The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4

Breathing is something we often take for granted. Yet God brought home the truth of this verse to me during the more intense part of this illness. As I got more and more unwell, one of the symptoms I had was difficulty breathing. When seeking medical advice, I was just told, “your body is too tired to breath easily, the physical effort is too much. There’s nothing we can do.” So I would have to spend most of every day just lying down and breathing, focussing on each breath. I remember the vulnerability of this. Although I was never so I couldn’t breath, having so little energy that it took most of my strength for each breath felt too close for comfort!

But in those hours of breathing, sometimes praying for the next breath, I started to realise more and more how every breath is a gift. Knowing what it was to depend on God to give me the next breath, and the next breath, I found that each breath was precious. Every breath is a chance to live, every breath a chance to know God, every breath a chance to praise and give thanks, every breath a chance to live for him. This makes every moment worth living, even when it means chronic pain, being housebound and struggling to breath. I started to give thanks for them, one breath at a time… each one a gift of life, and an opportunity to live for him.

We are so utterly dependant on Him. Every moment is given, sustained, by Him. And when you realise this, the fragility and the preciousness of life, it begs the question: how shall we use it? It’s not enough to drift through life anymore. How will you use each breath… each day? Will you use your breath to praise or curse, encourage or criticise, to reach out and serve, or to serve yourself? Much of these daily choices are determined by your purpose. What are you living for?

The verses below describe God’s power, his gift of life to us, the way he gives each breath, and how he determines the boundaries of our lives. Then it also states what we are created for…

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…”

Acts 17:25,27a

This should be our main purpose in life. Here I am not just talking about prayer or time alone with God (though it certainly includes this) but a constant seeking Him in everything. That every breath whether used to exercise, sing, speak to your family, communicate with others, encourage, pray, bless, challenge, serve, sustain, work, or rest is used with the one purpose of seeking God. God should not be confined to the “spiritual” part of your life. If He gives you breath for all these things, then surely He is in them. Surely the one who gives you each breath should be considered in the way you then use it?

With the purpose of seeking God with each breath, it impacts every part of our lives, changing the way we use our words, the way we spend our time, the things we count as important. Any moment spent seeking God is never wasted. Every breath is given by God, and we are free to choose how to use it… but we are created to seek Him with every breath He gives. Through so much of our day, we get on with life, and maybe touch base with God at some point, but throughout all those things we do He is supplying every breath, every moment of life. It is good to remember this… to remember in all the business and doing that even at the most basic level we are utterly dependant on the one who gives us life. That without Him we can do nothing, but with Him anything is possible.

I write this because I need this challenge as much as anybody. I would like to say God is considered in each word I say and each thing I do, but often he is not, and this is when I forget my purpose of seeking God, and live for myself. May God teach me and the rest of His church to fully live for Him, and use every breath to seek Him!

Today, as you go through life, remember the one who sustains your every breath. Give thanks for this day, this chance he has given you to love and praise him. Live with boldness using every opportunity. And seek Him as long as you have breath.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 150:6

Hephzibah

Illustration by Valerie Martin

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Every Breath

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Just and Justifier

“It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:26

If God just excused or passed over sin, he could no longer be good or just. I hear so many people say, “I’m really a good person. When I die God won’t judge me for the things that I’ve done wrong.” Our hope of eternity is that there will be no sin, or the consequences of sin (pain, sickness, evil…). If God were to merely excuse sin, it would be to allow it to enter heaven. What hope is there in that!?

For God to be completely just and righteous and holy, and “he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13), he has to judge sin. This would leave us with no hope, but He also became our Justifier.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.” – Romans 3:23-25

Jesus’s blood covered all our sin. He became the propitiation – the covering, the substitute, the sacrifice, the payment for every debt we owe. In this way, God stays consistent with His character, sin is forgiven but also paid for, eternity is kept sin-free and so remains a glorious hope, and salvation is made available to all who could not reach it any other way. Take a moment to reflect on the wonder of His unchanging, uncompromising character, and praise Him that He is both Just and your Justifier. We have a glorious God!

Father, I praise you for who you are, and that you do not change. Thank you for your perfect salvation and that makes me righteous through Jesus, and for the promise of eternity without sin. May I know you, worship you, and proclaim you as Just and Justifier of my soul.

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Called to Thrive

“Blessed is the man who trusts on the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year if drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

I remember the process of accepting being housebound. Each month I would give up more things hoping desperately that would be enough, but it never was. I clung onto church as long as I could, but eventually had to give that up too. In the business of others’ lives, very few noticed I was so unwell and dropping out of things, and I started becoming quite isolated. One Sunday I had been determined to make it to church, but had to go home after about 20 minutes, and was so unwell I couldn’t eat or get out of bed for most of the rest of the day. When I eventually came out of my room in the evening I found out that we’d had visitors. My closest friends at the time had come round, and I hadn’t been well enough to see them. This seemed particularly hard, as it was one thing to accept not being able to go out and see them, but after weeks of not seeing anyone it stung particularly hard to have them come round only for me still to not be able to see them.

I went to God crying “How can I live this way? You are taking so much from me!” The pain of loss and utter confusion of what goodness there could be in this felt overwhelming. I could not coherently pray, so I put on some Christian music and started worshipping Him. Then a song called Thrive by Casting Crowns came on, and there was one line in it that stood out to me. “It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to Thrive.” And I started praying…”God I believe this is true. I even believe that somehow, in your sovereign plan, you are going to use this illness to make me thrive. But right now I am just surviving… barely surviving. Every day is a fight to continue. Help me!”

His reply was clear, and uncompromising: “I want you to Thrive now.”

…”What? Now? Do you see what I’m going through? Do you know the constant pain I’m in, the battle for hope every night while I can’t sleep, the way everything is being taken from me, even my own personality, character and identity, my friends, my abilities? This is impossible!”

Hmm… “Do you know?” …”Do you see?” Silly questions to ask an all-knowing sovereign God. Of course he knows. …Then how does he expect me to thrive if he knows how hard life is? What does he even mean?

If I was the “tree” described in Jeremiah 17, then I was surely going through a season of drought and heat. Yet what struck me about these verses is it says it “does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit”. Even then the tree thrives… the man who trusts in the Lord. Our calling to thrive in God is not a calling to a prosperous life full of blessings, it is a calling to find God to be enough to make us grow and thrive even in drought!

This was hard though. I DID trust God ultimately, but it was just sometimes hard to do that as I lost yet another thing. Then God took me to Psalm 50. This is actually quite a condemning psalm of Israel’s hypocrisy in sacrifices, but then comes this verse

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14-15)

Over all Israel’s sacrifices, God wanted a sacrifice of thanks. Above all I could no longer give Him, this was the one sacrifice he wanted of me.

But how are thanksgiving and trust connected? To give thanks is an act of faith. It is easy to give thanks when things are good, but when things get hard, when you are living with pain and loss, thanksgiving suddenly becomes very hard. There are times when there is very little in our circumstances that looks good or something to give thanks for, and then our thanksgiving must be rooted in who He is. This is what it means to be a tree planted by water, and to send your roots out deep into the stream that is God – that stream of living water that will never dry up, no matter how bad the drought is. It is to give thanks for Him, because we know Who he is, and that he will remain faithful to that.

…And then we get a change of perspective. Rather than judging God by our circumstances, we judge our circumstances by God. He is faithful, He is good, He is sovereign, He knows everything, His plan is perfect, He is always with us, and He is working through every circumstance… Every circumstance. That means that in this illness is God’s goodness, in fact, in this illness is God.

I want to clarify something here – illness, sickness, sin, brokenness, pain, or suffering of any kind, is not of God. These are a result of the curse, a consequence of sin, and a wage we have all earned from which God will redeem us and restore all that we, through sin, have ruined. BUT because He is sovereign, He is in everything and working redemption even now through our suffering.

If I believe in his sovereignty and goodness, then I must believe that this was allowed for my good. What had started as giving thanks for who he is, then became also giving thanks for what he gave. Many say we are only to give thanks in all things, but the Bible says we are to give thanks for all things.

“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)

The example I am reminded of here is Betsy (Corrie Ten Boom’s sister) in the prison camp challenging her sister to give thanks for the fleas. At that time, there was nothing good to be seen from having bad flea infested rooms to sleep in. Betsy believed by faith that God was in that, and gave thanks for the fleas. Later it was the fleas that enabled them to start a Bible Reading and worship time with the prisoners because the guards would not enter there. Her faith was rewarded, the fleas were a gift, but she had to give thanks for them when they seemed nothing but a pain, and another toll on her already sick body.

This is faith – to give thanks even for the trials he allows, knowing that He is in them, that his goodness and faithfulness have allowed this, even – and especially – when we can see no goodness or faithfulness in our circumstances.

To do this we have to hold out our hands to God, opening them and releasing to Him all that we so desperately want to cling to, at the same time giving thanks for whatever He gives, knowing by faith that it is good. Closed fists hold nothing but darkness, open hands can receive His grace. When we close our fists our fingers point inwards, this mirrors the state of our hearts when we close our fists to God – looking to ourselves. When we open our hands our fingers point outwards, looking to God – the one we trust enough to let go of those things we want and release them to Him, trusting Him to fill our hands, and knowing that what He gives is good… because He is good.

This is why thanksgiving is an act of faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, so to give thanks for God’s goodness in everything when we cannot see it – this is faith! This is part of what it looks like to be a “man who trusts in the LORD”, and to live out our calling to Thrive in Him even through times of drought.

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A Sacrifice of Praise

In the Bible, God asks for a sacrifice of praise, but what does this look like in different circumstances. My brother put it this way: “our question when we face suffering should not be ‘Why God?’ but ‘What?’… ‘what should my response be?'”

During a week of particularly intense symptoms, a real wrestle with depression, on one of many sleepless nights and when I was really longing for health, God asked me how I would respond if he healed me… and then how I would respond if He didn’t. He challenged me that his goodness is not dependent on health, or healing, or happy endings, but that I should remember who he is and hope in that. And that, whatever he allowed, he was equally worthy of praise. That night I reminded myself of who God is and wrote my response to his unchanging goodness. One thing that blessed me in doing this is realising that he accepts all kinds of praise from whatever place we are in. my Dad says “God’s highest praise comes from the lowest place”. We do not need to be in a good place or able to do more than cry out to Him, for even this is praise and a sacrifice that pleases him.

“If He gives health I will thank him.

If he allows sickness I will praise Him.

When he guides I will follow.

When he stays silent I will wait.

In pain I will pursue him.

In gladness I will enjoy him.

In hope I will be confident in him.

In doubt I will fall on him.

And uncertainty I will rest in him.

In despair I will cry out to Him.

In sorrow I will reach for Him.

In loneliness I will

Abide with Him.

In failure I will rely on his grace.

In success I will walk humbly with Him.

In suffering I will long for Him.

In questioning I will stand on his truth.

If he gives strength, I will serve Him.

If he allows weakness I will depend on Him to use me anyway.

In my brokenness I will look to His beauty.

In wholeness I will trust in His strength.

In adoration I will dance with Him.

In hopelessness I will turn to Him.

In faith I will obey Him.

In the desert I will thirst for Him.

In fear I will fly to Him.

In love I will worship Him.

In repentance I will weep with Him.

In prayer I will seek his face… for he is the God above all, worthy of all kinds of praise, enough for every circumstance, and sufficient for every failing.

He is:

Eternally good,

Totally sovereign,

Perfectly compassionate,

Completely trustworthy,

Abounding in grace,

Freely forgiving,

Selflessly serving,

Humbly sacrificing,

Holy and righteous,

Mighty in power,

Lavish in giving,

Never forsaking,

Choosing and keeping,

Always completing,

Faithfully working,

Steadfastly saving,

Surely this God is worthy of all praise! Whatever my circumstances, feelings, or failings, He is worthy. He is enough! He is the ultimate treasure and joy. So fill me Lord! Fill this cracked pot with the treasure of knowing you – the God who is worth everything.

He invites you…

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and He who has no money, come, buy and eat!… Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your souls may live.”

“Let not conscience make you linger.

Nor of fitness fondly dream.

All the fitness He requires

Is to feel your need of Him”

(Come ye sinners – Joseph Hart.)

What will your response be?

Hephzibah

Illustration by Valerie Martin

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A sacrifice of praise

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Song in the Night

“Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” – Psalm 77:6

“Tuesday 23rd October 2017

I am sitting awake in bed at 04:11 having been awake for an hour. And even though (being October) it’s still a good few hours until the sun rises, there is this bird singing. Only one, but it is being beautifully persistent. The sound of it is somehow comforting and seems to speak of hope. For, though it is on its own and there is not the slightest sign of dawn, yet it’s song holds a sense of promise. There will be a time when other birds will join in singing, and there will be a whole chorus of them before the sun rises and a new day begins.”

This is a diary excerpt from a very difficult year, when, after seeming to recover, my health was very rapidly declining again. I only slept a couple of hours a night (hence the time of the entry) and was not far off being housebound again. I believed in a good God, but could not see any of his goodness to me. I was becoming more isolated, struggling with depression, and hurt by Christians. And I was having to accept the likelihood that – to some degree – this illness was permanent, and I would never fully recover. It was hard to imagine any “dawn”. But through scripture, and this crazy, persistent bird with a messed up body-clock, God wanted to teach me about the Song in the Night.

Firstly, the song in the night is a song of faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Well, the very nature of night is that we cannot see. But to sing in the night with certainty about that which we do not see, this is faith. When I could see no goodness, to sing of a good God. When I was not being healed, to trust my Healer. When everything was so out of control I did not know if I’d be able to eat the next meal, to have faith in the God who is sovereign.

In the passages where it speaks of the song in the night, it also speaks of remembering. (Psalm 77)

“I will remember…” v11

“You are the God who…” v14

Remember… Remember his faithfulness in the past. Remember the stars he has shown you in dark nights. Name those that you have seen, retrace the constellations of grace that you know to be there, even if you cannot see them now. Remember when he answered prayer. Remember when he saved you. And if you can remember nothing else, remember Jesus crucified for you. There is no greater love, no greater promise, no greater hope than this.

“He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32)

This is a song of thankfulness to the “God who Is”.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

One of the most beautiful things about the Song in the Night, is that it is a heart’s cry. It does not need words or music (though often it overflows to this) but it is the raw cry from the depths of our pain to the depths of God. I learnt it in a time when I could hardly pray any more, I had no more words, I could only cry out to Him.

“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7-8)

“His song is with me”. God sings over us (Zeph 3:17), and we have to learn to listen, learn to hear his song of delight. The song in the night is only a harmony to this song he continually sings, and if we can learn to hear his song, we also learn to sing. This is a song of such incredible beauty because it is eternal. All other songs will fade, but this song – this harmony of Creator rejoicing over his people, and his people rejoicing in who he is – this is a song that can be sung through life, through death, and into eternity. It is a song that is shared with all believers, although most often sung alone. It is the song of those darkest places where no person can reach, those fiercest battles no one can see, the deepest pain and loneliness that others cannot enter into. But who knows who hears, who sees, and who finds hope from our song in the night? What better witness is there – either to other people or to the heavenly realms – than to find God to be enough to sing in the night. To be able to say “God is enough for me to worship”.

” ‘I have a Christ that will do to die by; I have a religion that will make me sing in the night’. Let me hear how you can sing, ‘Victory, victory, victory!’ through Him that loved you. I tell you, we may preach fifty thousand sermons to prove the gospel, but will not prove it half so well as you will through singing in the night”. – C. Spurgeon

Yet the thing that most defines the song in the night, is that it is a song of hope and longing. We can only sing because we know there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more fear, no more broken lives, broken families, or broken hearts. There will be a day when all this mess will be transformed to glory, and everything that has been lost will be redeemed. There will be a day when sin is no more, and we will finally meet, face to face, the One our souls long for. That day when we see Jesus, and all that is ugly is stripped away forever. This is worth singing for.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

There will be a day when our song in the night is transformed into a chorus of voices, a multitude of those who are His, singing for the Hope of eternity with Christ, welcoming the dawn we have longed for.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)

(Diary entry continued)…

“Father, when I am going through a time of darkness and night may I be like that bird – persistent in praising you. Even when it feels like I am alone, there is no one to join, or even see/hear, help me continue. May I live in hope, and make my life speak of hope. Make my whole life praise and worship to you. Like that bird’s song make it persistently beautiful. And, LORD, bring the time when there is a whole multitude praising you wholeheartedly regardless. A whole throng who will sing in the night, abandoned to your praise. A throng who will sing until the dawn and keep going even then. A people who wait on you, whose hope is fixed in you. Fill us with your promise, and a sense of promise as we look to you. And Lord, bring the dawn! I pray both for a revival, an outpouring of the Spirit of God, the power of your presence; and also for your final return when Jesus comes to judge the world, and we will reign with him and spend eternity in your presence! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

…But until then, make us, your people, persistent in praise and in prayer, filled with your promise.”

“YHWH, we have awaited you — for your name and your memorial with longing of soul. With my soul I have longed for you in the night, indeed, in my inmost spirit I look for your dawning.” (Isaiah 26:8-9)

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Living the abundant life

As a young teenager and young believer, I was eager to discover God’s calling on my life. I wanted to live the God-powered, fruitful, miraculous, abundant life that He promises. When I came down with an illness that meant I was housebound, could not do anything for anybody, and did not have the ability even to sing praise to him or pray a prayer more than two words, I felt like I could never experience that. How could God be honoured by my months in bed? What was God glorifying about the tears and pain, or the frequent struggle against self-pity or despair? And where, in all this, was I supposed to find and live a life of abundance? Was the promise false?

One of the scriptures God most blessed me with in wrestling through this is John 6, the feeding of the 5 thousand. As Andrew had looked at the few loaves and fish and said, “…what are those for so many?”, so I had looked at my life, and said, “it’s not enough.”

But what did Jesus do? …He gave thanks. He broke it. And he gave it out. Through this illness, I have learned that these three things are essential to living the abundant life.

Giving thanks – “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.” V11

He took what was not enough, gave thanks for it, and not only did it become enough… but more than enough. (“So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.”V13)

In my life of limitations and pain, I had to learn to open my hands to God and give thanks by faith trusting that He would be enough. I am a pianist, and this was the challenge God gave me the week I had to give up piano (even 5 minutes was enough to make my limbs shaky) – the challenge to give thanks even as I gave up the things I loved.

Thanksgiving can be really, REALLY hard, but God acknowledges this. He says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 50:14) He acknowledges that there are times that it costs to give thanks, and sometimes it has to be a choice rather than a feeling.

This is to fully live right now, to take the life of “not enough”, to hold it in open hands of grateful acceptance, and to find that, in doing so, you have received the life of “more than enough”. Thismiracle happens because, in opening our hands to receive whatever God gives, we open our hearts to receive Jesus wherever we are – and He is always more than enough. This is to live a life where nothing is wasted. To give thanks is the act of receiving – not only the things God gives, but God himself. It opens our hands to receive God in all things, acknowledging his goodness and his presence in everything… when God is let in, is when miracles happen.

Breaking – The other thing I had to learn, is that this kind of abundance comes through brokenness. As well as performing a miracle, this breaking of bread to feed thousands with baskets left over was a picture of what Jesus would become. Later in that chapter he says “I am the bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst… And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”. He is the true bread of life who was broken and given out, and he has satisfied, and more than satisfied, all who eat of him. This is our source of life, but we could not eat of The Bread of Life until it was broken. Jesus taught this at Passover. He knew that through his suffering we would find life.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” V54

The first principle of this, is that we feed off Him – that we are satisfied in him, and turn our cravings toward him. We depend on him to sustain us, trusting that he is enough. He has promised that those who come to him shall not hunger, because he is enough to satisfy every need.

It is by his wounds that we are healed, and though our wounds cannot bring any healing of themselves, if we are imitating Christ, will it not be through our own wounds that we minister the Healing of His?

“To this we are called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Here is our calling – to suffer, to be broken, and to minister the healing of Christ’s wounds through our own. Jesus, the Bread of Life, had to be broken to bring us life, and it is through feeding on Him – satisfying ourselves in Him – that we find true, lasting, and abundant life. But it does not stop there. To bring healing, to live the miraculous, to share the abundance of Christ with others, we are called to suffer, and must follow in his steps. O God, give me the strength!

And finally, giving out… Jesus took the “not enough”, gave thanks, and gave it out, and it became “more than enough”. We are called to give out of whatever joy, encouragement, hope, strength, ability or possession we have. It is through this that God works, and his miraculous power is released in our lives. One of the things I struggle most with, is when I feel empty, broken, fighting for joy myself, and clinging onto hope, when I know I’m a mess, and have nothing left to give, how can I then give out to others? What do I have to give?

“1 Therefore if you have anyencouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:1-4

“If you have any”… it is so hard to give out when you feel you have not enough to begin with. But if we have any (not if we have enough!), we are called to give out and God will multiply.

This is a very challenging part of our calling to follow Christ, and one that should apply to our whole life – much of which I know I do not live this way. I share this very humbly, not as one who has learnt, but one who longs to. I know I need much growth in this area. My prayer is that God will continue to show me the “if anys” He has given me, and give me the faith to then give them out.

Even when we feel we have not enough strength for ourselves, may God enable us to give out of what we have so that He can work the miracle of multiplication in our lives. Lord help me to do this.

Hephzibah

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Treasures of darkness


“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” – Isaiah 45:3

In suffering, we are often given verses that promise good things – hope and future, that He’ll make your ways straight, that all things will work out together for good, but as Christians we tend to diminish the reality of suffering when we do this. We take God’s promises too lightly. We pretend that because God has said these things we shouldn’t struggle. And when we do this, we miss the whole point of a suffering Saviour entering into our brokenness – the ultimate promise of scripture fulfilled in suffering. 

If God’s promise of perfect salvation came through suffering, then could his other promises too? 

Treasures of darkness is my journey of recapturing the preciousness of God’s promises where they shine brightest – in darkness. It is my attempt to share my wrestling with God through suffering. It is my heart’s cry of “Lord, show me how to live the abundant life in brokenness!”

“Hope itself is like a star – not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” – Charles Spurgeon 

Several years ago I entered a season of night. Within the church we were heavily involved in, things went very wrong, and for a while we lost almost every friend we ever had. At the same time my Dads business crashed, and within our family we went through a heart scare and leukaemia scare, both of which turned out to be less frightening, but had extended time of tests and uncertainty. My baby faith of just over a year (I was just turning 13), was getting quite a shaking. A few months after leaving the church, my mum became pregnant – our first ray of light. Not long after finding out, she miscarried and the baby died, and with it what seemed the last ray of hope. Had God abandoned us?

A year after leaving the church, things were slightly less drastic. We were still grieving and finding our feet, but it seemed that the worst was over. Then I started with health difficulties. I didn’t take any notice for a while, I never took time off to be ill anyway… but as time went on things grew worse. I kept pushing until I finally collapsed, unable to do anything. The diagnosis – ME/CFS. 

I knew some of what this meant – tiredness, a few years with limitations… but I had no idea what lay in store. 

Since, God has taken me through nights of incredible darkness and pain… both figuratively and literally. I went through years of sleepless nights, when the pain – physical and emotional – would become unbearable, rising up like a silent scream so I would have to cover my mouth not to wake my family. Hours of darkness every night is a very vulnerable time for spiritual attack. There have been times I have felt unable to pray, only cry out to Him. Often it seems the clouds have come and covered even the stars in those black nights. But sometimes God has cleared away those clouds, and a star has shone through of such incredible beauty that even the memory of it is enough to give hope when the clouds come back. Over the years, He has allowed me to see a whole galaxy of stars – the secret riches of suffering. These are what I want to share.

Stars cannot be seen in daylight, neither can the full preciousness of God’s promises be known in prosperity. He is not only a God who works in suffering, he is a God revealed through suffering. The God who came and suffered, who redeemed our brokenness by becoming brokenness, and who bought eternal life through death. If we are to follow this God, surely we must follow his way.

There are treasures to be found in darkness, and abundant life in brokenness. But these treasures are not just on my path, I know they can be found to anyone who looks. My prayer is that for those who are walking in darkness that this will serve as a guide to your hand to reach out and receive these treasures, discover their beauty for yourself, and add them to your crown of life for eternity. 

I pray also that the wondrous beauty of our God – a God who revealed the extent of his love and glorious redemption in a moment of utter darkness as Jesus was broken, poured out, and abandoned – would continue to reveal himself in our suffering. And that we, his people, would learn to walk the way of the cross – the broken way that leads to abundant life. 

Hephzibah

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