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.

Fear Robs Us

Fear-1-ProblemSometimes fear and anger keeps us from moving forward. We get stuck for a short time or a long time. Either way, we can miss out on a blessing because of our fear.

When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place an Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. David feared the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” So he was not willing to move the ark of the Lord to the city of David; instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in his house three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his whole family. (2 Samuel 6:6-11)

Living with fear and anger, the kind that separates us from God, robs us of a blessing. It robs our relationship with God, because instead of stepping closer to and relying on Him, we choice to stay put. When we refuse to move and grow, we cannot follow God well, wherever He might lead and however He might provide.

The Two Sides of Fear and Discouragement

4340c429c10e0d3ba1c635ec0334e422The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take the whole military force with you and go attack Ai. Look, I have handed over to you the king of Ai, his people, city, and land.” (Joshua 8:1)

God doesn’t want us to be afraid or discouraged when we’re in His will. His provision and power eclipse those feelings…some of the time. Sometimes, fear and discouragement creeps in. As distracting and detrimental as they can be, they can also be constructive motivations that drive us back to God. In our fear and discouragement, we might acknowledge we’re not as close to Him as we should be, that we aren’t seeking Him as thoroughly as we could. And we take a step toward Him.

Either way, we can end up relying on God and deepening our trust in Him.

That’s a good thing.

No Turning Back

jul11_finalSo they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:4)

When things get frightening or discouraging, we often blame who we’re following and decide we know who would be a better leader. We convince ourselves the only right reaction must be to turn in an opposite direction or return to where we once were. We’re unwilling to consider what pieces in our situations  could help us, what we need to struggle through to grow, and how we can partner with people around us even when it’s challenging.

We don’t have to like our situations but it’s important to honor God through them.

In the above verse, people’s fears and lack of understanding blinded them to God’s leading and provision so much that they wanted to return to Egypt, where they we so desperate to escape slavery. They wanted to return to a familiar situation, no matter how bad it was, instead of trusting God and growing through an uncertain situation.

We need to be willing to push through our fear and discouragement. Otherwise, we’ll miss out on what’s right in front of us.

When Fears Are Fertile

Sometimes our fears become the fertile ground for fostering whatever it is we most fear.

It happened to the Egyptians:

A new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. Let us deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further, and if war breaks out, they may join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.” So the Egyptians assigned taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor. They built Pithom and Rameses as supply cities for Pharaoh. But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. (Exodus 1:8-12)

The Egyptians did what they could to control the situation. They feared the Israelites would multiply and fight against them, so they subdued them with power. Yet the Israelites continued to multiply and thrive. God would eventually deliver the Israelites out of Egypt and out from under the oppression. Egypt lost its workforce.

When we focus on what we fear and try to take control and manipulate the situation, we can actually let our fears become the fertile ground. Our focus becomes fertility. What we water grows.

That’s not to say that it’s easy to set aside and forget about our fears. It’s not. But instead of dealing with them with an illusion of control, we can face them with discernment and faith. We can take them to God and let Him decide what needs to be watered and what needs to be weeded, what is for now and what is for later.

What are you fearing today, and how are you approaching it? What is your focus?

What the Fear of God Has to Do with Bumper Pads

482015125_XSThe fear of God can be a confusing thing. God repeatedly tells us not to be afraid, yet He also says we are to fear Him. Without getting into Hebrew and Greek, which I only know enough to quickly get myself into deep waters, we sometimes make it simple for ourselves by stating fear of God is the same as respect for God. But that’s not truly accurate. Fear (of God) must involve respect, but the two are not interchangeable.

Fear of God is recognizing who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is a good God who loves and forgives us. He is compassionate, merciful, and loving. He is also just, righteous, jealous, and angry. None of those things are in conflict of one another. None of them can be separated from one another. God has all of those characteristics. We can’t take what we like most about God and make Him into someone we want Him to be. He is sovereign. We can’t compare our own experiences and assumptions of His qualities and project them as truth of who He is.

We are created by Him. He is our authority. We may avoid Him, refuse Him, fear Him, respect Him, or love Him, but our reaction to God doesn’t change Him.

So how can we fear Him in a way that honors Him?

Being scared of God and fearing Him are different. One has something to hide. The other has nothing to hide.

Being scared of God makes us run away. Fearing Him acknowledges who He is and places us in a humble relationship with Him. It exposes us to be able to know Him and receive from Him all He wants to pour into us.

When we walk in His ways, we fear Him. When we fear Him, we walk in His ways.

Fear serves the same purpose as bumper pads in a bowling alley, keeping us out of the gutter.

Keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. (Deuteronomy 8:6)

When the Freezer Thaws

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13)

I expect the freezer to keep my food frozen. I expect the clothes I put into the washing machine to come out clean. I expect my laptop to load my inbox messages. Despite the trust I’ve put in these things, I’ve been surprised when I find soggy, spoiled food in my freezer, soapy, drenched clothes in the washing machine, and an error message in my email inbox.

It’s not just machines and electronics that let me down; I’ve also been disappointed by people I’ve trusted. I’ve been untrustworthy at times, too. But God is completely trustworthy every single moment and every single situation.

When we’re in situations where we feel challenged, threatened, or unsafe, we might question God’s presence and His trustworthiness to care and provide for us. But God’s goal is not for you to remain safe from all danger and mishap. If you’re looking for a cave of faith in which to hide for the remainder of your life in preparation for joyful eternity in heaven, you’re not going to find it.

Some of us seek safety, and others seek adventure. If you enjoy the comfort of safety, God will challenge you with adventure. If you prefer adventure, He will challenge you with stability. God gives us safety when we need it, but He doesn’t give us a place to hide when we need to face a conflict, person, or fear. He knows when we’re depleted or in danger versus when we’re running to hide from something or someone we need to face.

We can trust God to give us security in any situation, whether we need to retreat to His safe haven or advance with the security of His boldness and provision. Ask God to help you fully trust His timing, provision, and guidance today.