Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Knowing Hope In Darkness

Psalm 139:7-12 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

The Mirriam-Webster describes self-pity as a self-indulgent dwelling on one's own sorrows or misfortunes. Its focus is on our troubles and how overwhelming they are, how undeserved or even deserved they might be, and how different you are from everyone else. It is as if you are alone in this, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It is a helpless and hopeless condition. Sometimes it is prolonged and sometimes it is only momentary, and at its depths there is incredible darkness.

But Scripture tells us that there is no depth or intensity of darkness to which God’s hands do not reach or His light extend. David wrote a lot about His struggles, but as we read of His struggles (particularly in the Psalms) we find that he quickly changes his focus from those struggles to God and then things change. The circumstances don’t change, but things change because He is assured and encouraged by the presence of God.

Getting back to the description from Webster as a self-indulgent dwelling, we can see that David found his answer not in a continued focus on his troubles, but in looking to God who is faithful and present in those struggles to be his help. David wrote in Psalm 139 that with our God there is no difference between darkness and light—they are alike to Him. And there is no depth to which we can descend that God is not there, nor place that is so remote that His hand will not lead us.

This morning I also read John chapter 11 about two sisters and a brother that Jesus loved (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus). Mary had come to Jesus to tell Him of the extreme sickness of her brother, to which Jesus responded, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Then we read that Jesus did not race off to Lazarus’ side, rather He remained a couple more days, and even in doing this He took a day’s walk at a time, responding to their urgings as He went. And prior to arriving Jesus tells His disciples first that Lazarus was sleeping, to which His disciples responded that he surely then would awake. They did not get Jesus’ point, and He more plainly said in verse 14 and 15, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” As it turns out when they “finally” arrived that Lazarus had been dead for four days.

Martha came out to meet Him, but Mary remained at home. The first thing Scripture records that Jesus said to Martha was, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha, with a hope for the future resurrection agreed with Jesus, to which Jesus added, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” To this Martha responded, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” Then she left to go get her sister. When Mary came out she made the same statement as Martha concerning Lazarus not dying if Jesus had been there. Following this they all went to where Lazarus had been laid, and when Jesus got there Scripture records that He wept (verse 35).

Jesus told them to remove the stone and Scripture records in verses 40-43, Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

The death of a loved one is probably one of the most trying things we can endure, not because we aren’t certain of the hope of eternal life, but because of the severing of a relationship here (if only for a season). Jesus loved Lazarus and He cried at his grave. Martha and Mary loved their brother, and they mourned his death, though as Martha declared she knew he would rise again. For them there was hope, and as Jesus had told them they did indeed see the glory of God manifest, even affirming that Jesus Christ has been sent to give life both here and now and for all eternity.

For David his hope was found in turning his eyes and his attentions to God, and finding His salvation (both temporal and eternal) in Him. Jesus demonstrated this power through three friends who He dearly loved. For all of us as we know the presence, power, and glory of God there is truly no reason to lose hope.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (7/16)

Self-pity is a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound.

Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My Presence shining down on you. Though the Light looks dim in the pit, those rays of hope can reach you at any depth. While you focus on Me in trust, you rise ever so slowly out of the abyss of despair. Finally, you can reach up and grasp My hand. I will pull you out into the Light again. I will gently cleanse you, washing off the clinging mire. I will cover you with My righteousness and walk with you down the path of Life.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:2-3

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5 (NKJV)

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11

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