Grace in the Night

graceGod once said, “Let the light shine out of the darkness!” This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Ponder It.

  • How have you experienced God’s grace in the darkness of your life?
  • Where and when have you been spiritually stuck?
  • How does God’s grace impact the authenticity of your life?

Receive It. God’s grace meets you where you are. God makes a way where there seems to be no way. He brings light into the darkness. He reveals the truth…when we invite him to do so. Sometimes God illuminates our lives, and we don’t see what he’s revealing to us, because we refuse to look. We keep our eyes tightly shut, refusing to see the truthfulness of what’s around us. We would never admit to wanting to remain in the dark, but it becomes a habit. It’s comfortable. Our eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and we don’t feel the need for additional light. Sometimes God doesn’t illuminate our lives because we refuse to move toward him. We settle into a corner of the darkness and wonder why we can’t see. Our fear, anger, frustration, sadness, or other emotion overrides our desire to see beyond where we are. We feel stuck, so we stay stuck instead of using it as a motivation to move. Then there are the times God illuminates our lives and we sigh in relief, have an a-ha moment, or exclaim in excitement over what misunderstanding or misinterpretation is revealed. Where we could once see only a small piece of the puzzle and made extensive assumptions about the bigger picture, we now see more of the bigger picture and reorient our perspective based on our newly acquired knowledge. God’s grace filters everything through truthfulness. God’s grace is authentic. There is no deception in God’s grace. It will not trick you. It will not toy with you. It will meet you where you are and pour into you through the next steps of your journey. It will seep into the darkness around you, even where you didn’t know darkness existed. Darkness might seem uncertain and overwhelming, but God’s grace is invasive. Where you experience God’s grace, you will be nourished.

Live It. Turn on a flashlight and shine it around you. If it’s light where you are, you won’t notice it much. You might take it for granted or think it’s unnecessary. But there is some degree of darkness around you. Shine your light into it and consider the places in your life in need of light and grace.

Grace in the Dark

graceBut you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell about the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced oppressing or frightening darkness?
  • How has darkness intrigued you in a situation? How has darkness frightened you?
  • What is a shadowy area of your life that needs God’s grace?

Receive It. Grace meets us in the darkness, which can be a frightening place. The night-time can be beautiful, but most of its beauty comes from the results of a light source. We see the aura of the moon or the twinkling of the starts; we see the patterns of glistening light as the moon shines catches water drops or fluttering leaves. Most of us don’t live somewhere that is void of light. Even if we close ourselves into a dark room, it’s difficult to shut out all light sources, and if we do, as we sit in pitch blackness, we see, with any certainty…nothing. Spiritually, when we’re in the dark, we are disoriented. What we think we see isn’t accurate. The darkness can seem oppressive. We can even get to the point where there is something comforting in the darkness, because we don’t have to deal with what’s in the light. We can begin to fear the reality of the light more than the uncertainty of the dark. Once we find comfort in where we are, we don’t want to leave even though we cannot fully see, live, or move in the dark. That’s where grace meets us if we’re willing to reach out. We don’t need to see what we’re reaching for; we simply have to know to whom we’re reaching. When we call out to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, God hears us and meets us. He often doesn’t immediately or completely rescue and restore us. Restoration is a process that includes preparation for what’s to come. We need steps in order to experience and appreciate how God reveals himself to us. We need his timing, not our preferences. And we always need his grace no matter where we are. As long as we live on earth, there will be areas—whether large gaps or tiny spaces—that are dark. God reaches into the dark, shadowy spaces and sprinkles his grace. And we’re able to see what he wants us to see…if we’re willing to fully open our eyes and hearts.

Live It. Find a dark space. Close your eyes, trying to shut out all light for a full minute. Before opening your eyes, ask God to call attention to the dark places in your life, then respond by inviting his grace to consume those spaces.

As Dark As Things Seem…

hope-light-in-darknessFor His eyes watch over a man’s ways, and He observes all his steps. There is no darkness, no deep darkness, where evildoers can hide themselves. (Job 34:29-30)

I find this comforting. Not in a “you better watch out, because God is going to get you” kind of claim to any “evildoer” out there. It comforts me because nothing escapes God. Nothing can eclipse His light. Nothing can go unnoticed or overlooked. His light and truth permeates it all. Nothing I see, say, think, or consider. Nothing I see someone else do or think they might consider doing. Nothing I hear about, nothing I don’t hear about. Nothing.

As dark as any situation, person, action seems, it cannot be deep enough to escape the reach of God’s light. His light reaches the depths to redeem sometimes, and at other times, it simply sheds enough light to let others see the truth of evil trying to live and thrive in darkness. Sometimes, God requires us to shine His light into the darkness, facing what we might fear to acknowledge the truth, lessening the sting, and keeping it in proper perspective.

Our eyes adjust to the darkness or the light with which we surround ourselves.

Who’s There?

When we exited the tunnels of Akko, Israel, the sun was setting over the Mediterranean Sea. I saw a few lights start to dot the horizon and wondered who was out there and what were they doing.

11.2.14 Akko Crusader city coastline (2)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

We drove inland to Tiberias, and all along the way, lights dotted the land. Sometimes there was just one or two lights. Many times, there were clusters of lights. Again, I wondered what each light represented. Who lived in its brightness? What were their lives like? What were they doing right then? Was a baby being born? Was someone crying in grief? Was someone working, providing for hungry children? Was someone praying, praising God for provision? I took a moment a prayed as I tried to focus on one light at a time. I might not know the details of each life, but God does.

I’m supposed to be a light for Him in this world. How am I doing? Am I shining in the darkness? Do I offer people God’s hope? Do I help others see Him? I wonder…

How about you?

Sources of Light

best-flashlight-for-a-blackoutAs a Girl Scout leader, I often took the girls on camping trips to the local Girl Scout campgrounds. A flashlight was always on the packing list, but it was more for emergencies than for general use. The girls wanted to turn them on as soon as they stepped outside the familiarity of the indoor lights. They would turn them on before their eyes had even had time to adjust, then shine the flashlights straight ahead of them as they talked to each other, shining the blinding lights in each others’ eyes. With the blinding light came the inevitability of not noticing a vine across the path or a dip in the dirt or some other potential hazard.

It seemed I had to teach the same lesson on nearly every camping trip: “Okay, everyone, let’s stand still as a group and turn off our flashlights. You might not be able to see well at first, but give your eyes time to adjust…look up and see what light is already in the sky, then look around and notice how what seems like a little bit of light actually does a really good job of illuminating most everything around you. And the more you let your eyes adjust, the more accustomed you get to the natural light you have.”

It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over again, too, because when I try to rely on what I think is the best source of light, I often choose wrong. I choose the most instant, convenient light that I can just switch on for quick brightness, and the result is often blinding. At the very least, it doesn’t reveal what natural light reveals. God is the source of light, and when I let Him illuminate as He intends, whatever is kept in the dark apparently doesn’t need to be lit in that moment and situation. I can trust Him. Some shadows are good, even beautiful, and they’re created by the light. I don’t have to strain my eyes, because He’s created them to adjust in natural light to see what is essential.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)

I want to be light to others, but the best way I can do that is not to take control and create the best light I can; it’s simply yielding to God and leading people by and in His light.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

He knows what He’s doing.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

 

Soak in Sleep

I spoke at a women’s retreat this weekend. Women escape the routine of everyday life, roadtripping with their friends, seeing friends they haven’t seen for a year, and making new friends. It’s a time of rejuvenation and rest…well, perhaps not physical rest. Little sleeping gets done. There seems to be too much to do!

Surely you’ve experienced at least one sleepless night in your life…and then had to get up in the morning to take care of children, work, or some other “fun” responsibilities that come along with adulthood. Perhaps you’ve heard the admonition, “If you can stay up all night, you can still get up and do what needs to get done the next day.” The problem is, for most of us, we heard this gem of motivating wisdom during the teen or college years when many of us had the luxury of flexible schedules and lighter loads of responsibilities, which can lead to the rationalization that it’s okay to sleep half the day. Something the adults living around us don’t like too much – probably because they don’t share the same luxury.

Why are the nighttime hours so enthralling? Watching movies, updating social network sites, reading, hanging out with friends are all things we can do in daylight hours. Over Christmas, I stayed up until 1:30 working on a puzzle two times in one week. I’m in my forties and don’t need to stay up even close to that time, but I was enjoying myself. I think staying up late – at least for adults – often involves doing something you don’t feel you have the time to do during the day, which is filled with so many other obligations.

Speaking from experience, I can assure you the obligations of the day suffer from the “enjoyment” of the night. I remember a night during college finals when we studied until around 2 a.m. and decided to take a road trip to a city about 2 hours away, enjoy breakfast, and return before our 8 a.m. finals…just because we needed a break. I’m sure I wasn’t at my best on that final, but I didn’t feel the effects of the all-nighter until later in the day. That definitely wouldn’t work now. Getting old is rough.

Or maybe not. After all, “God saw that the light was good, so he divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4)

How healthy are your sleeping habits?

How well do you separate the light from the darkness in your life?

What’s one thing you can do this week to improve your time in the light (and be still through the darkness)?

You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16