An oil painting hangs in my living room, in a heavy gold frame. The foreground is dark forest, with tall trees obscuring the sky, but there is a path winding away into distant light that streams through the branches. An older friend who was a painter showed up in my kitchen with it, years ago, and gave it to me, said she called it Walk Toward The Light. The painting has hung on my wall ever since, a visual representation of Hope. It is one of my favorite possessions.
I can see how that particular theme of perseverance and following the light has threaded its way through the years, become part of me and shaped my perspectives. At the time, my friend was struggling with a difficult marriage to an unbelieving husband… I was struggling with the pressures of ministry and preschoolers, fighting depression…together we leaned on Jesus and encouraged one another to keep on going. And that one thought took up residence through the years, an anchor for the heart: Don’t focus on the dark trees of despair, but on the light of His love….You don’t need to understand these circumstances, just walk in the light of His guidance, one step at a time…. In the midst of pain hold onto the strength of the One who is Mighty to save….Wait for the Lord, wait for Him to act, and put your hope in Him, because He is faithful….When other voices confuse and batter at your heart, look for God’s Truth shining clear. Keep walking toward the Light.
We talked about persevering last night in small group, about the constant need to trust and keep walking– every time we meet pain or difficulty or disappointment it is a crossroads of decision, an opportunity to choose faith, to choose hope, to choose obedience. To keep walking into the Light of God, out of the-darkness-all-around and into new life, into a deeper relationship with Him. Every situation is a question: Can you trust Me with this? Do you believe that I AM WHO I AM and that I am the same yesterday and today and forever? Do you truly believe that I am Goodness itself and have your best interests in mind? Because you can’t keep walking in this life if you can’t plant your feet on something that solid– and until you take the first baby steps you can’t learn to run strong and proclaim to the watching world that your faith is real and there is a God who deserves all the glory. So start with the step in front of you and then keep on going.
One of my favorite old hymns is Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus (Helen Lemmel)– in a way it is the musical version of my painting: “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.” That’s what enables us to find the lighted path through the forest: We focus on Jesus who persevered through this world and finished well, who promises to never leave us or forsake us, and tells us to lean on Him for strength. This is the one important lesson to learn if we are going to keep our faith strong through the upheavals and stresses of living.
It is no accident that the New Testament writers made perseverance a recurring theme, encouraged their readers to keep walking into the Light of Christ. They knew exactly how hard this world gets and how our minds and hearts can get turned around and overwhelmed in the dark, how easy it is to lose sight of Hope. And I read their letters and think again of the old refrain…“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Keep walking toward His light, dear sisters, for in His presence there is joy, and hope that will not disappoint.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
“Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength
For even as I laid it on, I said,
‘I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.’ Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come;
Thou art not near enough. I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it. Doubt not then;
But loving Me, lean hard.”
(Streams In the Desert, September 12th devotion)