“For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6”
Listen to: Jason Gray “Glow In the Dark”
The distraction was just for a second. It was enough to turn my head away from the road. It was enough to hear that gut-churning thud and realize I had just hit the car in front of me. Thank God that no one was hurt and damages were minor. Within a week we had settled with the other motorist and fixed the damage to Forrest’s car. However the accident was enough to trigger deep-rooted feelings; ranging from anger at myself to paralyzing fears. I was afraid to drive again on the highway. You see, years ago, in the midst and aftermath of a serious depression, I could not drive on highways. It was hard enough to drive in the regular demanding Long Island traffic. Eventually I overcame this phobia, with prayer, fellowship and a lot of white-knuckling it out. But just like that, in the aftermath of a minor accident, it poked its ugly head out again. Would the irrational fear overtake me once more? I had ministry that took me all over New York City. What would happen if this lurking fear got the better of me?
We all have times when we are hit by life and want to retreat. It could be the end of a relationship and we say, “Never again!” It could be some betrayal by someone we trusted and we feel, “I’ll never put myself out like that.” It could be a health scare or a financial worry that can rev up fear or panic. Instead of seeing these challenges as the end of the journey, God wants to work through us, through our brokenness and fears, to reveal his light and glory and bring us to the next blessing and a fuller place.
When I am caught in the throes and tempted to regress, I always turn to the story of Joseph in the Bible (Gen. 37-50). Joseph was a favored child of Jacob, with the gift of prophetic dreams and interpretation of dreams. His older brothers despised him and so faked his death and sold him into slavery in Egypt. So Joseph was a slave to Potiphar, the captain of the guard in Pharaoh’s court. The Lord blessed Potiphar’s household for the sake of Joseph, and Joseph rose in responsibility. Yet even here danger lurked. Pharaoh’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, and when she was spurred, she framed Joseph and he was thrown into prison. Even in the dank prison Joseph shared his gift of dream interpretation for the chief baker and chief cupbearer. Yet Joseph continued to languish in prison until Pharaoh was plagued by dreams and it was remembered that Joseph, in prison, was a dream interpreter. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams accurately and advised him well, so Joseph was released and rose in power in Pharaoh’s court.
Joseph’s real trial came when his brothers arrived at court seeking food. Old feelings surfaced for Joseph. Should he seek revenge? Did he feel like that lost, disliked boy once more? Should he make them pay for all the suffering they had caused him? Joseph struggled with his past and with seeing his brothers. Ultimately he revealed himself to them, forgiving them, saying “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because he was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Gen. 45:5” Joseph learned that God works through all the challenges that come our way. In God’s hands all the setbacks become a platform to spring forward into something new. When we regress or retreat, or are overwhelmed with challenges, God wants us to know his favor rests on us. He will see us through whatever dilemma we face. When we put our problems in God’s hands we are like the Psalmist who says (119:32): “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” Rooted in the love of God, praying with our friends in faith, and turning to the scriptures broadens our mind. We can move from fear to trust. Anger to forgiveness. Dislike to love. Being overwhelmed to knowing that God is in control. It takes God's grace and our response for this to happen.
If you find yourself in a place of fear or are tempted to regress, know that like with Joseph, God’s favor rests on you. God will be with us and see us through whatever prison we find ourselves in: whether it is a prison of our own making or circumstances or systems outside our control. Go with God and in that decision we will find peace.
Prayer: “God of Light, shine in whatever darkness I am dealing with and let me know you are there with me. Heal and transform my thinking so I can trust you and the plans you have for my life. Amen.”