I’ve just returned from a trip to the beautiful country of Norway. Amongst all the amazing sights I saw, a friend took me to an art shop where she knew the owner. There were lots of huge landscape paintings hanging on the walls.
Admittedly I have no knowledge of art at all, but as I looked at them I couldn’t really understand how anyone could see anything in them. They just looked so flat and dull to me. The owner asked what I thought and I confessed apologetically that I thought they looked very flat and didn’t appear to do justice to the magnificent Norwegian mountains and fjords. He smiled and, using the dimmer switch, dimmed the lights in the room. The painting in front of us suddenly came to life! And so did all the others! They had such depth and vibrant colour and beauty!
The man explained that these works of art were painted in the 1920’s when most people still relied on natural daylight and candles to light their homes, and it is only in what we would consider today to be dim light that all the beauty the artist painted shines out and they can truly be appreciated. “The bright light of electricity kills them,” he said.
I began to think about how often we despise the darker times of our lives – the times of pain and struggle. Our natural inclination is to hate them, run away from them, block them out, go into denial or try and rise above them, perhaps reaching out for things that make us feel better. But in the end, turning to those false things only brings temporary relief and often becomes compulsive and addictive and, ultimately, like switching the artificial light on the beautiful paintings, brings death.
God has a better way for us: Not despising the darker times of our lives, but standing in the true Light in the midst of them. I will never forget visiting a dear friend in hospital who was walking through a very dark shadow in his life. His body was wracked with cancer. He had gone through a lot of pain and didn’t have long to go. He told me that a kind nurse had sat on the edge of his bed that day and asked if he was frightened. His face lit up as he repeated what he said to her, “Why should I be frightened? This time next week I will be with my Lord”!
As I looked at him I didn’t see the dark shadow of the cancer that was eating his body, but something so beautiful and peaceful shone back at me, and gave glory back to the God who made him.
Prayer: Father God, I don’t want to run away from the hard and painful things in my life and to look for the false light of my own ways of fixing them. In the end they only hurt me more and my life can never give glory back to You. Please help me to turn my face to You, the true Light, in the midst of my struggle and put my trust firmly in You. And may others see the beauty of the hope I have in You shining out from me, giving glory back to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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