As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
“Light in the Darkness”
by Ryan Duncan, TheFish.com Editor, crosswalk.org
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Have you ever been in complete darkness? I don’t mean this figuratively, I mean physically. Have you ever walked in a place where there was absolutely no light? I have, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. When I was in high school, my family went on a vacation to Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mammoth Cave, for those of you who don’t know, is the longest known system of caves in the world and the park, which itself is no small place, covers only a small portion of it. My family arrived at the park early in the morning and quickly joined the group of people who had come for a guided tour of the cave. As we slowly descended underground, our guide pointed out interesting rock formations, different types of minerals, and the occasional historical tidbit about Mammoth Cave. It was all very interesting, but the biggest moment on the tour was when the guide led us into a large cavern and asked everyone to take a seat.
“In a moment we’re going to turn off the lights,” he explained cheerfully, “That way you can get an idea of what it was like for people to explore the cave in the early days.” As soon as the lights went out, everything was pitch black. I held my hand to my face but couldn’t see a thing. Over thirty people were on the tour, but had they not entered the cave with me, I might have thought I was alone. It was complete darkness. Then our guide struck a match, and that little flame illuminated the entire cavern.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” our guide chuckled, “Bet you never thought a single match could light up a whole cave.” He doesn’t know the half of it. The Bible has a lot to say about light and darkness. To quote the book of John,
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” – John 3:19-21
In many ways, our world is as dark as the caverns of Mammoth Cave. It can leave us lost, confused, and unsure of the things around us. But just as our world resemble the cave, so do Jesus words resemble the little match struck in the darkness. The light may be small, and we still may stumble in the darkness, but if we let it, that tiny light can illuminate even the darkest corners of our world. So take a moment and ask yourself, do you have the light of Christ in your life?
It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.
The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months — college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job — and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.
Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.
Worship Grows in Gratitude
In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.
Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?
Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We’re a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.
On the other hand, we will never be able to lift our hearts from despair to worship without expressing thanks to God. The theme of thanksgiving runs throughout all of Scripture. In the Psalms we’re commanded to give thanks to God:
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! (Psalm 105:1)
Thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:8)
The book of Colossians also carries the theme of thanksgiving. In Colossians 3:14–17, Paul mentions thankfulness three different times, one of them being, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.
Six Tactics to Topple Ingratitude
God calls us to be thankful people. And it’s the very attitude of thanksgiving that can transform our lives. If you find yourself wandering down the dark path of depression and despair, here are six simple ways to fight for joy through gratefulness.
1. Fill your mind with the truths of God’s word.
Meditate on verses regarding thankfulness like Colossians 3:15–17. Commit to memory God’s commands to be thankful.
2. Remember God’s goodness and faithfulness to you.
Just as the Israelites were prone to forget all God had done for them during their time in the wilderness, so we too can forget. The discipline of remembering through writing down God’s blessings or retelling them to others has a way of stirring up gratitude in our hearts.
3. Ask God to put a guard over your mouth.
Instead of venting your frustrations from each day, look for reasons to rejoice. An attitude of gratitude is just as easily spread as a complaining spirit. Seek to be known as a Spirit-filled, joyful person, instead of a whining, disgruntled one.
4. Aim to make gratefulness your knee-jerk reaction to your circumstances.
When you hear news for the first time, ask yourself, “What can I be grateful for in this circumstance?” I always remember a story of a family that found out their daughter had died suddenly. As they joined hands to pray and mourn, the father first and foremost thanked the Lord for the years they had together. What an example of gratitude, even in the midst of great loss.
5. Put your thankfulness into words.
Write down five things to be grateful for as soon as you sense yourself heading down the miry path of despair. Sometimes it’s as simple as a cup of hot tea on a cold day, or a flower blooming outside my window. Listing God’s daily blessings has been one of the most transformative things in my life. By putting gratefulness into words — whether spoken or written — an abstract idea like thankfulness becomes much more concrete.
6. Look for specific evidences of God’s grace.
Search your life and the lives of others around you for grace. My faith is strengthened when I see God answer a prayer, when I notice the fruit of patience when I don’t cry over spilled milk, or when a long-awaited prayer request for my friend’s desire to be a mom is fulfilled through adoption. Intentionally watching for God at work gives me much to be grateful for.
A Light in the Darkness
“In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” Exodus 27:21 (NIV)
The memories that burn brightest from my childhood are of our family’s camping trips to the beach. All the hard work of packing the tent, suitcases, sleeping bags and food into the car was worth it when camp was set up and family time began.
My favorite time of the day came as darkness settled, the shouts of children quieted and grills were lit. Often, as we cleaned up from dinner, my mother would take our lantern into the tent to repack our supplies, and I would bask in the glow from the tent and the warm safety of my parents’ presence.
Those memories flooded back as I read Exodus 27 from my daily reading plan. In a meticulous design revealed in the preceding chapters, God laid out the blueprint for the Tent of Meeting, also called the Tabernacle, where He would be worshipped by the Israelites as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. Sentence after sentence details the fabric, the measurements, and the structure.
When the plan for God’s Tent of Meeting was complete, He began to describe the furnishings. They included a beautiful set of lamps on a lampstand that was to burn continuously inside. This intricate lampstand described in detail in Exodus 25:31-40 was a pure-gold work of art made by the artisans God appointed, and it burned clear olive oil.
Pieces of a greater puzzle began to click into place as I pondered other scriptures and truths explaining the rich symbolism of the Tent of Meeting’s lampstand. I began to see God revealing His plans for us thousands of years ago:
We are the tent. (2 Cor. 5:4)
Jesus is the light. (John 1:4)
The Holy Spirit is the oil. (Zech. 4:1-6)
Fueled by the Holy Spirit, we are called to let Jesus’ light shine through us into the darkness. (Matt. 5:14-16)
Just as the Israelites moved the Tabernacle through the desert sands … Just as my parents pitched a tent in beach sands …
Just as I move through this darkened world …
God provides a Light that shines in the darkness, and He creates a tent (us) to shine through.
For Jesus’ light to pierce the darkness, shining brighter and brighter, we need to become more and more transparent.
For His light to shine continuously, we need to constantly be refueled by the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying and memorizing Scripture, and abiding in Him.
For His light to shatter the inky blackness of this world, we need to fearlessly move our tents into places of darkness where no other light shines.
There is a world of people who long for the safety and presence of Jesus–but they need a beacon to guide them. May we humble tents, who carry the Light, glow brightly everywhere as we travel through this world!
Streams in the Desert – March 22
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush… saying… I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt (Acts 7:30-34).
That was a long wait in preparation for a great mission. When God delays, He is not inactive. He is getting ready His instruments, He is ripening our powers; and at the Appointed moment we shall arise equal to our task. Even Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years in privacy, growing in wisdom before He began His work.
God is never in a hurry but spends years with those He expects to greatly use. He never thinks the days of preparation too long or too dull.
The hardest ingredient in suffering is often time. A short, sharp pang is easily borne, but when a sorrow drags its weary way through long, monotonous years, and day after day returns with the same dull routine of hopeless agony, the heart loses its strength, and without the grace of God, is sure to sink into the very sullenness of despair.
Joseph’s was a long trial, and God often has to burn His lessons into the depths of our being by the fires of protracted pain. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,” but He knows how long, and like a true goldsmith He stops the fires the moment He sees His image in the glowing metal.
We may not see now the outcome of the beautiful plan which God is hiding in the shadow of His hand; it yet may be long concealed; but faith may be sure that He is sitting on the throne, calmly waiting the hour when, with adoring rapture, we shall say, “All things have worked together for good.”
Like Joseph, let us be more careful to learn all the lessons in the school of sorrow than we are anxious for the hour of deliverance. There is a “need-be” for every lesson, and when we are ready, our deliverance will surely come, and we shall find that we could not have stood in our place of higher service without the very things that were taught us in the ordeal. God is educating us for the future, for higher service and nobler blessings; and if we have the qualities that fit us for a throne, nothing can keep us from it when God’s time has come.
Don’t steal tomorrow out of God’s hands. Give God time to speak to you and reveal His will. He is never too late; learn to wait.
He never comes too late; He knoweth what is best;
Vex not thyself in vain; until He cometh–REST.
Do not run impetuously before the Lord; learn to wait His time: the minute-hand as well as the hour-hand must point the exact moment for action.