Darkness Brings Light
I was asked to write a blog on gratitude for the month of Thanksgiving 2016. This is not it, but it was one of the most challenging devotions to write in this wilderness, desert place I’ve been traveling through. Life happens. My father recently had a stroke. I am recovering from major surgery. My husband’s job fell through. My children have been battling difficult obstacles, and the list continues. Often in life, we stay stuck in the past, frozen, and unable to find gratitude on our journey or in the present. Why, because it doesn’t look like we perceived it would.
When it feels like tumultuous storms are wreaking havoc on our identity and the ones we love are going through their own battles, it can get very dark. I call it the dark night of the soul. I think this is what our Savior felt the night he begged for his disciples to stay awake and pray while he was sweating drops of blood, but they all fell asleep. The sheep scattered and left him. The ones he loved the most were gone. One even denied him three times. To top it off, he is crying, “Father, take this cup from me! But not my will, but Thine be done!” Oh, what hard words to utter when you know what happens to lambs.
The Apostle Paul talks about us being a living sacrifice. Sacrifices don’t live but are tied to the altar and burned. When sheep were brought to the temple to be sacrificed and had spots and blemishes, they could not be sacrificed. Those lambs were a representation of Jesus/Yeshua, and nothing imperfect would do. So the sheep with blemishes were called “living sacrifices” and kept at the temple but not killed. Picking up a cross and carrying it is hard enough but getting on a cross and dying is much harder. How did Mary find gratitude when they were nailing her Son to a cross? Did she know the end of the matter? Jesus told those standing before him on crucifixion day these words. “But from now on The Son of man will be seated at the Right Hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69).
He was going through a dark night of the soul, but soon he would be in Glory and seated at the Right Hand of His Father.
(Revelation 3:21) “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
The end of the matter is all that matters. After several weeks, my dad is home and doing well. I am stronger after this surgery than I was before. My husband has some new business developments, and my children are making great strides and working through some difficulties—the end of the matter.
Joseph was sold into slavery and betrayed by those he loved. Thrown in a pit by his brothers, who would one day bow before him as he would be 2nd in command of all Egypt. But right now, he is just their arrogant brother—the brother they hate and are jealous of. Rejection of family is the worst feeling, and rejection can hurt even more so by a spouse. If you want to hurt someone you love, reject their choice in a mate. Reject their gifts. Reject their children. Jesus/ Yeshua was coming to die for His Bride, not reject her, yet, he was rejected by the very ones He would die for.
Paul and Silas in a prison cell with rats and sewage, their backs a bloody mess, and yet they sing praises to their King and lead the jailer to MESSIAH!
The end of the matter.
“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there came a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30).
Such darkness brought such LIGHT.
How do we find things to be thankful for amid obscurity, death, addiction, chronic illness, rejection, joblessness, and pain? We feel lifeless like a walking corpse, but then we turn on the news to see refugees battered and scared. Many have been raped, sodomized, and traumatized. We see them living in tents, sleeping on mats, and hoping a food supply arrives as enemies draw closer.
We watch in horror as story after story unfolds–fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, murders, and riots. All the nasty dross is heated and overflowing from the vat, and we wonder what the future holds as the earth cries out. Abel’s blood had a voice. Sin speaks. Yes, it roars, but gratitude and thankfulness often is but a whisper or goes unnoticed and isn’t voiced enough.
Perhaps, you have all the comforts of heat, air conditioning, a bed, pillow, blanket, and food to last until payday –these simple items go unnoticed like our favorite coffee mug in the morning or a pet that longingly snuggles close to us. We neglect to notice or appreciate our clean pajamas and water that can be attained from a handle. We forget what the rest of the world around us might be experiencing.
I have experienced homelessness, and I can tell you it changed my whole attitude toward simple things. I became sick with a chronic illness and lost my home and everything I owned. Sometimes I would go to a bookstore or a coffee shop and sit for hours. I would think, “I just want to go home. I am so exhausted and sick.” But I had no home to go to. I’d wake up early in a strange place wanting coffee, a shower, a turn of the thermostat to warm me, but sadly I realized none of it belonged to me. I didn’t want to disturb the people who were kind enough to give me their couch, bed, or air mattress. I was living out of bags in the back of my van, and clean pajamas sounded terrific.
I would often train my brain on awaking and say thank you, Abba Father, that I slept and had shelter and You took care of me. Amid my tears and fears, I would ponder Philippians 4:8. I would speak to myself, “Tekoa think of something right now that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of a good report. Think about these things!
The Father caused manna to fall from heaven, and eventually, all the things I lost came back. I learned so much from the pain that I wouldn’t trade one moment of it, but I still lack being grateful in other areas. Let me give you some examples.
If you’re reading this, you have eyes that work, but over 39 million people are blind. They will never see the beautiful fall colors adorning the hills. If you are reading this, most likely, you have internet access. Did you know that sixty percent of the world doesn’t have internet access? Let’s discuss electricity. One statistic shows 1.3 Billion People are living in the dark tonight. More statistics that caused me to scratch my head involve a simple glass of water. We have bottled water here in America. You can get water from Fuji or buy purifiers with filters to cleanse it of more waste. But 783 million people do not have access to clean water, and almost 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation access. Disease. How many pairs of shoes do we own? Coats? So many small things go unnoticed.
If we woke up and just realized we had breath in our bodies and freedom to worship our Father and His Son, oh, the gratitude we would feel.
A precious gift was given to me today and also to you. We woke up. We can never get this day back again. Tomorrow is not promised.
At some point, millions of sperm were traveling, and only one crossed the finish line and hit our mother’s egg. BAM! We came into the world and opened our eyes. There is no one like you–no one with your thumbprint. You are unique. You are amazing. You are wonderfully made!
Yes, we were given life, but our eyes will close one day, and our hands will fold until the shofar sounds, and these bodies become amazingly new. In the meantime, let’s all be thankful for the simple things and, yes, the many things we take for granted, like a simple cup of water.
“In everything give thanks, for this is what God wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua/ Jesus” (1st Thessalonians 5:18 CJB).