In these winter days when it feels that the sun barely makes an appearance, it seems that our souls yearn for more than just brief moments in the sun. Indeed depression rates are known to notably increase during the winter. In fact there is a strong correlation between our levels of serotonin and our expousure to the sun. Light therapy is a popular choice to assist with depression and mitigate the effects of the minimal sunlight. We need the sun.
The definition of darkness is “the absence of light”. Light changes darkness, but darkness cannot change light. You can’t decrease light by turning up darkness. In fact the darker it is, the more the smallest light glows.
Light will always penetrate darkness. It is a law of nature. It is the same way in the spiritual realm. When the light of God shows up, it literally shows up, and the darkness flees before it. It must, because that’s what darkness does when light comes. Simple.
Jesus came to be the light in our darkness. Where there is darkness, light is needed. A night light dispels shadows that scare – for darkness always flees before light. The light of a torch shows the way home along the darkest paths. Jesus came to be the Light of the World where hopelessness, fear, worry and anxiety abound.
He said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:14)
In the same way that our soul needs light so does our spirit. And we can rest assured in the promise that God will dispel any darkness. Where God is, darkness cannot exist.
“My God tuns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28)
“The sun always rises, the day always dawns, and darkness doesn’t get the final say”
It’s Sunday and I’m at church but not really at church in my eyes. I’m in creche with my little one and missing the whole service. And to be honest feeling a tad grumpy about it all. Furthermore I found myself in the bathroom dealing with my chappy needing a change. Not exactly a Holy moment.
Or was it? Because as I juggled changing the pullup with keeping a wriggly child on the change table the worship music wafted through into the bathroom and my spirit lifted at the words.
Thou art exalted far above all gods
For Thou, O Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all gods
I exalt Thee, O Lord
I exalt Thee, I exalt Thee
I exalt Thee, O Lord
In that moment, in my very mundane situation, the presence of God invaded the room. God doesn’t wait for us to have everything lined up and perfect for worship. He doesn’t wait for perfect circumstances and perfect environments to engage with us. He doesn’t need to wait for us to feel like we’re in the “mood” to encounter Him. He just comes, with His love and with His grace for us.
So in that rather dismal location, despite my attitude and unprepardeness to do anything more than look after my child, I encountered the presence of God. I encountered His love and His grace. I may have missed the entire service that Sunday, but I didn’t miss God. He found me.
A simple, common word. Used so often in daily life. Certainly not really a word to give cause to pause and think on. Its use in conversation suggests something more, an action, a consequence, a result. It’s a partnership – a before
Somehow this week, I have found myself singing the refrain to “How Great Thou Art.”
“Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art”
As I sang just the chorus of this wonderful Hymn, it was the “then” that captured my attention. THEN sings my soul – what has happened to cause my soul to sing? My soul sings for a reason, the result of something that preceded THEN.
I recall the verses of this Hymn.
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
The answers laid out. My soul sings of how great is our God when I marvel at His creation, that displays His glory. My soul sings when I think of Jesus dying on the cross and taking away my sin.
Sometimes life can crowd out our praise of God. The challenges we face can loom larger and louder than our awareness of God. We can become focused on the lack, the hard, the hurt in our lives causing us to struggle to see God in the midst.
All we have to do is look around at creation to see His hand in it all. To remind ourselves of Jesus’ sacrifice and our soul once again free to focus on how great is God.
May we find our THEN everyday.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies – Psalm 23:5
Sometimes you can feel like you’ve reached the end of yourself and your ability to keep up the fight. The fight for your business. The fight for your children, your health, your relationships. You are at the end of your strength, your ability. But this is when God steps in. In the middle of the tough times, when you’re surrounded by the enemy.
“The presence of God is often discovered in the fray as He tends to live in the impossible, the unreasonable and the unbearable. If you are going through a tough time look around. He is near.” (Kris Vallotton)
We often sing this song at church, “I raise a hallelujah”. Its opening line echoes Psalm 23, “I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies”. During the hard times, the trials, it is time to praise God. To acknowledge Him as our Shepherd, that He is in control. It is our opportunity through praise to invite God to step into our situation. To invite Heaven to fight for us.
Expect to see God in your situation, in your circumstances. He is there.
It’s an odd place to start writing about this journey. I’m not at the start of it, nor am I at its end – although I’m expecting it to end well shortly. But here in the middle is where I am. And in this part of the journey while there is still an unknown I want to remember this peace of God that is so strongly present.
It was an innocuous start, the simple mammogram. Squeezing the appointment in between work meetings and picking up my son from kindy it was simply ticking something off my list of things to do. Two days later though came the call back for an ultrasound. Not unusual either, but disconcerting nonetheless. A request to see a specialist followed. And then the referral for a biospy. Doctors reassure, but you’re well aware you’ve just fallen into a small minority and head down a path which can have serious results.
Today, a month after the mammogram the biospy is done and dusted. I celebrated with a coffee enroute home. Now it’s a wait for the results. I’m expecting good news.
Through each step of this very unwanted process, I have felt incredibly at peace. A peace that can only be attributed to Jesus – the Prince of Peace. Continually I have been reminded of His presence and His love for me. God has demonstrated that He is in control through Scripture and worship, to quotes that have come across my instagram feed, to friends and family that have reached out with love and prayers. Just yesterday a dear friend turned up at church with a Scripture the Lord gave her for me and a gardenia flower – not knowing that today I would be having a biopsy. I went to sleep that night with the fragrance of the gardenia reminding me that God is with me.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
I’m expecting this journey to end well. Just a little hiccup in my life and this chapter will finish as quickly as it began. But in this chapter, I was not alone. God was with me.
“She is not threatened by the battle that lies ahead, for she knows there will be victory in whatever the Lord has planned.” (Morgan Harper Nichols)
“Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting” (Kristine Dimarco)
‘My road may run through a glen of gloom but I fear no harm for you are beside me, your club, your staff they give me courage” (Psalm 23:4)
In life we all have times when we encounter hard times or face hard things. Things that challenge us, stretch us and take us to the end of our limits, to the end of ourselves. Things that very much remind us of our humanity, our frality and our need for God.
I read recently the quote “pearls of peace are found in the trenches of trial.” In the most trying times, when dreams seem dead or the mountain too high to climb, God is there with us. He’s there to strengthen, comfort and encourage us. There is treasure to be found.
“And 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)
During hard times, Jesus is the beacon in our darkness, our anchor in the storm. He’s the giver of the grace to get through another day. He’s the hope that keeps us pressing on. And He’s the peace that overrides our circumstances.
He is the Resurrection. The promise of a new day. The promise of victory won.
“In the middle of the ashes, the cross remains. A powerful reminder as we move toward Good Friday. No matter the devastation we face, no matter what is burned up, the cross is victorious and Sunday is on its way.” (Shelia Walsh) – The Cross in Notre Dame after the fire