Wisdom, Courage and Confidence in the New Year . . . .

Happy New Year!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly God can speak to the human heart.  From the very beginning of my counseling career, I learned that the best way to minister to the hearts and minds of hurting people is:

  1. To offer a listening ear and
  2. Help them get into the Scriptures to gain God’s perspective on them and their circumstances.

What I am about to share is a lesson I learned from many of the Clients I have been privileged to serve.  Many who seek counsel are broken . . . others are angry . . . ALL are in need of direction, feel misunderstood and often are devoid of hope. Respecting the it took courage for them to make that first phone call asking for help, I am humbled by the privilege and responsibility that I bear–not only to them, but to God–as we work together.

I decided to write this post as we enter this new year:

Journey Notes: All to His Glory!
Journey Notes: All to His Glory!
  • To offer wisdom and courage to those of you who are struggling with fear and trepidation in these uncertain times,
  • To help deepen your relationship with Christ as you gain confidence in His ability to shepherd your heart through any storm,
  • As a practical means of helping you encourage a friend or family member who has been spiritually or emotionally”stuck” for too long.

So what is the means by which you (and/or your friend or family member) can move into the new year with wisdom, courage and even confidence?  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 provides our first clue:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up . . . .
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We use this passage in the Counseling Room to illustrate God’s vision for healthy relationships.  We talk about how helping others honors God’s command to love one another–two ARE better than one!  However, we need God as our third strand, to gain the wisdom, courage and confidence needed when we are in trouble.

More than needing a listening ear to talk to,
we need to develop an ongoing conversation with our Lord and Creator.
That is the benefit of Journey Notes Praise Journaling

If you are not familiar with Journey Notes Praise Journaling, the introduction and instructions are accessible at the top of this page.  It is a process I developed twenty-plus years ago when I started counseling–believing that as a Biblical Counselor, my Clients deserved far more than just a “good listening ear.”  My goal for my clients as they entered into the Journey Notes process was that they would gain wisdom and courage as they worked through their problems.  This they did as we worked together over weeks and months.  The benefit that I did not expect was how the vast majority gained confidence in God’s ability to shepherd their hearts.   Most notable to me were those Clients whose problems remained about the same, but who no longer looked at themselves as victims, but actively chose to trust and honor God as Sovereign and Good.  It has been amazing and humbling to watch the transformation that takes place in those Clients who enter a conversation with God through their Journey Notes.

In the Counseling Room, there is a simple principle we go by:

With every tragedy/ disappointment that comes our way,
we are gifted with an opportunity to trust God more.

For those who have learned to rely on God’s Spirit and His Word using the Journey Notes Praise Journaling process, this makes total sense.  It makes sense because they have experienced the faithful working of God as their Shepherd, not only helping them with their problems, but in transforming their minds and hearts as they endeavor to apply His teaching to their lives.  It takes courage to trust God like that, but when we do the outcome is nothing short of miraculous.

The times Jesus lived in were also perilous.  Knowing that He would soon be arrested and taken from His disciples, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for what would be a frightening turn of events for them.  In John 14:18-20 Jesus offered words of assurance that they would not remember until later:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me.
Because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in My Father,
and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

John 14:18-20

Such powerful words to be strengthened by!  Jesus offered His disciples (and all who trust in Him) MORE than a shelter in the midst of storms or a place to stand.  Jesus words call us to move forward in faith as He directs our steps:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
 

Matthew 11:28, 29

HAPPY NEW YEAR . . .
ALL TO HIS GLORY!

We Dare Not Turn Our Backs . . . .

After spending hours watching events unfold in the news and listening to the chatter of a myriad of opinions as to how to respond–it was after I finally turned off the television, that I experienced palpable relief from the tug-of-war going on in my mind and heart.  It was then, as the quietness settled within me, that a verse from James ran through my mind like a wafting banner:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .”

(James 1:5)

Ah, yes . . . PRAYER!  I was grateful for the reminder that the evil unfolding before us is not merely political or sociological.  It is part of an age-old spiritual battle.  The Apostle Paul gives clarity as to the stakes and the means whereby we must do battle:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

II Corinthians 10:3-5

So what are Christians to do?  The best way to stay on course is to depend on the guidance of Scripture and God’s Spirit to provide the wisdom and strength we lack.  The following is a “game plan” that I have found helpful:

A Call To Prayer . . . To be quiet before God who already knows the end from the beginning.  As I bask in the quiet of God’s call, the weight in my heart is lifted as I pray for the displaced millions of men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to call home.  James 1:27 declares,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 Bottom line: WE DARE NOT TURN OUR BACKS ON OTHERS IN NEED.

Pray also for our political leaders, that God will convict their hearts as He ultimately works out His Plan through them.

A Call To Face Our Enemies . . . .   

  1. Some call it, “madness . . . sheer madness!”  Be it one individual shooting up a theater full of people or an organized group, it is a calculated, ugly, hate-filled assault on people–seemingly the more innocent the better.  After the killing is done, the descriptions reported by the survivors are similar as they describe the perpetrators as, “emotionless . . . robotic . . . appearing dead except for the merciless shooting.”  The problem is real, it is global and it is not any one group–an angry deadness of the soul.
  2. The second enemy may surprise you, but it must be faced to gain the wisdom we need to face enemy#1: FEAR fueled by what I call, “the court of public opinion.”  It is easy to get sucked into fear, for me it is a constant battle. When fear grips the heart, wisdom and faith are far removed. What keeps us steady is in knowing that FEAR is a ploy the devil uses to deter us.  Here’s what James wrote to Christians facing adversity 2,000 years ago:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4: 7, 8 & 10

 A Call To Faith . . . I have said it to many a Client and learned it long ago:

To be overwhelmed by trials and uncertainty
is an opportunity to trust God more.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I John 1:5b-7

Over time I have learned to listen less to my fears as I  have determined to trust God with it all.  These words (also from James) have been a tremendous encouragement to me and to those I counsel facing hardship:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4

A Call to Action . . . REFUSE TO TURN YOUR BACK!

 1.  It is easy to hate the perpetrators of evil, but when hating comes easy we are in danger of becoming like them.  Take seriously Jesus command in Matthew 5:43:45:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God knows the heart of everyone.  Pray for the individuals caught up in this evil; that the attitudes and actions of Christians being held will touch the hearts of their captors.  Pray also that fleeing Christians will reflect the love of Christ to those who are also fleeing but do not know Him.

2.  Start looking for ways to help.  If your church has organized a means of reaching out in big and small ways, then by all means support that.  (Last year my church found a way to support Iraqi Christians by sending dental supplies {tooth brushes, toothpaste, etc} through a friend with contacts there.  It was such a small thing but I know it was an encouragement to those who could give as well as those receiving those small gifts.)

There are numerous charities working to help in this global crisis.  The following are some of my favorites:

Samaritan’s Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org

Mission to the World
https://www.mtw.org/disaster-response

Open Doors, USA
https://www.opendoorsusa.org/donate/

Voice of the Martyrs
http://www.persecution.com

3.  Watch the news following the stories of those caught up in this crisis and begin to pray for those who touch your heart.  There are several bloggers doing excellent work to help with this.  This post, by Humans of New York, is a good place to start: https://medium.com/@humansofnewyork/humans-of-new-york-refugee-stories-243336f4adeb#.ywdau2x1t

In good times and in bad, God calls us to prayer and to action as we live out our faith.
These are scary times to be sure, but they are potentially growing times
as we entrust ourselves to the One who Saves.  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
Psalm 46:1-6

All to His Glory!

Image Source: Google Images

More Than Fireworks . . . .

Since I was a child I have loved celebrating the Fourth of July.  From age six, I understood that Independence Day celebrated the birth of our nation.  I knew that on July 4, 1776, a group of men, representing thirteen British colonies, gathered together to formally declare those colonies to be a new, independent nation.   On that day, the Signers of the Declaration of Independence became enemies of the King of England , , , risking everything they had for the cause of freedom.  As I grew I learned:

  • That the Signers of the Declaration were men of vision . . . men who saw a future country far beyond themselves.
  • They were men who, though different one from the other, yet were united as created beings–accountable to their divine Creator.  
  • Certainly, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence did not think of separating themselves from their Creator as they wrote:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator . . . . “

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator . . . . ”  

The Fourth of July was a day of remembrance, culminated by waving sparklers wildly with my brother, cousins, neighbor kids or whoever else wanted to join in on celebrating the best nation on earth.  For me, taking hold of one (or even two) of those sparklers took a bit of daring–even though I never got burned, I dreaded the possibility.  However, even then, I knew the Fourth of July was about far more than fireworks–that our security rested in the knowledge that we were “one nation, under God.”  

As years became decades, change came and secularism grew.  Celebrating the Fourth became more sophisticated–filled with parades and activities having little to do with honoring the sacrificial courage and vision of the Signers before their Creator.  Instead, we became obsessed by the “wow-factor” of fireworks that we critiqued from year to year.

Sadly, the critiquing did not stop there–not by a long shot.  In more recent years, as American culture has become increasingly secularized, the notion, “that all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator” has been marginalized by many as “meaningless rhetoric.”  In an article posted on CNN’s website by Mark Edwards, “Was America Founded As A Christian Nation?” (July 4, 2015), five history professors from universities around the United States shared their perspectives pertaining to the roots of American democracy.  Before presenting the five perspectives, Edwards extended a second question, “Why do so many people think the country’s Christian history is so important?”  Sadly, the second question was largely ignored as the majority of the respondents denied any significant Christian influence in the formation of this nation.  Such a suggestion was denigrated in the article to be, “a myth” or, as one respondent suggested, “an invention of corporate, Christian America.”  

After reading the article, the one phrase that resonated with me was, “meaningless rhetoric”–that best sums up much of its content.  Although there were a few interesting insights to be gained, the bulk of it struck me as arrogant and short-sighted.  Thankfully, I did not have to look very far to find an answer to the question of why this nation’s Christian history IS so important.  I found the succinct insights of Christian writer and speaker, Ravi Zacharias, (posted on his Facebook page, dated July 3, 2015) thought provoking and helpful:

“America may not be a Christian nation per se, but only the Judeo-Christian worldview could have framed such a nation’s ideas and values: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” No other religion or secular assumption can affirm such a statement except the Judeo-Christian worldview. But today that very worldview, on which our systems of government and law are based, is expelled from the marketplace.”

This next part gives the chilling answer to WHY remembering our Christian roots is so important:

Democracies that are unhinged from all sacred moorings ultimately sink under the brute weight of conflicting egos. Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse.”

The phrase, “the brute weight of conflicting egos” hit me especially hard, as I reflected on our government’s inability to legislate anything of substance, largely because of the conflicting egos on both sides of the political aisle.

But we dare not think of secularism as only political . . . it is far more personal than that. Secularism, in the ultimate sense, denies God and elevates man even as it denigrates the value of people–the unborn, the frail or those considered too flawed to live.  The fruit of a secularized, Godless society?  In what is believed to have been his last known letter, written before he was beheaded, the Apostle Paul warned:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,
boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,
unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . .

II Timothy 3:1-5

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I started working on this post, I had no idea of the direction it would take.  It was the morning after watching my grandchildren, initially tentative, and then boldly waving sparklers in their backyard, that I was reminded of my own childhood and how there is so much more to the Fourth of July than fireworks.  As I finish this post, I am struck by the unknown challenges we face, and how very much we need the mindset of the Signers of what became a great nation.  They were imperfect men of courage, who saw themselves as created beings, accountable to their Creator.

The challenge Christians face in this ever darkening world that only knows the man-made “rush” of fireworks is: Will we courageously demonstrate the steadfast Light of God’s love and mercy to a world in need of a Savior?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full . . . .
I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me . . . .”
 

John 10:10 & 14

All to His Glory!

When The World Around You Crumbles . . . .

I saw it in her eyes . . . a glazed fatigue that said she was just barely hanging on.  After stowing her backpack under the seat in front of us, she settled next to me with her 17-month-old daughter and a paper cup filled with a large scoop of ice cream.  Perhaps seeing the concern in my face or . . . just needing to talk, she said softly, “We have been flying for the past thirty-six hours . . . from Kathmandu.”  Having watched many reports of the devastating earthquake all week, the only thing I could think to say was, “Welcome home.”

Popular 200 ft. tower landmark in Nepal, gone in an instant.

As she fed her daughter spoonfuls of ice cream (the only thing the worried mother could get her little one to eat on their long journey) she talked about her experience.  She and her daughter had flown to Nepal to attend her sister’s wedding.  When the quake hit, my seat mate was the only one in the house–the rest of the family (including her daughter) was out in the back garden.  She said several times, “I thought I was going to die,”  before adding,  “My only comfort was in knowing my family would take care of my daughter.”  

Thankfully, she survived.  But I could tell she was still reeling from having seen the world she had known since childhood literally crumble.  She described “the wind that seemed to form with the quake”, filling the air with all sorts of dust particles that made survivors prone to eye and respiratory problems for days after.  Over the next three days, she and her family “camped” (along with countless others) in an open-dirt area with no power, water or even a blanket to form a shelter.   Finally, she and her daughter were admitted to the American Embassy, where they stayed two more days until a flight out was arranged for them.  (Her comment here, “I have never been more grateful to be an American citizen!”)

She spoke softly about the historic sites as well as the majority of the city being flattened.  To help me appreciate the significance of what she had witnessed she said, “Imagine the White House in Washington, DC, being demolished in just a moment . . . that is the magnitude of what has happened in Nepal.”  

How does one respond to a story such as this?  It took some careful thought before I responded with, “During times when I have felt like my life was crumbling, the Bible has provided me with the strength and courage I needed to continue moving forward.  Psalm 139:16b is one of my favorites,

‘All the days ordained for me were written in Your Book,
before one of them came to be.'”

A gentleness settled across her face as she said, “I know that what you are saying is true, that God can often bring much blessing out of tragedy.  That is what I am clinging to right now.”  We spoke for some time about the blessings that could come out of the catastrophic shift that had taken place.  Soon, as her little one finally relaxed and fell asleep in her arms, she also closed her eyes and drifted off in exhaustion.

I watched them as they slept, grateful for the privilege of hearing their story as they traveled this final leg home.  I thought about her husband,  waiting at the airport, hungry to see that his wife and daughter were truly alive and safe.  Sitting there I also thought about how “life” can crumble around us in a myriad of ways–relationships broken, dreams squelched, a devastating health reversal, missed opportunities never to return . . . .  The truth is, life on this earth is full of danger.  I remembered the words of Psalm 46, where I have found comfort in the midst of trials:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
(Verses 1-3)

There is no tower we can build that will be high enough, nor any wall we erect that will be broad enough to keep trouble away from our door.  Only God can provide the comfort and shelter we need during such storms.  I love how the rest of Psalm 46 draws us ever closer to the God who is our only Hope and Sure Shelter:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(verses 4-11)

When the plane finally landed she opened her eyes and smiled–HOME!  They were finally home!  Doing what I could to help, I gladly held her little one briefly as she gathered their few belongings.   Then, almost in an instant, they were gone.  Only when they were finally out of sight, did I realize that I would never forget her–even though I never learned her name . . . .

All to His Glory!

Prayer + “The Ripple Effect” = An Ocean Of God’s Love

I have to admit that I find myself cringing whenever I hear someone say, “Well, I guess all we can do is pray.”  I cringe, not because I am judging that person–God knows I have thought and said the same thing many times in the past.  No, I cringe because I have learned, in my thirty-plus years of walking with Christ and after twenty years of Counseling, that prayer must be our first priority and should never be left as a last resort.  When we are more about “doing”–and therefore make prayer secondary–we miss out on participating in the mysterious and wondrous workings of God.  The simple wisdom and counsel of Isaiah 55:6 says it all,

Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.

Seek the Lord NOW through prayer; call upon Him NOW!  When we seek God with prayers large and small, we become part of what I like to refer to as “the ripple effect.”  Ordinarily, the term “ripple effect” refers to when a stone is thrown into a still pond . . . after the ‘plunk’ comes the myriad of ripples that move across the otherwise still water.  Merriam-Webster.com defines it this way,

The Ripple Effect

Ripple effect: “a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.” 

In Christian circles, the term is used to describe when God works in an individual’s life . . . and how the resulting “ripples” from that action impacts the lives of many othersHowever, when God works in response to our prayers, there is nothing “unintentional” or random when it comes to the “ripple effect.”  One of the blessings of serving a God who is both Sovereign and Good, is in knowing that He is as much at work in the smallest ripple, as He is in the larger things.

Even though it has been thirty-four years, I still remember how profoundly impacted I was by the “ripple effect” when, at twenty-five weeks gestation, I was hospitalized due to complications with my pregnancy.  Back then, we were attending a wonderful church where we had met Christ a few years before.  Each Sunday my husband gave an update so people knew our specific prayer needs.  During the weeks prior to our sons birth, an interesting pattern emerged.  When things were looking bad, the fervency of people’s prayers never failed to carry us through.   However, when we did better and people eased up on praying, we seemed to go downhill.  When our pastor visited me in the hospital, he commented on how God was using our situation to teach our congregation about the importance of being steadfast in prayer.

As the days passed and Luke was born nine weeks premature, it continued to boggle my mind when I thought about God using our three-pound little boy (such a tiny little “pebble”) to ripple blessing to several hundred people who were faithful to pray.  Luke’s birth opened the door to a world of machines and buzzers, bright lights and busy doctors and nurses tending tiny babies in the hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Since our home was over an hour away, I was encouraged to stay in the hospital as long as they had a bed available. The nurses were especially kind and helpful, but that first week was rough.  All week, Luke’s nurses expressed concerns about his blood gas levels.  He had already received one blood transfusion of what they referred to as packed cells; yet by day seven, he was paler and seemed to be losing ground.

Realizing that I was becoming overwhelmed, my husband took me home for a few hours that evening.  I will never forget the night sky that greeted me when I went out to our backyard to pray.  I can only describe it as “expansive” as the darkness surrounded me and a myriad of stars shone down.  I prayed . . . confessing my fear of losing Luke.  I reflected on what my pastor said about God using Luke to encourage steadfastness in prayer in our church.  I was comforted as I recognized that, if God chose to take Luke back, his short life had accomplished what God intended.  With that realization, I surrendered Luke back to God.  As I did, a peace settled over me that freed me to trust Him no matter what happened.

When I returned to the hospital, Luke was asleep in his isolette and had a lovely rosy glow–the doctors had agreed to a second transfusion.  From that point he became a “grower” and several weeks later we were able to take him home at four pounds, two ounces.

The “ripple effect” of the prayers of so many and our learning to pray has continued to bless our family to this very day.  James 1:2-5 became a special lifeline during that time that has carried us though many a trial since:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

As I write this, our family is being carried by the prayers of countless people as Luke undergoes chemotherapy.  This time though, the ripples of the past have combined with the countless prayers being offered for Luke, his wife Shannon and our family resulting in a whole ocean of God’s love.

Wherever you are . . . whatever you may be facing . . . my prayer is that your faith in Christ will deepen and buoy you in the ocean of His love and tender mercies.  He is so very worthy of our trust!

All to His Glory!

 

Shadows . . . .

As a kid, I loved dreams where I went on crazy adventures and got to be the heroine–“Kathie to the rescue!”  In my teens, I remember waking up and trying to go back to sleep to continue an adventure that involved one or more of the Beatles–ala A Hard Days Night.  But not all dreams are created equal.  Even then, I dreaded those scary, shadowy dreams where the people I loved got hurt and I woke up filled with despair.  I remember resisting sleep after waking in the middle of the night while having one of those dreams–scared of what might be lurking in the shadows if I allowed myself to go back to the darkness I had fled.

There are seasons in life we wish were but a dream; when the lurking shadows of reality cause us to wonder where to turn next for the answers to our problems.  Part of my job as a Counselor is to help Clients face those menacing shadows with the light and hope of the Scriptures. As their Counselor I do not pretend to have all the answers to their problems . . . there is so much more to navigating the mysteries of life than that.  When it comes to understanding that making our way through challenging seasons is more than coming up with answers, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says it best with this observation:

 “Having the answers is not essential to living.
What is essential is the sense of God’s presence during dark seasons of questioning.” 

Living in the “information age” we crave answers; yet what is needed is that sense of our Shepherd’s presence.  It is our faith in the saving work of Christ, that moves us through the shadows and dark places of this world.  Psalm 23 is a reflection of such confidence in the Shepherd’s presence, as He guides us through seasons of shifting shadows:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
(Verses 1-4)

Whether we live in times of ease or we suffer severe trial, the Shepherd faithfully tends to His sheep.  It is no small comfort to know that even “the darkest darkness . . . is as light”* to the Shepherd of our souls.  We fear no evil, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, because He is watching over us.

In Mark 4:15-17, the contrast of darkness and light take center stage with the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy** having been realized in the person of Christ,

“’Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.’
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Jesus continues to call all people living in the shadow of death to enter His light through repentance and faith. When surrounded by shadows and fear grips our hearts, Jesus urges us to cry out to the One who saves . . . confess your fears and receive His comfort and rest.

Just as not all dreams are created equal, the same can be said of shadows.  One of my favorite places to go is Psalm 91 (referred to by many as “the 911 Psalm“) as it calls God’s people to find refuge in the shadow of Almighty God,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
(Verses 1 and 2)

Where is your dwelling place right now?  Are you frustrated at the direction life is taking you, perhaps fearful because of the direction the world appears to be going?  No matter how shadowy life may appear, give thanks to God for His Sovereign Goodness as He lights your way.  Looking for answers?  Look no further than Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6

Light penetrating shadows–by Jordan Ball

All to His Glory!

*Psalm 139:12

**Isaiah 9:2