“Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord”. Jeremiah 23:24 NIV
The past few weeks, the four of us Good Word Project writers have received several calls and emails in response to our ‘STRUGGLE’ and ‘LIGHT’ blogs. While many of the messages and feedback were blessings and provided encouragement to us to continue writing and sharing God’s truth, there was also a consistent through-line of angst and dark corners where things were being shielded from the Lord…and that weighed heavy on our hearts.
We don’t believe in coincidences, so near the end of our ‘LIGHT’ month when a Cincinnati pastor brought 2 Corinthians 11:14 into his message (“…the enemy himself masquerades as an angel of light”), we knew were not finished with “LIGHT”.
The four of us decided to use the bonus fifth Thursday of June to step back and examine how dark corners can keep our struggles hidden in secrecy, and keep us feeling alone, unworthy, fearful and out of the Light of our Lord.
We embarked on a little Q&A and hope you find encouragement as each one of us shares a bit more about “Light” and God’s hope for us.
Q1 – Is there a regular discipline you have to actively shine God’s light?
This is an especially important question in our current times. The world’s chaos seems to continually spike to new highs, and the world’s response is often a variety of ways to numb ourselves to avoid the pain. Endless social media scrolling, tv series binge-watching and countless addictions are common diversion tactics used in an attempt to avoid hurt, darkness and harsh realities of life. Truly, though, the only way to healthily manage it all is to receive light in our dark corners.
Truth brings light, and it combats darkness by consistently revealing three things:
1. God is capable and trustworthy.
I (Erin) need this truthful reminder, because so often I get ensnared by fear, lies or emotions. I can sometimes have a skewed view that problems are bigger than they actually are and that somehow God can’t handle it or won’t do what’s best for me. Neither is ever true! Scripture is living and active, and it gives me discernment apart from my own debilitating thoughts. The Bible is filled, cover-to-cover with accounts of God’s loving promises, miraculous power, lavish grace, and almighty strength. It’s all there for us.
2. God is faithful.
To give me a right perspective of God’s faithfulness, I often take pen to paper. Being a visual person, seeing things in writing is helpful. I use the help of a journal to work through the Bible and bring forth specific things I’m seeking. I’ve been using Cultivate What Matters recently and have found them extremely helpful to focus on faith, joy, hope and more! As well as journaling through scripture, I sometimes recall my own history and will use pages to list the many times I’ve experienced or witnessed God’s faithfulness. As I fill journal pages and lists grow in length, it’s easy to see. From “God winks” to miracles, He has a long history of being a present and loving Father. We are not alone.
3. God is good and gracious.
Even in the darkest times, I’ve been reminded that what we seek, we shall find. It may seem impossible to see goodness in the midst of hard things, but if I keep a Philippians 4:8 focus, there is ALWAYS something there. When I fix my thoughts (meditate and pray with gratitude) on these things, my perspective shifts to see light. When I take my eyes off of my hardship and put them on His goodness, in praise and worship (music is so helpful to me) I am lifted and reminded that from him, I receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken! When I can receive that, the light pours in!
Q2 – Share an example from your life where God used you to shine light into a dark situation or space
Years ago, when my friends and I (Julie) were having babies right and left, I called one of my oldest and dearest friends to see how things were going with her fresh, new baby boy. I knew we wouldn’t get to talk long because in addition to her newborn, she had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. Yes, you read that correctly, three kids ages 3 and under. Her newborn arrived only 13 months after her second child. Just let that sink in.
My friend was ahead of me in baby making, so I always liked to get her perspective on parenting. She was a very confident mommy and I was just calling to check in. However, it wasn’t a confident mommy who answered my call. My friend let me know quickly that she was struggling.
She told me she felt like there wasn’t enough of her for the three little babies. She was simply outnumbered by tiny people who depended on her for everything. My friend said she was especially worried about her 3-year-old-daughter and how she no longer had time to sit and read to her. Therefore, she feared her little 3-year-old would not learn to read or hit any of the other educational benchmarks — ever.
Immediately I knew she wasn’t operating in truth. She was exhausted mentally and physically, which is a perfect recipe for Satan to come in and whisper his lies. My well(ish)-rested body and mind had NO DOUBT that my friend was just the mother her three babies needed. So, I began to speak God’s truth over her – shining His light in her darkness.
I told my friend that her kids were blessed to have her, and that God specifically chose her to parent her three kids. I reminded her that she was in the trenches, which requires only doing what is necessary to survive. Long bedtime stories, swimming lessons and all other extras will have their season, but that season is not here yet. Finally, I told her that for the next six months, her only job was to love and feed her kids – that’s it. Just keep all three alive. Don’t sweat benchmarks or look at what others are doing. Just keep them loved and alive.
Years later my friend commented on how much that conversation meant to her and brought light into her darkness. Sometimes shining a light in the darkness is just recognizing and calling out the lies Satan is telling a friend who is too exhausted to see God’s truth.
“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28)
(By the way, that 3-year-old little girl is now a bright, thriving high school student who doesn’t remember missing out on a thing.)
Q3 – If the enemy is so deceiving, how do you know when darkness is creeping in? What do you do when you feel darkness creeping into your life?
I (Kristie) believe the enemy is real and very present in our day-to-day. Just as he was the serpent in the Old Testament: “man will crush your head and you will strike his heal” (Genesis 3:15) and “boasted of destroying man” (Exodus 15:9), he continues to prowl and devour, as Peter warned in the New Testament “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ).
Yet as conniving and deceitful as he is, the enemy only has a number of tricks to rely on, so he keeps using the same tricks over and over against us. He typically attacks our mind – looking for generational strongholds around what we consume, our ambitions, comparison-itis and fears, as well as feelings of not-enough, unqualified or unloved, and of course, our faith. Through Bible studies and friends speaking truth, I’ve been able to begin identifying where he personally attacks me. The more I read and understand God’s desires for me and my family thru scripture, the more clearly I can identify the disruptive and distracting voice of the enemy. That’s the first step. Digging deeper to understand the root cause and then repenting and asking for forgiveness allows us to keep the enemy at bay.
Over the past few years, the enemy has tried to quiet my voice around sharing my Christian faith. He has planted doubt in my mind: Who am I to think I can build beliefs and love into others? Who am I to lead without a teacher’s certificate, let alone without a seminary degree! The enemy halted me for about 6 months from starting a middle school age ministry, which within 30 minutes of my realization and repenting, God blessed it by providing two amazing leaders, 13 interested girls and content that was ready to be used! Take that – crush that serpent head – Victory for Jesus!
Another time the enemy tried to quiet my voice by using fear of what someone would think of me. I was having coffee with an almost stranger, and she questioned how I was so sure of Christianity’s eternal life. Even though she was raised Catholic, I was hesitant that she would perceive me as a weird, born-again fanatic. Yet, with the Holy Spirit tingling within, I took a leap of faith to share scriptural proof of Heaven.
At the end of our coffee, both of us in tears, she commented that she thought her Dad had spoken through me, providing her direction for being more vocal about sharing his faith. I followed up with an email that I explained God has “talked” with me: through nature, mission trips, friends, music, a vision of my Grandpa and his good words of scripture. I provided scriptural basis and hit sent. Then the hesitation returned. I didn’t hear anything back for a week, and I cringed that I offended her. Then her respond arrived:
Thank you for all of these scriptures! I was reading some of these with one of my best friends, whose 18-year-old brother was killed in an accident about 2 weeks after Dad’s funeral. It’s been a blessing in disguise to have someone to grieve with. But I want you to know that your thoughts and beliefs touched more than just one person. We’ve only met once, but you’ve already made quite an impact on me and those around me. Thank you.
In the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20) God tells us to bring more people to Him, teach them to obey His commandments and that He will be with us for eternity. Psalm 18:1-2, 13-14 reminds me to sing praise to God when I win each battle. These are just two scriptures that allow me to combat the enemy from stealing my voice! Allowing for multiplying the Victories for Jesus!
Q4 – Can you share a time when someone brought light to you?
I (Jen) feel blessed that I can recall countless times where God used people around me to shed His light into my situations. But, as God would have it, He recently delivered a message of light to me that was so simple, yet so powerful; I scrapped what I was originally going to write for this and knew I had to share what God just delivered through the words of a friend.
Last evening, we went to a special gathering welcoming home some friends who recently relocated their family to Nicaragua to do mission work. Our friend Jared* was sharing how the transition has been for him, his wife, and their two children. As only God could orchestrate – He kicked off his talk with Matthew 5:14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
He followed this verse with countless examples of God’s people delivering light to them and their community during this time of transition and challenge. Light in unexpected places. Light in conversations. Light in work. Light in their community. It was truly an exercise challenging each of us sitting there and intently listening: we need to be looking for the light. Because, friends, it is indeed all around us. We just have to know how to spot it.
So, how to spot it?
Sometimes it’s obvious. We are feeling low and we look upon the horizon and see the most beautiful dusk sky. We are discouraged, and a friend brings an encouraging word. We are feeling hopeless, yet confess our struggle and feel freedom and peace for the first time in a long time. But sometimes it’s not so obvious. It can be hard to find light when things feel so dark.
As Jared shared, the Bible tells us, and I have witnessed time and time again, striving for relationship with our Heavenly Father, and being in His Word on a regular basis, will enable the layers to come off of our eyes, and help us see things more clearly (Psalm 119:105).
Perhaps the most profound thing Jared shared took us right back to Matthew 5:16 and letting your light shine. Jared affirmed those of us sitting around each table – as followers of Christ, we are light – and Jesus tells us to “…let your light shine”. He does NOT tell us to “…let your PERFECT light shine”. You see, we don’t have to be perfect to let our light shine. We don’t need things in perfect working order. We don’t need our lives wrapped in a beautiful, clean bow. Jared reminded us that we just need to be in relationship with Christ, and shine the light we have. We all have it. It’s how God made us. Now it’s up to us to ask Him to help us reveal it!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share that it had been raining all day yesterday (yes, dark and dreary all afternoon prior to the outdoor gathering). By the time our group was laying hands on & praying for this sweet family we were getting ready to send off once more, the sunshine peeked right through the rain clouds and shone brightly upon the group. Go God!
*shared with permission
Pray with us:
“Lord, we know you have and continue to rescue us from the dominion of darkness. We know you offer us the kingdom of the Son you loves, who only because of Jesus do we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. God, please continue to shine your light on us and into our dark corners”. (adapted from Colossians 1:13-14)