Our family faced a significant challenging time over the past year. Our children changed schools, my husband was made redundant and then began working away from home, all while I was in the last half of pregnancy with our fourth child. Our new baby daughter spent 6 days in Neonatal Intensive Care after birth. When we finally brought our beautiful new baby daughter home, we all slowly adjusted to a house that was full. Our blessing in disguise was that my husband then spent the next 4.5 months at home without employment and it was wonderful to have his help, especially with a new baby feeding every two hours not sleeping well, along with our other three children who still needed our care and attention as well. I was utterly exhausted and this time seemed to be stretching both my husband and my patience, finances and faith.
Sometimes a storm in your life is what will blow you to the place you are longing to be. - Beth Moore
It had been a stormy time for us and yet in it and through it I have again been aware of how we can trust our Father God to meet our needs and be our strength in times of trouble.
Together with a certainty of God's love and care being established, there have also been notable lessons I've learned and wonderful spiritual growth that has taken place in my heart.
I would like to share a personal testimony of specific events that were a significant defining experience for me. I am aware now even more than ever that I am loved by God and that I can be strong and courageous for He has always, is always and will always be by my side. The same is true for you.
Joshua 1:9 "This is my command ”be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
It was our winter school holidays and while we had been keeping ourselves playfully busy indoors on the cold and rainy days, when the sun was out we made sure we basked in it and enjoyed nature. This particular weekend we went on a trip to visit Bells Rapids in the Hills and it was very relaxing to watch the rushing water flowing rapidly over rocks and savour in the beautiful surroundings. We sat soaking up the sunlight during our picnic before heading upstream, walking carefully on a rough rocky path. My husband and I had to keep in close contact with our excited children who we guided both by hand and voice safely towards the bridge. All along the way beside us the water was rigorously rushing over rapids past us and then loudly underneath us as we crossed the bridge over to the other side. These moments in nature was a time of reflection on how God had guided and protected our family and been a place of safeguard for us.
On the way home I sent a text message out to our connect-group to organise that we attend our churches' special evening service together to have time for a catch up. It wasn't possible for the other families, so one friend and I decided to go by ourselves. I found my seat next to the friend and the worship team started singing a new song; 'Let there be light' by Bryan & Katie Torwait from Jesus Culture. Every word resounded true to my heart.
The song begins with these words:
When You speak Darkness has to bow Confusion has its final hour..
and the chorus:
Let there be light Let there be light Until it fills up every space Come and have your way Let there be light Let there be light Just one word and I am changed Come and have your way..
Thereafter our minister gave his message entitled: Illuminate, How to encounter God through His Word.
He began teaching that God speaks to us through nature and through Scripture. God wants to meet with us and the revealed Word of God becomes illuminated by the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our life.
Psalms 119:105 NLT "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
Our Minister went on to say that God's heart is always for us and that in life there are many voices leading us and influences which direct us on other ways, but we should trust God's Voice and Way in everything and make our decisions accordingly.
Psalm 43:3 NLT "Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live."
We question how to know who to trust in a complex world with opinions and perspective on both sides, with both good and bad happening at the same time? The answer is that God is light in the darkness, His light dispels darkness, penetrates it and makes darkness retreat and so light becomes more powerful.
God's light reveals and exposes reality to us. God's light gives guidance.
We need both God's truth (revelation) and God's light (illumination) to guide and direct our way. Revelation is found in God's Word. Illumination is found through God's Spirit. - Hayd'n Nelson
To make clear his point, our minister then continued with the following example to illustrate the relationship between revelation and illumination. One of the worship leaders was standing blindfolded in front of a portrait on an easel covered by a veil. He asked her whether she could see anything to which she replied negatively. He continued that Jesus unveiled Himself in scripture, taking off the covering. Seeing the picture is the truth or revelation. The minister then unveiled the picture, explaining that God has already revealed, yet the picture does not penetrate us when we are still blindfolded. Then he said: "We need illumination to experience the truth. Truth is opened up to us and we need God's Spirit to bring realisation of the truth to our hearts. Truth drops into our hearts when God brings His Spirit. We should respond by appreciating and spending time absorbing scripture and getting involved with what God is doing.
Read the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word."
2 Peter 1:19 "Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place--until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts."
Jer 29:13 NLT "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Psalm 119:18 "Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions."
We need to anticipate the Spirit as the Helper beside us to help us see reality. The Word of God is in front of us, we need God's Spirit to illuminate it so we can truly see. It is important that we both appreciate revelation and anticipate His illumination, as the Scripture and Spirit work together.
Ephesians 1:16-18 "do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
Lastly the minister told the story of his friend who during a trying time found Psalm 23 to be of great comfort to him. During his meditation on this scripture the man noticed that in verses 1-3 David speaks of God in the third person; He (distance), but from verse 4 he speaks of God in first person; You (closeness). He realised that God is nearest when it is darkest. God comes to walk beside us in our trouble.
2 Cor 4:6 "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
In Conclusion he said: "Scripture and Spirit points us to the Son. There is more than revelation, there is illumination. Not just exposure, but experience. Life transformation, when light comes to darkness."
I found this message timely and profound in the way it explained and illustrated the illuminative light of truth Jesus brings to us.
During this time, as our family journeyed through the storm, I've found at times that our storm seemed to be raging so violently that I was afraid it would consume and destroy, but I held on to Jesus our Hope, an Anchor for our souls.
After the weekend walk next to those rapids and the sermon by our pastor, I felt encouraged that Jesus was with us in our storm and that he was bringing calm, peace for our souls and light to our darkness.
Then I read these words from a daily devotional email I receive;
Daily Hope with Rick Warren:
You only learn what Jesus is really like in the storms of life. You see that He's not a mere man. He is God. The Creator of the universe. You don't need great faith to make it through the storm in your life. You just need faith in the right person. You don't need a plan, you need I am.
This immediately reminded me of the story of the disciples finding themselves in a storm which overwhelmed them and they were afraid in Matthew 8:23-27.
Often when we find ourselves overwhelmed, we become afraid too. Jesus today still asks that same question He asked His disciples; Why are you afraid?
When our boat finds itself in stormy waters, we don't have to be afraid that it will be swallowed up by those terrifying waves and consumed by the threatening darkness, no, we have Jesus in the boat with us!
We have Jesus, an Anchor holding us secure, a Light that dispels all of darkness! Jesus brings peace and calm to all of or hearts. Don't be afraid. You have Jesus.
This same Monday afternoon, my brother who lives in Janjina, Croatia sent me this photo that he took during his walk. As you can see the boat, which has MY NAME written on it, is on calm waters. In the caption my brother stated that my boat was rest assured in calm waters. In that moment I was in absolute awe of how amazingly and personally my Father God was reassuring me and giving me His peace. The storm has calmed, because I have Jesus with me.
I searched for and played that song; Let there be Light again and sang along, wholeheartedly asking for light to come and fill every space in my heart, life and in our home and our family.
After that very moment our doorbell rang and a young man from a foundation specialising in cataract operations for the needy came to share the wonderful work that they do in giving people their sight back. I acknowledged how great it was and kindly told him that our family already support other charities, but he insisted on returning when my husband was home later. When he returned I introduced them and as they continued to talk, I couldn't help but be reminded of the sermon on God's Word being illuminated for us and the stories in the Bible of Jesus giving man sight. I then sensed the prompting of God's Spirit to ask this young man if He believed and knew Jesus. I was scared to and didn't want to embarrass or make him feel uncomfortable. My heart was burning within me and even though I was arguing with God about how I couldn't possible speak to Him, I got together the courage to do so.
I felt I wanted to show him those stories in the Bible of blind receiving their sight with him, but at the time was so nervous and inwardly called out to God to help me out. God reminded me of a Bible that was given to me at church to pass on and I did just that.
After the man left, our family prayed for him. At that instance God reminded me of my own childhood Bible that I noticed in the bookshelf and I went to fetch it. On the front page was a message handwritten down by my father in this Bible that my parents gifted me when I turned 5 years old and gave my heart to Jesus.
During the time that I was afraid and struggling in that storm of ours, a friend encouraged me with a specific verse that I wrote down and read days on end. Here on the frontage of my little Bible, was the same scripture!
Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
What a good good Father we serve that brings His children encouraging words when we need it. Yes, to me this was a significant moment and I wanted to journal it to remember when I ever doubt or am afraid. I also believe it important to share these moments that are part of what defines our faith.
I hope that these moments of mine also encourage you in your journey with God.
I know God loves you and I, He always has. Trust Him through the storm.
Listen to 'Let there be light' by Bryan & Katie Torwait from Jesus Culture at: https://youtu.be/EyMAACDZuoU
The sermon entitled: Illuminate, How to encounter God through His Word. is available here: http://media.riverviewchurch.com.au/podcast/services/20160717_1900.mp4