On Tuesday April 15, skywatchers in Atlanta will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. While poetry, songs, and love stories romantically depict the moon as ‘shining’ in the night sky, the reality is that it has no light of its own and merely reflects the abundant light of the sun back to a dark world. But on this particular evening, the shadow of the earth will obscure the sun’s radiance from moon’s surface for a few hours. As I’ve been making plans for the kids to be available so they can observe this rare event, it occurred to me that “eclipses” happen in the lives of believers far more often than they do in the heavens.
Jesus said, I am the light of the world. (John 8:12) When we put our faith in Him, our hearts are transformed and our lives become capable of reflecting His glory to others. Unfortunately, most of us allow things to cast shadows across our lives that dim the ability of others to see Christ’s reflection.
Sin and compromise are obvious and common light-blockers, but more subtle attitudes also have the potential to create dark shadows that obscure the glory of the Lord.
First John 2:15 warns us not to “love the world or the things of the world” and Romans 12:1 says “don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed.” Despite these warnings, we often feel it’s important to blend in, and as we do, opportunities to speak the truth pass by without a word. We justify our silence by not wanting to rock the boat or open ourselves to criticism. Without even realizing it, our light is slowly dimmed as we are squeezed into the world’s mold.
Most of us have marked out a few short term and long term goals. We have a fairly good idea where we’d like to be next year, and maybe even what we’d like life to look like in five or ten years. Wise planning for the future is commended in scripture, but we must be careful to factor God into the mix and allow Him to guide our steps. As we chart our course ahead, we need to consciously give God “permission” to interrupt, change or completely scrap our plans as He so desires. If we become people who are more invested in this world, then we’ll interpret His alterations in our course as obstacles that stand in our way, rather than loving guidance to get us where we need to go.
A pastor I highly respect always says “God isn’t interested in our ease, comfort and pleasure.” I know that he’s right, but I’ll admit … I like comfort! I’m the first one to admit that when something bad happens, I say “Lord! Please fix this and get things back to normal!” But there’s a difference between our natural desire to avoid pain and blaming God for the bad things that come our way. A life of faith that is attractive to others requires us to look at our situation differently and to resist the temptation to put the blame in the wrong place. We have plenty of evidence in the Bible, in our lives, and in the testimony of other saints that overwhelmingly proves God is trustworthy and good. In this light, we can be confidant that His love and grace are unchanged toward us, even when circumstances defy explanation.
Have you ever prayed really hard for something that didn’t happen? Perhaps you’ve set your heart on a goal that crumbled. In the reaction to loss or dashed hopes looms the specter of disappointment. Even believing in faith that God has a better plan doesn’t prevent these strong feelings. Our knee-jerk reaction to such events is to pull back from the Lord, fearing that He won’t come through for us when we really need Him the most. In times of great discouragement, it’s crucial that we cling to the truth about God’s character that’s revealed in His written Word. Romans 8:28 is an encouraging promise. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If we look a little deeper into those words, I think we might hear His gentle, reassuring voice say, “Hey I know this seems crazy, and you don’t understand, and it doesn’t make sense from where you sit… but you can trust Me. I’m in control and believe it or not, I’m working this out for your good!”
There is a subtle and devious lie that often exists in Christian thinking that implies we can be strong enough, smart enough, powerful enough, pray enough, give enough or be accountable enough to live the Christian life successfully. “I can do it myself,” is the world’s proudest proclamation, but for believers it is a lie that undercuts the power of God moving in our lives. (James 4:6) In God’s economy, it’s not the strong or most accomplished who are powerful; it’s the weak. He intends for us to be vulnerable, broken and dependent on Him so that His character can shine most brightly. Paul reminded us that Christ’s power flows through our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) He went on to say that he’d even learned to boast in those things that made him more reliant on the Lord. So, remember that the more confident we are in our ability, the less we’ll believe that we need God… and the more His image is eclipsed within us. While we’re never responsible for making the light shine, we can daily cooperate with the Spirit’s work so that we can brightly reflect the radiance of Christ.