It is Well With My Soul, A Hymn to Live By

It is Well With My Soul

Do you know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart … ”? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, right?

We often sing because we’re happy. Psalm 100:1 tells us, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Singing is one of the primary ways we worship God. When we’re happy we just feel like singing!

But have you ever not felt like singing? When we’re sad, hurt or angry, it can be really hard to “make a joyful noise”. There’s a story in the Bible about Paul and his friend Silas in prison. That’s obviously not a very happy place, and I doubt they felt like singing. All the same, Acts 16 says they began to sing out loud in their jail cells. Guess what? God did a miracle, broke their chains, set them free and even gave them an opportunity to tell the jailer about Jesus!

Horatio Spafford was the author of a well-known hymn. His life is an example of finding hope and peace in Jesus even when everything is going wrong—he even found the courage to sing.

Mr. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the late 1800’s. He and his wife had four children. But their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. The very next year, a terrible fire in Chicago destroyed many of Mr. Spafford’s investments. Then, only two years later, the Spafford family planned a holiday to England where they hoped to hear one of Mr. Spafford’s friends preach. A business issue arose last minute, so Mr. Spafford sent his wife and three daughters ahead, planning to join them later.

On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel. Two-hundred and twenty-six people died, including all three of the Spafford’s daughters. Only Horatio’s wife, Anna, was saved. As soon as she could, she sent a message to her husband that simply said, “Saved alone.”

Horatio Spafford left for England to join his wife. As his own ship passed over the area where his daughters had lost their lives, his heart must have ached. I wonder if he thought of Paul and Silas in prison. I wonder if he struggled to find words to pray. With great sadness, he pulled out a pen and wrote the words to a hymn we still sing today, “It is Well With My Soul”.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to believe that God is good. Sometimes we simply don’t feel like praising God. How do you think Horatio Spafford or Paul and Silas found the courage to sing praises even when they were suffering?

Psalm 117:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (emphasis added)

These men could sing because they understood that even when we hurt and things don’t make sense, God is trustworthy and He will always love us. Because of that, He is worthy of praise.

The next time you’re sad, and singing is the last thing you want to do, try singing Mr. Spafford’s hymn. It will remind you that no matter what, when you trust in Jesus, it is well with your soul.

Check out this article by my friend, Billie Jo, about praying for others in the midst of pain and when it feels like God isn’t listening.

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Got Troubles? Here’s What To Do…

Please enjoy this guest post by Esse Johnson:

Alesia Brown recently interviewed me on Touch A Heart Talk Show about my blog post, Breakthrough Now: From Stress to Rest. In the post I exhort that Jesus does not want you to bounce from joy to fear, paycheck to paycheck, and breakthrough to breakthrough, but from glory to glory, peace to peace, and faith to faith. That is, the breakthrough you need is not foremostly in the natural, but in you.
Fill in the blank. The Bible says, “Be anxious for _____________.”

Real People, Real Problems
A man called in to ask the question on everybody’s mind, essentially saying: yeah, but what do you say to the people struggling to pay bills every month? Maybe it seemed like I was out of touch, preaching from an ivory tower with no personal understanding of the struggles of life. I didn’t emphasize enough of my past and how I lived by miraculous provision for years. In any case, he was very kind and not just spewing out doubt. He genuinely needed an answer from the perspective of nitty gritty reality.

This is why Jesus was born in a dirty shed, made to rest in a cow-feeder (manger) and raised among common people, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15 NIV). These truths don’t change just because we face challenges in the natural. It’s precisely then that we get to show up as real believers!

The caller mentioned the failing economy and the housing market. I imagined a single mother working full time and barely making ends meet. He asked me for the top two or three things I would say to people like the single mother in my mind. How can I expect them to find peace?

Lord, I thought, give me not just a word that is true, but the “now” word of Truth that will birth faith in every listener (Rom 10:17).
Before I could think, the words just flew out my mouth like a bird from a cage: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

The Gentiles Worry
The normal Christian life is filled with the fruits of the Spirit, which don’t include fear, worry, anxiety, or freaking out. They are love, joy, and peace. If you walk in fear, you’re acting like an unbeliever. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or drink or wear. Seek peace and pursue it. Be diligent to enter His rest. You know these verses. The scriptures are so clear; yet, we allow ordinary challenges and circumstances to rock us way off the Rock.

“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things (Mt 6:31-33 GNT).

That’s the word. Either you believe it and act like it, or you don’t, and you act like a Gentile. Faith is a gift, but believing is a choice.

Forgive me for sounding harsh. It’s not against you, but against the oppressor, and for you.

What does the King “require of you”?

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (Jn 6:29 NLT).

Hallelujah! The word for “believe” (pisteuó) means “entrust.” To believe is not an intellectual exercise. It means to entrust yourself to Jesus. Entrust your life, finances, children, fitness, health, everything to Him. That’s acting like a believer. Every challenge is allowed in order that you might draw nearer to Jesus.

Your faithfulness to Jesus (through trust) draws heaven; but anxiety and fear attract darkness. Those emotions put you in agreement with the powers of darkness. If the Kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force, a Christian responds to a trial with violent diligence to cast her anxieties on the Lord, seek peace and pursue it, refuse to doubt God, go deeper in intimacy and worship. The other stuff is of the flesh, and (fill in the blank) the flesh profits _______________.

My Testing

Ever since I released that word, I have been tested it seems on every front. It’s not the first time. I’ve lived “lean” by supernatural provision alone. I’ve lived rich and poor. I’ve believed for healing. I’ve learned to act like a Christian. I’m so thankful the Lord is testing me so I can be reminded how the Spirit is faithful to rise up and multiply grace and peace to me when things in the natural seem to be falling apart. That caller maybe thought I was speaking from an ivory tower, but I was in the thick of it myself. Nevertheless, in eternity, God will remember that I chose not to doubt Him, but to remain in His rest and bring glory to His name. This is the secret behind miracles. It’s relying on Him alone.
Beloved, God is not challenged by your natural circumstances. He’s working day and night to teach you to set your mind on things above, and not things of the earth (Col 3:2).

The scripture says to be anxious for NOTHING. That eliminates the option to worry about bills, kids, even matters of life and death. I didn’t write it. He did.

I love how The Message translates this scripture (Phil 4:16):
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life (MSG).

And:
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (Ps 37:8 ESV).
You are more than a conqueror. You are a supernatural being. Want to see miracles? When trials come, don’t spin your wheels. See the plan and intent of God by drawing near to Him. God, I thank You for giving my friend Your spirit of wisdom and understanding, even as Moses, to know the ways of God. Let nothing shake you from the assurance of faith.

If ever there was a rebellion, it is choosing fear and worry over the Holy Spirit who produces peace in you. I say this with tenderness of heart, knowing full well that I speak it to myself whenever trials come: ACT LIKE A BELIEVER!

Then, you’ll see the victory of a believer.

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by my Spirit-filled friend. Esse has blessed my life in so many ways and I know God intends to use her to bless millions. Please, please follow the links here to purchase the book, 50 Shades of Grace, and visit her blog.

Merry Christmas!

For a truly life-transforming revelation of God’s amazing grace, read 50 Shades of Grace: Free At Last, by Dr. Eddie Summers. You will never be the same. Purchase it here or instantly download a free excerpt.

Esse Johnson is a blogger, ghostwriter and burgeoning publisher through S.E. Works 111 ® . Read more from Esse at KissOfChrist.com and facebook.com/KissOfChrist.

In the Wake of the Valley

I actually wrote this some time ago, but find myself wading through these emotions…again…in the face of another challenge of change. It’s curious that change, instability and loss–no matter what the cause–evoke such similar emotions. Be it a death, a move, a deployment, an addiction, a fear, unmeasured loss, an illness, we humans are so predictable–our God is not.

But then, perhaps He is. God tells us over and over that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. A little known verse, in a little known book, Hosea 6:3 speaks of God’s constancy. Find hope:

“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.”

I’m staring down the muzzle of a move—another move. I’m married to a career military officer and this pluck-up-and-go routine is becoming familiar, though never easier.

Swamped and drowning under a load of pending stress, I fled to the only place I know for comfort—my back porch, Bible straddling my knees and my journal opened, pen poised. I flipped to Psalm 16, my go-to passage for transient times. I needed to hear God remind me that my only good is found in Him, that I have chosen Him as my portion and cup and that the shape of my life is pleasant. My inheritance is beautiful.

Those words help to put in perspective the loss of one home, the seeding of another. They warm me from the inside, calling to mind the fresh beauties that God has unearthed in each place we’ve lived.

In North Carolina, He introduced me to the first best friend I’ve ever had. Then, He seasoned my life with a few more, a vibrant church body, a fun job, three years of firsts. When He led us to Georgia, He pressed my soul more deeply into Him than I had experienced before. I felt pressed down under a weight of loneliness, the seed of my life sinking heavily into fertile soil.

Next, He led us to Washington. Exquisite! In the northwest, God brought me my second best-friend of all time. He colored the horizon deep blue every morning and punctuated it with Mount Rainier, glowing effervescent pink. He fed me with Honeycrisp apples, fresh, flaky salmon and blood-red wine. He tightened the bonds of my marriage and snipped the frayed ends in that relationship. He taught me to write there. In Washington, I worked at a busy Starbucks and everyday, He peppered my hours with smiles, momentary confidences and encouraging winks.

After that, God led us to Virginia, barely outside the bustle of the beltway. Full circle, He walked my best friends across my path again. He opened the first window to give me a peek at what He intends as the hallmark of my life—He blessed my pen and my page. He swept me quickly through a church body where He cultivated leadership skills and deep humility through failure.

And then He brought us here. I’m in Georgia again, and again staring down the muzzle of of a move. I understand the boundaries; I see the pleasant places where God has led me. I am overjoyed to know that God is all my good, He is my refuge and preservation. But my heart still aches. Goodbyes still hurt. The stab of loneliness that lingers for a while in each new location can for a moment feel like shadow of death.

Psalm 23 also talks about the places God leads us. David opens with peace, following his Lord beside quiet water, green pastures and in paths of righteousness. Suddenly, there’s a sharp turn. Though David still follows the Good Shepherd, he finds himself in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I wonder if that was a valley filled with loneliness as he dodged the pursuit of King Saul who was bent on David’s demise. I wonder if it was a valley filled with fatigue, tired of defending himself, tired of living on the run. Whatever it was, it broke his heart.

As we keep reading, David staggers out of the valley. While there, he found protection in God’s rod and staff—used to continually guide and direct even in the darkest of places. In that terrible place, David remained confident of God’s election, expressed as God anointed his head with oil. And on the other side? As David walked out of the shadows, the cast of his own shadow breaking with the foreboding one behind him, goodness and mercy flowed after him.

I folded my journal, the page still blank and stared at the pretty little, yellow-topped weeds in my backyard. I have walked through shadowy valleys before. Reflecting on each, I can see the wake of goodness and mercy widening behind me.

When Life Feels Like a Gamble

dices-1385675-mPsalm 16:5-6 “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

“I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.” Albert Einstein

Though believers in Christ know the truth that God is in control; we cannot help but often feel as if our lives are as unpredictable as a game of dice. I am married to a military officer. Our life could hardly get less predictable. The location of assignments, the length of deployments—sometimes the Army plays its cards close to the vest. Or, take my dear friend’s life. Everyday is a waiting game, a baited breath, a prayer that her husband keeps his job in the midst of ruthless layoffs. Then there is the little boy I met at the hospital yesterday. I could see in his mother’s eyes that the slow and painful chemo feels like a die, violently tossed and refusing to settle. What will the outcome be?

Psalm 16:5-6 brings an extra measure of comfort to those days when I’m so confused, tired or bewildered that I don’t know what to pray. God knows that our lives often feel like a gamble. But He promises in His Word that He holds our lot. The lines (otherwise translated as “lot” from the Hebrew) fall in pleasant places for those who love God and are called to His purpose. We can trust and be thankful because God has qualified us to share in a beautiful, heavenly inheritance with the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).

This article was first posted on FaithWriters as a devotional

Loved, Wrested, Lost…By the Giver

I’ve watched a lot of heartbreak in the last few weeks. It makes me feel almost guilty to say that, because it hasn’t been my loss. No, I’ve felt pain as a ricochet, a blow bounced back, only slightly less forceful. I have watched loss strike violently at the hearts of my friends and I wonder if my comfort is sufficient or cheap.

Two have lost babies before birth. One knows her husband likely won’t be there to kiss her on January 1, 2015. Another lost her best buddy, a pup she’d loved from before she found her own husband. One buried a treasured aunt.

What do you say to loss when you cannot literally sidle up alongside and bear the brunt of it with the loved one pained?

You pray.

Unfortunately, even in Christian society, maybe especially in Christian society, that assurance has lost its power. It comes across as weak, timid, cursory and half-hearted. It’s the same feeling of resignation that births the statement, “I’ve done all I can. All that’s left is to pray.”

But this post isn’t intended to resurrect your passion for prayer, your conviction that it is the single most important, effective thing you can do for loved ones in pain, in the throes or on the precipice of loss. (Though it is.) If a renewed respect for prayer is a side effect of my words, may God receive glory.

No, this post is my own reflection on loss. It’s what I hope I recall the next time a beloved is wrenched from my hands.

Job 1:21 says, “…“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I wonder about God taking away. In truth, there’s a vast difference between something being lost or stolen, and something being gently tugged from clutching fingers by a loving Father.

When I was little, I recall my sister getting into the medicine cabinet. After watching Mom dole out vitamin C tablets to her older siblings, she wondered about the orange-colored “candy”. Why couldn’t she have some?

So, this little one climbed up on the counter, popped the child-proof cap and downed the rest of the bottle. When Mom found her, she was mauling the final “candies”. Hastily, Mom snatched the poison from little fingers. My sister cried.

The pain a child feels when a parent takes something away (even a bottle of vitamins–innately good but harmful for a child at that age) is when tiny fists grip it tightly and sting when the object is finally wrested away.

Though my experience of these recent pains is only an echo, I marvel at the strength bearing up my friends. I pause and take notice of their valor and humble submission to the God of “every good and perfect gift”.

It is vastly different to lose something, have it stolen or to understand, even welcome, the loving hands of a Father who takes it away.

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.

When Faith Isn’t Enough

flag-813543-mAt 18-years-old, I stepped onto the sandy, Arizona soil in the driveway of an inpatient treatment center for the second time. Even after numerous counselors and previous inpatient treatment for anorexia, I still struggled with an addiction to exercise and food restriction. “Shipped off” to get well, I felt completely alone, unloved and abandoned by God and my family. My life didn’t appear to be “working out for good”. Circumstances seemed to belie the promises of a good God.

Many years later, my husband walked the sandy soil of Afghanistan, leading a company of infantry soldiers. Back home, I received one of the calls that every family member of a solider dreads. “We lost some.”

Patrick was the commander of Bravo Company 4/23. They had only been in theater a little over two months, when one of their strykers hit an IED (improvised explosive device) killing three men and maiming another. Hell broke loose on earth.

I watched my husband grapple with the agony and guilt of knowing he had been responsible for the men’s lives as their leader in combat. I felt like a mindless mist, moving through the motions of coordinating phone calls to the families, assisting to arrange the memorials and comforting the widows. Nothing looked like what I would expect from a good God. A few people voiced this.

“How can a good God let this happen? If God is in charge and powerful and loves us, why would He let these children lose their fathers?”

I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. I don’t know how all this “works together for good”. I don’t know how this matches up with God’s Word, “I am the God who heals you.” I don’t know how lingering illness and addiction connects with, “It is for freedom that Christ set you free,” and “I have given you the power to tread upon snakes and scorpions and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

God, how does this work?

If anyone ever had a right to pray that prayer, it was the apostle Paul. He spent almost six years of his ministry in a jail cell, he was whipped, shamed, ship wrecked and abandoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Finally, near the end of his life, he sat again on the cold damp concrete of a cell and wrote to the man dearest to his heart—Timothy. How desperately he wanted Timothy to be able to hang on to what Paul had taught him. He agonized over how to impress upon this young pastor:

Do not give up! Do not be dismayed by what appears to be. It may look like God has lost control, that perhaps He isn’t all that good—but Timothy—don’t give up. I haven’t. (paraphrase)

This kind of tenacious faith is exemplified in an Old Testament story:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stared into the fire as flames leaped higher and higher.

“You have one more chance,” the Babylonian King told them. “You must bow down and worship my statue, or I will have you thrown into the fire.”

I wonder what raced through their minds. They had been faithful to God; they had not worshipped the idol. Surely God would rescue them! Surely, God wouldn’t allow them to be killed!

Their words in Daniel 3:16-18, teach us something amazing about faith, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’”

The three men believed that God could save them! But even if He didn’t…

How do we have faith when the things we believe for aren’t happening? How do we have faith that God is good when bad things happen?

Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith Chapter. It lists many heroes of the faith, men and women who believed God against all odds, who had faith in God even when it looked like God wasn’t faithful.

Verse 39 says this, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”

Have you ever felt like that—like God hasn’t fulfilled His promises?
Have you had faith that God would do something, and then He didn’t?
Maybe you prayed that a loved one would survive cancer, but they didn’t.
Maybe you were sure it was God’s will that you find a job, or keep your job—but you didn’t.
Maybe you don’t understand what’s going on, or why God allows some things to happen.

When I feel this way, I am comforted by 2 Timothy 1:12, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (emphasis added)

One weekend, my husband and I were driving through downtown Washington D.C. We were supposed to meet some friends for a baseball game, but as we wound through construction and down one-way streets, we got hopelessly lost—at least I did. I had no idea where we were going and I could see the lights of the stadium behind us. But I know my husband. He’s an incredible navigator. I knew he would get us there safely even if it looked for all the world like he was going the wrong direction. And sure enough, he got us to the baseball game on time!

You see, the secret is not what we believe. The power of our faith is not that we simply have faith, or even that we have hope. There will always be things we don’t understand and things that don’t seem to match up with what we believe about God. We may not understand what God is doing, but we have faith in who God is. We, like Paul, know who we believe, and that He is faithful.

Most world religions require faith. Most world religions have morality as their hallmark and eternal life as their goal. But, as Christians we do not merely have faith—faith in a reward for good behavior or faith in life after death. It is not mere faith that gets us through our troubles, sustains us in prison, or allows us to stand in the flames. The good news is not that you and I have faith, but that the One in whom we believe is faithful.

What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

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In Your Light, I’m Glowing

untitled-1430946-mMalachi 4:2 “”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

I was about twelve years old. The neighbors had asked me to feed their pets while they were on vacation. Eager for an extra few dollars to call my own, I agreed and stubbornly refused the help of my sisters or parents. The neighbors’ house was only one door down from ours; we lived in the country without the felt threats of boogymen or busy streets. They had a young German shepherd, a gerbil and two fish—pretty easy.

One night, I put off making my evening visit to let the dog out and turn on the porch light until the sun had set. Undaunted, I pulled on boots under my nightgown and traipsed across the lawn. I finished the chores quickly, turned the key to the right and headed home. Goodness, it was dark.

We lived several miles outside a small, Oklahoma town. There were no street lights to cast guiding halos, only a stray firefly. For some reason, it hadn’t seemed this dark only 20 minutes earlier. Taking a deep breath, I struck out.

It wasn’t the dark itself that scared me. My nemesis was a 12-inch high, brick planter that ringed the solo tree in our backyard. My shins tingled. Just recently we’d studied the eye in science class. I knew the planter was real, but without the sunlight to bounce its revealing rays off the surface of those fierce bricks, it might as well have been imaginary to me—unless I struck it with my shin.

I held my hand up in front of my face. With pupils gaping, just enough moonlight filtered through to reflect the shape of my fingers. But that cursed planter loomed invisible, transparent in the night. Waiting.

I considered turning around to borrow the neighbors’ flashlight. No, if I simply hurried, pressed on quickly toward my goal, I’d soon find myself safe in the welcoming glow of our kitchen.

Crack! Pain sliced through my shin. In my haste, I hit the planter with force. Tears sprang to my eyes and a whimper escaped my lips.

It may seem a stretch, but my long years in recovery from anorexia remind me of that night. Mired in addiction to food restriction and compulsive exercise, I felt only half-human. Conversations were a loss on me, as I stood face-to-face with a friend and their words seemed to slip right through me—transparent. I couldn’t see my physical self with objectivity. No light filtered through my mind to illumine the damage I was doing to my body. So I pressed on.

Fear gripped me. Counselors, friends and family who stood but a short distance away, safe in the light of truth, saw me clearly. They urged me to seek the light. They struggled to explain the dangers ahead. But I only hurried faster. In my blindness, something told me that if I just worked out harder, ate less, stayed in control, sooner or later I would come out on the other side. Sooner or later, everyone would realize that I had been right all along—I was stronger, wiser, in control, enviable.

But I was scared too. I couldn’t see myself. I couldn’t rightly govern myself. I couldn’t change my behavior and doing things my way wasn’t working. In a downward spiral, I became more and more miserable. All I could see was this tiny section of my life—food, thinness, exercise. The rest of me disappeared—no light. I failed to see the full spectrum of my life; confined only to this addiction.

I was about 30 years old. After nearly fifteen years of blindness, light spilled through my atrophied retinas. Turning my face to the light of Jesus Christ, glory erupted on my vision. Now in health, the full spectrum of light reflects off of my body, soul and spirit. In Him, I see who I am and have been able to address the true physical needs of my body, feed the actual hunger of my heart and the experience the richness of real relationships.

You see, for so long I searched for the end point. I longed for relief from my eating disorder, but couldn’t see the direction, could not navigate the perils before me, could not understand the truth of my body’s needs. But when I began to seek not the destination, but the light of Jesus Christ, everything became clear.

All of the things I feared between me and the life of freedom and purpose I longed for, were suddenly easily seen. The truth about my own beauty became evident; the reason for my unique and precious life was no longer a distant hope but a biblical promise.

I mourn the lost years sometimes. “Real-me” needn’t have been shrouded and transparent for so long. The Bible, my companion from youth, tells over and over that Jesus is the light that makes our lives, my own life, real, visible and tangible. It cannot be seen, embraced or experienced fully without the light of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:14 “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Psalm 36:9 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”