was definitely a wild storm that night. Thunder, lightning, and then a mini tornado through our suburb. We heard a mssive bang which turned out was the sound of our fence being blown over. It wasn’t until morning that we could really see what damage had been done. The driveway was a mess, our reycling bin had been picked up and thrown down the drive to our neighbours leaving its contents trailing behind. Bits of branches, tiles from our neighbour’s roof strewn around. We all went into clean up mode, organising trades to come and repair the damage, getting rid of the ruined fence.
It’s reasonable to expect that our focus was on the ground, sorting out the damage. Heads down picking up all the debris, sorting and cleaning. We can though be too intent and focussed on what is in front of us, the damage that the storm has done to us, that we forget to look up.
And when we forget or are too distracted to look up, we miss the rainbow. When we dont look up we forget that all His promises are yes and Amen. That His love never fails. That God is in control and He is good all the time.
“Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:2 msg)
“I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.(Psalm 121:1-2 msg)