Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Light arises in the darkness for the upright, gracious, compassionate, and just, who are in right standing with God.”
Psalm 112: 4, Amplified Bible
In The Darkness
“O my Lord
I am slowly beginning to see
That I must listen to You
In the darkness
Instead of desperately
Pleading for light.
I am beginning to sense
That darkness is not always
An indication of my failure
Or of Your displeasure.
Rather it is an indication
Of Your outstretched arms
Waiting to hold me
Close, close to Your heart.
Darkness, which so often
Seems to be a reason
For fear and despair
May be in Your plan, dear God
A source of deep purification.”
Ruth Harms Calkin, Keep Me Faithful
“The people who dwelt enveloped in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those who sat in the land and shadow of death, Light has dawned.”
Matthew 4: 16, Amplified Bible
Today’s Study Text:
“Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, (Jesus) stayed where He was two more days.”
John 11: 6, N.I.V.
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 15
“Two Days and Counting”
“Reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as is necessary, but still go on longing after Him whom you love.”
Cloud of Unknowing
How has it made me feel to be in a dark time in my life – not knowing how God was working out His plan for me?
During the dark days do I listen for my Savior’s voice?
“Live in faith and hope, though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God, for you are His and He will not forget you.”
John of the Cross
“Faith grows only in the dark. You’ve got to trust Him when you can’t trace Him. That’s faith.”
When this week began, I fully expected we would be far enough along in our studies that Jesus would be back in Bethany wiping away the tears of two weeping sisters. However, it seems that in the same way Jesus appeared to linger before getting back to Bethany, so I want to spend a few more days, taking time to uncover what happens to us when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations, no matter what they are. Or worse yet, what happens when an unexpected darkness settles in upon our lives. How do we respond? What do we do?
My reason for waiting to dig deeper into the events found in John 11 is because I got to thinking about a statement made by J.R. Macduff who observed that the potential for walking nearly 50 miles round trip existed in Jesus response to the message from Bethany. This piece of information sent my curiosity into high gear for most of the traveling at the time of Jesus was done on foot and in the daylight. Night was no time to be out on rocky, dirt roads where robbers lurked in the shadows. So it became apparent that if Jesus was going to walk as fast as humanly possible, a 25-mile journey might be too much for one day’s journey. However, by spending two days on the road, Jesus could have most likely made it back to Lazarus’ bedside.
It was this eye-opening fact that got me to pondering the idea that for the first two days after the messenger got news to Jesus who was “out on the road,” most likely back in Bethany, Mary and Martha were only waiting with eager expectation filling their hearts, believing that indeed, it would only take Jesus two days to get back to them. They probably concluded that He could not have gotten back to them much sooner. It is this thought that brings me to a point in my own life – in my own walk with Jesus – which challenges my faith. As long as Jesus meets my expectations, I am quite satisfied – thank you very much! But it is those times in our lives when our expectations aren’t met, which stretch our faith, sometimes to a breaking point.
During the past few years, in my own life, I have focused on a very organized plan in my own working life that I truly believed, with all my heart, God had laid out for me. But then within “three minutes,” yes, you read that time-line correctly, in just three very, very short minutes, my entire world was turned upside down by circumstances and actions totally out of my control.
I had prayed over every detail of my plan. I’d laid everything out before God and asked for His guidance which I truly believed I had. But my plan and my heavenly Father’s plan didn’t for some reason beyond anything I could comprehend, mesh together. And from my human viewpoint, my expectation of God’s blessing on all I was doing certainly seemed to crumble in my hands.
What’s more, month after month, I felt as if the road I was on only got darker and seemed more confusing. This didn’t please me one bit. My ragged-edged faith was frayed by the winds that were tossing me to and fro. However, one particular day when I was frankly quite unhappy with my Father in heaven, my dear husband Jim pulled out his old, well-worn Bible, a gift from his parents, and he read me these words: “After this, many of (Jesus’) disciples drew back, returned to their old associations, and no longer accompanied him. Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Will you also go away? And do you too desire to leave Me?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’” (John 6: 66, 67,68, Amplified Bible). And then Jim asked me this question, ‘Do we just throw up our hands in frustration every time God doesn’t intervene in our lives just the way we think He should?” This question is critical for each of us to ask when our expectations are not met by Jesus in just the way we want. As dear Mary Brainerd penned, “I would rather work with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” Something to hold onto, to be sure!
May we never forget, for two days, I am certain that Mary and Martha expected Jesus to arrive on their doorstep. It was at the end of the second day when they most likely looked at each other and asked, “What’s taking Him so long?” And right now, if you are crying out to Jesus, “What’s the problem? Why the delay?” Don’t forget that as Corrie ten Boom reminds us, “No matter how deep our darkness, He (Jesus) is deeper still.” We can’t get to the bottom of any problem without finding that Jesus has beaten us there and His plan for bringing us into the light of His love will be better than anything we could have dreamed up in our wildest imaginations.
Author Angela Ashwin, who has written many prayers, penned these words based on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in the church at Colosse: “For as far as this world is concerned you have died and your new real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3: 3, Amplified Bible).
“Now my life is hidden with Christ in God;
I am Your, Lord,
for better, for worse,
in times when I feel well and alive,
and in the bleak landscape of my darkness;
in it all
I am Yours.”
During those times of darkness, when we can’t see how God is accomplishing His purpose, may we never forget that just as He loved the family in Bethany, He loves us as well and is busy doing more for us than we could ever hope for or expect!
“God knows and loves. We cannot understand. If we could understand, all the best beauty of our life would wither away. It is glorious in its faith and hope and adherence to what we don’t understand. May our Lord give you light on this, and love for the adventurous journey of faith and hope with Him in the dark.”
Janet Erskine Stuart
“When on life a darkness falls,
when the mist flows chilling,
paths and signposts lost in doubt,
reach us, Jesus, from Your cross,
though we feel forsaken;
keep us through the aching night
till new dawns awaken.”
Brian A. Wren
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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