Seeing With Eyes Wide Shut

Seeing With Eyes Wide Shut

“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

— Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)

It is a natural human reflex to squint or shut one’s eyes when in pain. Similarly, we wince when we are hit with unbearable experiences and we tend to close out the world around us. The sages taught that this reflex has a powerful message for us.

Our eyes are the vehicle through which we bring objects outside of us into our brain. We call this process “seeing.” But sometimes, we can’t see. If something passes by us very quickly, we won’t be able to see it. The eyes don’t have enough time to process and send the image to the brain.

Another time we have difficulty seeing is when an object is very far away. When this happens, our vision is diffused over a lot of space and it doesn’t have the power to bring the image into the brain. To solve this problem, we squint. By closing our eyes to things on the periphery, we are able to concentrate all our visual capacity on the object we want to see and our vision extends farther.

The sages taught that this same principle applies when we are going through emotional or spiritual pain. When we are going through challenges or difficulties, we need to see the whole picture, the end of the story. We have to see that everything God does is for our best. We have to be able to see that all the pain we are experiencing is for a good purpose.

But how do we attain such a perspective when we are in the midst of deep pain?

We close our eyes.

Sometimes we only need to “squint.” We need to shut out the things that don’t really matter in life in order to see what really does. Often this partial blinding is enough for us to see that all is good. However, other times, we must completely close our eyes to the physical world so that we can focus on non-physical matters. In this space, we can see the beauty and light in our situation that we couldn’t see with our eyes open wide.

In the book of Isaiah we read: “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness — secret riches.” There are some treasures that we can only attain in the darkness; some riches we can only find in hidden places. When we go through challenging times – or even in good times – if we are able to close our eyes to the material world and gain an invaluable perspective on the truly important aspects of life, then we will be truly blessed. Having that clarity through life is one of the greatest treasures we can ever receive.

djs

Staying The Course No Matter What

Staying The Course No Matter What
Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed.
1 Chronicles 28:20

Near the end of his life, evangelist George Whitefield grew weak but refused to give up. His prayer was: “Lord, I am weary in Thy work but not of Thy work. If I have not yet finished my course, let me go and speak for Thee once more in the fields….” Writing to a friend, Whitefield said, “O to stand fast in the faith…and be strong.” No matter what comes, stay the course.

That’s what we need too—the determination to stand strong till the end. Scripture repeatedly counsels us to take courage and be strong. We may become weary while serving the Lord, but we mustn’t grow weary of serving the Lord. We’re to follow the sample of David, who, in a time of crisis, “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).

Later, in 1 Chronicles 28:20, David advised Solomon to keep going in the strength of the Lord. The New International Version translates 1 Chronicles 28:20 like this: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you.”

Be strong and courageous today, and He will strengthen your hands.

What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why, you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!
George Whitefield

djs

Running Away From God?

Running Away From God?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

— Psalm 139:7–8

In the classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown weaves a wonderful story about a little rabbit who wants to run away from his mother. But he can’t. Every escape plan he comes up with, his mother promises to foil. The bunny wants to become a fish so that he can swim away, but his mother pledges to become a fisherman so that she can catch him. The bunny suggests becoming a bird so that he can fly away, but his mother insists that she will become the tree that he flies home to.

After many failed proposals, the bunny finally decides that he will be a little boy so that he can run away, but his mother is quick to say that she will become his mother “so that I can catch you in my arms and hug you.” “Shucks,” said the bunny. “I may just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”

This sweet book captures the dual relationship between parents and children. On one hand, children often wish to run away from their parents because of conflict and their limited understanding of parents’ rules. The book also portrays the other side of the equation: the unwavering love of a parent for a child, a gift that is invaluable and beyond compare. While children may try to escape from their parents’ rules and discipline, ultimately, it is the parents’ presence that gives children the foundation on which they can be successful and independent in life.

Thousands of years earlier, this relationship was beautifully described in Psalm 139. Instead of being about rabbits or children, however, it is about our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Just as the little bunny cannot escape his mother, we cannot escape from God. As the psalmist wrote, “Where can I flee from your presence?”

The answer to this question can be daunting. God is always watching what we do – both the good and the bad. There is nowhere to run, no place to hide. Yet, God’s omnipresence is also comforting. In this lonely world, we are never alone. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

Like the bunny finally realized, we may as well stop running. There is no way to run away from God; anywhere we go, He’ll be there. And that’s a good thing: “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (v. 10). Wherever we may go in this life, we are with God, under His protective care. Truly, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. What about you?

djs

God’s Loving Arms

God’s Loving Arms

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
— 1 Chronicles 16:34

There once was a father who carried his son on his shoulders everywhere they walked. He cared for all his son’s needs, giving him food and drink, keeping him in the shade when it was hot, and walking in the sun when it got cold. A stranger passed by the pair one day, and the son casually asked him, “Have you seen my father?”

This anecdote teaches us about how we take so many of our gifts from our Father in Heaven for granted. We don’t even recognize that it is He who is giving us everything we have and everything we need. God carries us through life, but if we don’t look for Him, we won’t see Him.

Some people think that it is hard to have a loving relationship with God because He is so far from us, all the way in the heavens. But this story shows us that the opposite is true. The reason why so many of us don’t have a relationship with our Father is because He is so close to us! He is so close, and His presence so familiar, that we rarely notice Him.

Every breath we take is a gift from God. But how many of us feel that way throughout our busy days? We take the clean air and our ability to breathe for granted because we are given that gift every moment of our lives. But try holding your breath for a few minutes, and you might come to have a new appreciation for your next breath and the one after that.

In 1 Chronicles, after the Ark of the Covenant was brought into a special tent that King David had created for it, a ceremony took place involving sacrifices and offerings. But then David instructed the priests to constantly serve with words of praise and thanks to God. This was critical to their daily service. We read: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Giving thanks was the anthem of David’s life.

In fact, the sages teach that at one point during David’s reign, there was a plague that killed 100 people a day. Recognizing that this physical malady had a spiritual cause, David prescribed a spiritual cure: To recite 100 blessings each day. The plague stopped, and David’s prescription is followed by observant Jews to this very day!

Everyone is asking what will it take to put our world in a better state. We see all the bad things happening around us. But maybe the cure is to notice the good things, to give thanks for them, and to bless God for giving us all the gifts we have in our lives.

djs

 

Joy Comes In The Morning

Joy Comes In The Morning
Psalm 30:5 (WEB)
For his anger is but for a moment. His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

From Dust To Glory

From Dust To Glory

For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. — Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT)

Most of us would agree with the statement that we won’t live forever. But that isn’t entirely true. The issue is not if we live forever or not, but who “we” refers to.

If we think of ourselves as our body, then it’s true; we do not live forever, and knowing that should inspire us to make the most of the time we have. However, if we know the truth about who we are – that we are essentially a soul and not the body we have been given for a number of years – then it is true that we live forever, only not in physical form or on this planet, but in our spiritual form in our real home in Heaven.

As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This perspective should also affect the way we live as well.

If you were going on a short trip for a week or two, you would never go on a vacation that would spoil your life after the trip. You wouldn’t squander all your money on this vacation and have nothing when you returned to your house. You wouldn’t quit your job or sever important relationships. At the same time, you also wouldn’t want to waste a minute of your vacation, and you would hope that the relaxation you experience while away would follow you into your daily routine.

The sages teach that we are each a soul, given the “clothing” of a physical body so that we can be here for a limited amount of time. Knowing this is a temporary state of being, like being on a trip, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away our reward in the afterlife. We wouldn’t want to forget that we have a job to do – to make ourselves and the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to waste a minute of our lives and would use every moment as a chance to develop our souls.

Knowing that we do live forever makes us pause and consider what we are doing today to ensure that our “forever” is the best that it possibly can be. How can we be more generous? How can we become more loving? In what ways can we overcome our shortcomings and develop our God-given talents?

One day, our bodies will be part of the earth. But our souls never die. We simply return to where we came from and live the rest and best part of our lives. On that day, all we will take with us are our good deeds.

How might that influence the decisions we make today?

djs

The Power Of Prayer In Our Changing World

The Power Of Prayer In Our Changing World

Hanging above the door in our house, my parent’s favorite plaque constantly reminded us, “Prayer changes things.” From an early age, I witnessed this powerful truth through their example. They would tell us about some difficulties they was facing and then have the family pray about them with them. And later, they always would be sure to give God the glory when sharing the awesome news that He had answered those prayers.

Indeed, this is our confidence: Anything we pray for that aligns with the Father’s plan will be granted. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we’ll come to understand His will and how to pray for it.

Remember, prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, but it does transform the believer’s heart. Some requests are granted immediately, simply because our Father is good and He loves to give His children gifts. Other requests may require time or certain divine preparations before they can be given. We, meanwhile, must simply persevere in prayer.

Whatever the Lord’s response or timing, we trust that He has only the very best in store for His children. That means we might not receive exactly what we’re asking for, but something even better. Such is God’s great pleasure, for He alone perfectly knows each heart’s desire and wishes to fulfill it.

Our most powerful tool for shaping the world and lives around us is always available. Prayer lets us witness God’s hand in any situation. And as we give attention, time, and perseverance to conversation with Him, we find there’s no limit to what He can achieve in people’s hearts and circumstances.

djs