I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
“I believe in the sun
even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love
even when I am alone.
I believe in God
even when he is silent.”
~ Found scratched on a wall in a concentration camp
The Sun is Always Shining Above the Clouds
In the 1960’s a missionary couple, John and Helen Dekker, ministered to the Dani tribespeople in a remote area of New Guinea (Torches of Joy by John Dekker with Lois Neely). Physically weak and emotionally discouraged, Helen confessed her frustrations with the conditions of their work to her husband. “It rains all the time!” she complained.
John didn’t know what she meant. “But, Helen, the sun shines every day!” After they discussed it further, they realized both were true. Every day in the jungle had some rain and some sun.
John was enthusiastic about his work and traveled often with the local men.
He saw only the sun.
Helen was sick and left at home alone with only her young sons for company.
She saw only the rain.
I identify with this story a lot. My depression and anxiety color the way I view my life and there are days when all I can see is the rain. The sun is most definitely shining on us, but some days I forget that until my husband reminds me it’s true.
When my mood is gloomy and the rain gets me down, I try to remember that the sun is always shining about the clouds even when I can’t see it. I choose to believe it’s true even when I can’t see it. Perspective makes all the difference.
Our family loves to downhill ski. One very grey and cloudy morning we drove 2 hours to the nearby ski slope. About halfway up the mountain, we broke through the low-lying cloud layer. The snow-covered mountains were blindingly sunny. I looked into the valley below where we had just been and all I could see was thick foggy clouds covering everything. The clouds and mountain tops were the only things visible for as far as I could see. I thought about how when I was below the clouds I did not suspect and could not imagine the radiant beauty of the sun reflecting off the snow even though it was right above me. “I need to remember this,” I told myself, “when I go back down into the valley of clouds. I need to remember the beauty that is always present even when I’m too low to see it.”
Releasing our cloudy thinking and gloomy moods requires deliberate and purposeful action. It doesn’t just happen. Reread Psalm 131 at the top of this post. David tells us he intentionally let go of his unanswered questions and calmed himself in God’s presence. God doesn’t capture us and hold us down and force us to be calm. We have to choose to do it in His power. Sometimes I just have to stop trying to figure everything out and choose to rest my soul on the bosom of God instead.
Help My Unbelief!
I also identify with the desperate dad who brought his troubled son to Jesus and said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22b-24)
To believe anyway in spite of a tremendous pull to do otherwise is the essence of faith. If everything made sense and always worked out just the way we think it should, there would be no need for faith.
I encourage you—don’t wait until you make sense of it all to follow God. You never will this side of Eternity, at least not all of it. Some questions just simply are not answered this side of Heaven. It comes down an issue of trust.
Will you choose to trust God even when you can’t figure Him out?
A Crisis of Faith
Jesus healed so many sick people throughout His time on earth, but when He heard that his good friend Lazarus was sick, he didn’t visit him. Neither did He heal him from a distance as he did the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13). He just let Lazarus die. Jesus intentionally waited until Lazarus had been dead for four days before He went to see Lazarus’ family.
Lazarus’ sisters were hurt and confused. Both Martha and Mary knew Jesus could have healed their brother but chose not to. They knew He loved them. It just didn’t add up. “If only you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened!” they said to Jesus. The death of their brother seemed so unnecessary. Jesus could have prevented it.
Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why would He abandon his friends in their hour of greatest need? It doesn’t make sense.
But Jesus had told his disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” (John 11:14)
Mary and Martha called on Jesus to heal their brother and He deliberately did not do it. Why? Because He wanted to do more than they asked for.
They knew he could heal. He wanted them to know He could defeat death itself.
He wanted to show them His plans were far beyond what they could even imagine. He allowed Lazarus to die so He could show them what resurrection looks like.
When Jesus arrived, the women didn’t run to Him and exclaim, “Oh good! I’m so glad you’re here. Now you can raise our brother from the dead!” That was clearly not even anything they could even imagine. They knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was still alive, but they obviously weren’t expecting Jesus to do anything wonderful now that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days.
From Mary and Martha’s viewpoint, Jesus was confusing and almost cruel to ignore His good friends’ plea for help. However, when we turn it around and view it from God’s perspective, He had reserved the most incredible healing of all for his closest friends. They got to witness first hand one of His most jaw-dropping miracles. The people Jesus healed didn’t get to see this.
Sometimes what we find the most confusing and disheartening is merely the setup for God to do His most amazing work in our midst.
Will we surrender to doubt?
Or will we choose to believe anyway, even when the evidence seems to be telling us not to?
Where Else Can I Go?
One day, Jesus fed 5,000+ people with one boy’s lunch. That night, he walked across the turbulent Sea of Galilee to comfort His disciples and calm the storm that raged around them.
The next morning, the crowd found Jesus on the other side of the lake after searching for Him and wondering where He had gone. Jesus called them out on their true motives and revealed that it was their bellies rather than their spiritual hunger that led them to search for Him. He then declared Himself to be the Bread of Life who would completely satisfy all their hunger. They didn’t get His metaphor. They grumbled and scoffed. But then it got worse. Check out this doozy Jesus dropped on them.
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Yowza. They weren’t ready for that. We can handle it because we’re reading His statement from this side of the Resurrection. We practice communion and are therefore accustomed to pairing Jesus’ body and blood with eating and drinking. But they weren’t.
The people listening to Jesus that day didn’t have such advantages to aid their understanding. And Jesus didn’t explain Himself either. Try to imagine this teaching from their perspective.
No wonder many of His followers decided they had heard enough and left, never to return again (John 6:66). I can’t say I blame them. If a travelling preacher came to my church and starting speaking about the benefits of cannibalism in relation to my spiritual life, I think I’d leave too.
At this point, Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks them if they are offended too (John 6:61b). Their response is not recorded in Scripture. I wish it was! He asks them, “Don’t you want to leave me too?” (John 6:67)
Of course, we can count on bold Peter to speak up. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
I LOVE this response! “I don’t get it. It sounds weird and disgusting and even wrong. But you’re God and I have nowhere else to go. If I don’t find eternal life in You, I’m not getting it anywhere else. Where else can I go?”
It can be very tempting to walk away from Jesus when life is too hard, when it’s difficult to understand, or when it just hurts too much. Before you walk away, ask yourself, “Where else can I go?” Are your other options any better? He alone offers you eternal life.
The Secret Things
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Wrestling too hard with the “secret” things that God has not chosen to reveal to us only leads to frustration, disappointment, and confusion. Let’s leave those to God and focus instead on what He has revealed already that we may be faithful followers even when life doesn’t make sense and His teachings are hard.
When fears assail and doubts prevail, choose to believe anyway.
I wanted to share a song with you today called “They Just Believe” by Josh Wilson. When I went to find it on YouTube after writing this post, I came across Josh’s explanation of the story behind the song. His heartfelt and honest story confirmed many things that I had been thinking about this topic. I decided to share the story instead of the song.
There was a time in my life following my son’s death that I listened to “Sunrise” by Nicole Nordeman every single morning after breakfast. The hope of a Sunrise after a long dark night is what gave me strength to face the day ahead of me.
“How would I know the morning if I knew not midnight?”
To read other posts in this series, click the image below.