It was like I had been blanketed in a fog. I could almost tangibly feel the discouragement descend on me. And like when one is in a fog my vision felt obscured and impaired. There had been no trigger point rather just a general feeling of malaise. The discouragement, like a fog, was slow in its appearance. Maybe brought on by a week of being sick and not sleeping well. Feeling claustrophobic indoors and driven by a sense of urgency the boys were bundled into the car and we headed out for a drive. I wanted to get to a mountain top – somewhere high. Seeking elevation in the hope that as my physical position changed so would my soul. And so in the cold and the wind we did. I found my mountain. As I overlooked the city below and the boys excitedly explored around me, I breathed in the fresh air and felt the discouragement lift. In this pause on top of a mountain I opened my heart to God and was enveloped in His love. Strengthened by His presence.
Lift up your eyes and look to the Heavens…(Isaiah 40:26)
In life we need to be intentional, proactive when feelings of negativity, of discouragement or failure come against us. Like David we need to speak to our soul, inquire what is wrong and then encourage it. We need to remind our souls of what God has done for us and how He is there for us. And sometimes it means connecting with God as you stand on a mountain, gaining some perspective.
Whatever is causing your eyes to be downcast, be it fear or illness or just a general out of sorts, lift your eyes – for where does your help come from?
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)
God I look to You
I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You
You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do
And I will love You Lord my strength
And I will love you Lord my shield
And I will love You Lord my rock
Forever all my days I will love you God
(God I look to you – Bethel Live)
For several years now I’ve driven past the café 2 minutes from my house without so much of a second thought. On the corner of a busy road, it just didn’t appeal, it looked empty and bland. When I have gone to grab a coffee I have headed to my favourite haunts in the next suburb over. However, recently on a recommendation I ventured in, and found what I have been missing all these years. Within the doors of this inconsequential looking café are delicious French pastries, made fresh on site each day. Warm, light, flaky and buttery croissants, either plain, chocolate or almond. Soft cinnamon brioches glazed to perfection. Tarts piled high with strawberries and cream. The coffee too, hot, strong and delicious. Friendly and lovely staff. I have been won over.
So often we judge by appearance and not just when it comes to cafes. We judge other people by how they look, whether it is the person applying for the job, the person at the door, a potential date or a friend. Anyone we come into contact with we can make assumptions based on how they look. We judge ourselves too, and often even harsher than on a stranger. We can criticise how we look or appear, we can focus on the flaws. Barraged with photo shopped images in media, we can become discontent or spiral into comparative living by measuring how we look compared to every other woman on the planet. We can think our appearance disqualifies us from pursuing our dreams. We can think our appearance matters most for being loved and accepted.
Appearances aren’t everything. We need to remember that we were created and are loved by a God who favours our heart about all. Nothing in a person’s outward appearance impresses God. God looks upon the inner beauty, the beauty of one’s heart.
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7) While the Bible mentions the beauty of Sarah, of Rebekah, the external beauty of the one He chose to be mother to Jesus was not mentioned. What we do know, however, is that Mary was a woman who found favour with God and who despite the risks, ridicule and danger said yes to God. And to God, that was what mattered most.
“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:4)
It is the inner beauty that captivates the heart. It is the inner beauty that matters.
It’s a notorious roundabout. 7 entry and exit points. Feels like Russian roulette at the best of times. Yesterday, having made a perfect entry onto the roundabout, two trucks pulled out in front of me, at speed I might add. They obviously (well I hope obviously) hadn’t seen me. Since I had to come to a complete halt on the roundabout to avoid them, I made sure that they heard me though– the horn is quite effective! Until then though, I was invisible. My little car compared to the size of theirs meant that they simply overlooked me.
Do you ever feel like you are invisible to those around you? And while I think that would be an fantastic super power to have, it’s not great when you haven’t donned your invisible cape and hopped into your invisible plane like Wonder Woman. Actually come to think about it I think Wonder Woman only has an invisible plane. It’s hard when people see you but don’t really see you. When they fail to see your potential, your gifts, your uniqueness. When it seems that continually you are being passed over for someone else who seems shinier somehow.
When we are like David, forgotten, not considered, out in the fields working, while his brothers are paraded by their father in front of Samuel for King. But we are not invisible to God. He sees us. Lysa Terkeurst once wrote “Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.” We are not anonymous to God. He sees the faithfulness, He sees our potential when everyone else overlooks it. More importantly He sees our heart. And when the time is right, He will find us.
God sees. God knows. And it is to Him that we entrust our dreams, our hopes, our giftings and talents.
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
He saw David in the field. He found him. Handpicked by God. I like that.
“Destiny is not an instant click and upload” (Christine Caine)
Back in the day (and I might add, days I was a part of!), before photos could be taken and instantly circulated around the world, developing photos was a careful and detailed process. Photos were treasured and even shot with care as each film was restricted to the number of photos that could be taken. In Dark Rooms under a special red light, the development process was undertaken. No natural light was allowed in, which would destroy the fragile film. The film was transferred onto photography paper, immersed in various solutions and left to develop. Time and darkness were key, paramount to the successful development of a photo.
The times of obscurity, the times of seemingly little progress towards our dreams, are like this. Our own darkroom. It is our preparation time. Just like in Winter when the bareness of the branches suggest little growth and life, yet beneath the earth, the tree is using the time for its roots to go deeper. To grow stronger.
Joseph experienced this. He had the promise but he underwent time in his darkroom – in the pit and then the prison, before he emerged ready to lead Egypt. King David had to learn it. He was anointed King, but then went back to tending the sheep, serving his brothers lunch and later serving King Saul. He spent 20 years in obscurity, of being a King-in-waiting as God prepared him for kingship.
It’s hard not to want to burst out of the dark room prematurely. But rushing the process or trying to pre-empt the finish diminishes the quality of the photo. Abraham and Sarah did this and ended up with Ishmael. In these hidden times, where it seems to be just you and God, our character is developed, our spirit is strengthened. It is in these times, God prepares us for our destiny.
The quality of a developed photo is attributable to the time and care taken in the dark room. Those hidden times with God are valuable. Don’t despise your time in the dark room – God is preparing and perfecting you for what is ahead. Hang in there – soon enough the door will open.
And Remember – what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.
(Inspiration for this blog from Christine Caine’s book “Unstoppable” where she talks about the Dark Room and how God uses it to burn the light of Christ onto our lives. The book is an inspirational and challenging read!)