The Word Has It
MARBC State Representative
“Strengthen me according to Your word,”
As I write this column, the news media is focusing on the warmer than normal weather patterns of this winter season. Debates on the topic of global warming are commonplace these days. And while this has indeed been an unusual season, weather wise, one characteristic common to every Michigan winter remains – gray, cloudy skies. That is why although February is the shortest of all months; it seems to linger longer than any other.
The continuing pall of longer nights than days helps to explain why a major highlight of February focuses upon the small village of Punxatawny, Pennsylvania, and a groundhog named “Phil.” Actually, the focus isn’t as much upon Phil as it is his shadow. The legend states that if the groundhog emerges from his burrow and sees his shadow, further days of inclement weather lie ahead. The groundhog will retreat back inside to hibernate for six more weeks of winter. If it is overcast and there is no shadow cast, moderate weather is ahead. The groundhog will remain above ground because spring is near!
Groundhogs are not the only ones to experience the effects of winter time. Doctors have diagnosed a phenomenon called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). The cause of this disorder is the result of light deprivation. The traditional definition of SAD is that it occurs in the winter when days are short and clears up in the summer. One symptom is a craving for carbohydrates, which is why most New Year’s dieting resolutions fail long before Groundhogs Day! The preferred treatment is to get extra sunlight or to use a specialized “lightbox” for 30 to 60 minutes in the morning and possibly in the evening.
Someone who works indoors all day can also develop SAD. Doctors advise that individuals who feel better on weekends or during vacations may want to consider that lack of bright light at work is the cause. Sunlight on the skin causes the body to make vitamin D. Bright light also influences the production of certain hormones. Those with extreme symptoms of SAD have actually been given doctor’s orders to spend a few weeks in a sunny climate. Now that’s a prescription we would all like at this time of the year!
Sadly for some, gloomy days have nothing to do with the weather but with spiritual, emotional, or physical challenges. These difficulties, real or perceived, produce persistent and many times overwhelming shadows. It’s hard for many people in this type of situation to overcome such significant darkness. Maybe you know people who can’t point to any specific bleak circumstance, yet suffer from depression. Their perspective is like a vast inner black hole that doesn’t allow any light or hope to shine through.
We all experience shadowy days from time to time, some of us worse than others. When we do, we need to learn from the example of seasonal change. The secret is not to give up, but to WAIT. Specifically, you should “wait on the Lord [to] renew [your] strength” (Isaiah 40:31). In my own walk with God, I have found that shadowy days require me to spend extra time focusing upon God and His greatness. The Psalmist gives a strong prescription for spiritual health in Psalm 40:1-4a: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust.”
It may take a while, but the days WILL start getting longer and brighter. At this very minute, people in other parts of the world are frolicking in summer. It’s not that the sun has abandoned us; it’s where it always has been. But our world has gotten tilted just a bit so that we aren’t currently experiencing as much sunlight as we might like. As Thomas Fuller shared in his classic statement, “It is always darkest just before the day dawns.”
Similarly, in our bleak moments and bouts of depression, we need to remember that the Son hasn’t abandoned us. God hasn’t gone anywhere. In some cases, we face darkness because we have our eyes tightly shut to the presence of God all around us. When we open them, we discover that even the smallest flicker of light dispels darkness.
In times of personal difficulty or when I have sought to encourage others I have often referred to Psalm 139. This wonderful chapter focuses upon the great attributes of God and their impact in our lives. In summary this passage reminds us that God knows our location, our thoughts, our composition, our challenges, and our destiny. No wonder the Psalmist exclaims with confidence, “If I say, Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night will be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” (139:11-12)
Whatever is darkening your days, realize that the situation is only temporary. The good news is that even if the worst case scenario happens, when you are in Christ the darkness won’t be permanent. Those who walk with God are wonderfully reassured in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, 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.” The good news is that our omnipresent God casts a greater shadow than the shadows of earthly sorrows. The Psalmist concludes in Psalm 57:1, “… In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.”
The announcement of Christ’s birth includes this stated purpose for his coming – “[He] has visited us to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78c-79) Jesus would subsequently declare in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” A half-century ago, Victor Raymond Edman wisely observed, “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” So take your disappointment to God. He will begin to heal you with the hope His Word provides.
You have His Word on it! (KEF)