Sunshine in the Valley

humor and encouragement from my heart to yours

“This little light of mine….”

on April 30, 2012

“….I’m gonna let it shine!” Anybody else love to sing this? :) I remember it as one of my very favorites in Sunday School, growing up. When I thought of letting my light shine, I always pictured handing out tracts, or going on mission trips, smiling at those around me and having such a wonderful blessed life that others just had to know the God who had made it all possible. Such a happy wonderful thought as I sang to the cheery tune.

But is this really all the Lord meant when He told us to let our lights shine brightly before men? Is this really where our testimonies are born?

Those things are certainly good, and have their place…and it’s wonderful when the Lord chooses to bless us with beautiful things and grant the desires of our hearts. Yet where does a candle’s light most brightly shine? Where is its warm glow most seen and appreciated? In the brightness of day? In the glow of sunlight ?

We all know the answer: in the darkness.

What a different picture from the one I envisioned so many years ago! The blessings promised to those who love and obey God often do not take the form we expect. The ministry He has for us is often not where we think it will be. Our soul’s inward “cup” may be overflowing, but outward trials are often heavy and unrelenting. In some ways, this has at times been “the story of my life”. As I grew into adulthood, I had so many dreams of how the Lord would use me. (still do…nothing wrong with that!) I imagined lots of ministry work….marrying a wonderful man….raising godly children….serving in a variety of capacities both in my church and community. All of these are God-honoring dreams, and wonderful for those who find them. Yet how differently my life has turned out! There have been far more valleys than I ever imagined, and even now I fight a long-term illness that in many ways robs me of the reality of those dreams coming true…at least for now. At a time in my life when I long most for activity and ministry, I am often stuck in bed, unable to function much beyond the basics, and certainly not in a position to minister in all the grand ways I had planned. There are days when I feel totally worthless and useless to the kingdom of God and to those I love, as I often am the one needing to be served, rather than the one doing the serving.

But as I read my Bible, I find that the Lord often leads His disciples on paths contrary to what they expected. I don’t imagine the Apostle Paul envisioned himself shipwrecked or in chains in a Roman jail (especially at a time when so many churches needed him!). Yet as a result of these many trials he ended up witnessing to the highest authorities in the Roman empire and writing much of the New Testament! What an incredible purpose God had in his suffering. I could list example after example of people both in the Bible and throughout history whose greatest ministry came about through the things they suffered.

Maybe you are like me. Life hasn’t gone the way you planned, and you are facing looming trials. Maybe you’ve lost your health. Your job. A precious loved one. When we are hurting, it can be so difficult to make sense of the pain. Oft times it seems so pointless, so meaningless….from our point of view. “Lord, don’t You realize how much more I could do for You if it weren’t for ___ ?” Well-meaning fellow believers tell us that if we “just had more faith” or “were in God’s will” we would not be suffering such things.

But this is where the wisdom of God is so much higher than our own meager understanding… His ways so far above ours. In that infinite wisdom, He knows that it is in the fire, in those unspeakably difficult times, that HIS glory can shine brightest through us. Not so much on the mountaintops (though those times certainly can and do glorify Him as well), but most particularly on those days when we are so conscious of our own weakness that only HIS strength carries us through, when His grace is the only thing getting us from one hour to the next. Some of the sweetest, most precious Christians I have ever known are those who have traveled this dark path….and found His grace to be sufficient, His joy there for the taking no matter the storms of life that raged. These are the people who change the lives of those around them, not because they are “super Christians”, but because they recognize that the power to do this is not in them alone–but through Christ. Testimonies of grace in the midst of suffering make a tremendous impact for His kingdom, and though they be forged in fire, how worthy they are of the cost! Lord help me to be this Christian!

I want to close with an excerpt from “Streams in the Desert” which a dear friend sent to me. If you are hurting tonight, or struggling to see how you could be used of God in the midst of a deep trial, I hope these words will encourage your heart as much as they did mine, and remind you that often God is working most when it seems like He isn’t at all.

“Shining is always costly.  Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it.  An unlit candle does no shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves.  Burning suggests suffering.  We shrink from pain. We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong, and able for active duty, and when the heart and hands are full of kindly service.  When we are called aside and can only suffer; when we are sick; when we are consumed with pain; when all our activities have been dropped, we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything. 

But if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most of our work.  We are burning now, and shining because we are burning.”

 

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2 responses to ““This little light of mine….”

  1. D. Richardson says:

    Lydia, I thank God for the ministry He’s given you through your writing and your Facebook posts. Through all the struggles and disappointments you’ve written about, God’s light continues to shine brightly in you. I have struggles of my own, and my response to them has usually been to defiantly prepare for battle. My emotional “calluses” make me pretty durable, but they can sometimes do more harm than good. When I read your posts, I’m reminded that I don’t have to rely on my own strength to fight my battles. Reading your words has sent me to my knees more than once, and caused me to “take my burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” God bless you … I’m proud to be your brother in Christ!

    • heartponderings says:

      Bro. Richardson, your words touched me more than I could possibly say….thank you so much for sharing your heart! It is humbling (and wonderful!) to know that the Lord could use my words and experiences to bless you. I am so thankful for the way He uses hard times not just in our own lives, but in those around us as well. You are such an encouragement to me, and I truly appreciate your kind comment. I miss you guys!!!

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