Devotional Week 29 Monday
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27: 1, 2
“Safe in the hands of God who made me,
What can there be that I should fear?
God is my light and my salvation,
Strong is His help when foes are near.
This I have prayed and will seek after,
That I may walk with God each day;
Then will He give me His protection,
No trouble shall my heart dismay.
God of my life, my Lord, my Master,
Father and mother now in me;
Come, shield me from the threat of evil,
Open Your hands and set me free!
Teach me Your way and lead me onwards,
Save me from those who do me wrong,
Give me the grace to wait with patience,
Help me to trust, hold firm be strong.”
Psalms for Today
“Strengthen the feeble hands,
Steady the knees that give way;
Say to those with fearful hearts,
‘Be strong, do not fear;
Your God will come…
He will come to save you.’”
Isaiah 35: 3, 4
Today’s Study Texts:
“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”
John 21: 4
“They Did Not Know”
“One of the greatest tragedies among God’s people is that, although they deeply long to experience God, they are encountering Him day after day but do not recognize Him.”
“Not only does God’s heart extend toward you when you feel alone in your pain, His healing hand extends toward you as well.”
“Does God forget His own? We may think so, and every circumstance in life may seem to corroborate that conviction…However, from heaven the Faithful One watches over His own. He may try (our) faith, but He never forgets nor forsakes (us)…The Highest hides His face that we might learn to trust Him…He causes all human fellowship to fail that we might find His divine faithfulness. He allows the light to go out of life that we might walk by faith and not by sight. He seems to forget so that we might remember forever the experience of falling at His feet and saying, ‘O my soul, hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.’ Cast down, yes; but forgotten, never.”
V. Raymond Edman
We live in a little city that is quite frequently, in the summer monsoon season plagued by power outages. When the electricity goes out in the middle of the night, it gets dark. Really dark. So I can only imagine that out in the middle of a lake in the dark of night, the disciples felt like they were alone. But add to the situation the fact that they hadn’t been able to catch even one fish and you can understand why they may have felt forgotten.
However, the feeling of being all alone didn’t recede in the morning hours when daybreak’s sun first cracked the darkness of the night. The fact is that John reports that in the early morning light, when a figure appeared on the beach, the disciples didn’t recognize who it was.
Go figure! After 3 ½ years, at a distance, Jesus still wasn’t a person who appeared to be familiar to the disciples. Even after Jesus had walked on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples thought He might be a “ghost,” you’d think a thought might have fleetingly passed through their minds, “Could this be Jesus?”
My personal idea is one which has come about from my own experiences and it is this: when in tough times and fearful moments, the heartbreak of a situation can be so overwhelming that anything as wonderful as Jesus arriving on the scene seems so remote that it is easier to push hope out of your heart than to embrace the potential that something this wonderful and absolutely grand could happen. I want to share how Pastor and Author J. H. Jowett writes about this type of an experience in his gem of a book,The Silver Lining:
“When (we) become hopeless in our life, (we) lose the very springs of activity, and (we) sink in ever-deepening degradation. The Scriptures employ a very powerful figure to express the state of those in whose life there is no hope. ‘They that sit in darkness.’ It is a very graphic picture. Try to realize it. You sit by the fireside on a winter’s night, with a bright fire making the room genial and cheery. You sit on until the fire burns low and eventually dies out, and the warmth gives place to a searching chill. Then the light goes out and darkness is added to the coldness…there are people whose soul-life is just like that…Having no hope and sitting in darkness.”
It is quite possible that as the sun arose and daylight pierced the darkness, that the hopelessness of the previous night had left the disciples in such a desperate position, the light of the day blinded them to the image of their Master, standing on the beach right before them. And I’ll even go one step further, it is most likely Jesus had been on that beach all night long, with them through the darkness as well as in the light.
Of all the experiences recorded in Scripture, none underscores the unending presence of our Father in such a dramatic way than when on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.” Even God’s Son felt an aloneness that left Him wondering if His Father had forgotten Him. I love the way Oscar Romero puts into words the way we may feel in such a situation:
“It’s the psychology of suffering to feel alone, to feel that no one understands, to feel forsaken…God is not failing us when we don’t feel His presence.
Let’s not say: God doesn’t do what I pray for so much…God exists and He exists even more, the farther you feel from Him. God is closer to you who you feel He is farther away and doesn’t hear you.
When you feel the anguished desire for God to come near you because you don’t feel Him present, then God is very close to your anguish.
When are we going to understand that God is not only a God who gives happiness but that He tests our faithfulness in moments of affliction? It is then that prayer has most merit: when one is faithful in spite of not feeling the Lord’s presence…Our Father never forsakes us…we are closer to Him than we think.”
In my personal opinion, no one puts human feelings into poetic prayers better than Michel Quoist. As I’ve been studying about the disciples, alone in the dark, potentially feeling as though they had failed and were forgotten, the thought of this aloneness in the darkness brought to my mind a prayer by Michel Quoist:
“Lord, it is dark.
Lord, are You here in my darkness?
Your light has gone out, and so has its reflection on all things around me.
Everything seems grey and somber as when a fog blots out the sun and enshrouds the earth. Everything is an effort, everything is difficult, and I am heavy-footed and slow.
Every morning I am overwhelmed at the thought of another day…
I should like to leave,
others, myself, I don’t know – I want to just flee…
I go through the same motions each day, but they seem meaningless.
I walk, but I know I get nowhere.
I speak, and my words seem dreadfully empty, for they can reach only human ears…
Ideas themselves escape me, and I find it hard to think.
I stammer, confused, blushing, and I feel ridiculous and abashed, for fear people will notice me. Lord, am I losing my mind?
Or is all this what You want?
It wouldn’t matter, except that I am alone.
I am alone.
You have taken me far, Lord;
trusting, I followed you,
and You walked at my side,
and now, at night,
in the middle of the darkness,
suddenly You have disappeared.
I call, and You do not answer.
I search and I do not find You.
I have left everything,
and now I am left alone.
Your absence is my suffering.
Lord, it is dark.
Lord, are You here in my darkness?
Where are You, Lord?
Do You love me still?
Or have I wearied You:
Lord, answer, Answer!
Jesus Answers Our Cry!
1. “Behold, I am with you all the days, perpetually and on every occasion, to the very close of the age, of earth.”
Matthew 28: 20
2. “ I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not. I will not. I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, or relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13: 5
3. “All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you (your name here). I won’t give up on you. I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage!”
Joshua 1: 5
The Message Bible
4. “Behold! I have indelibly imprinted a picture of you on the palms of each of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”
Isaiah 49: 16
5. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
John 14: 27
6. “God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you –
He guards you when you leave
and when you return,
He guards you now, He guards
Psalm 121: 5, 8
The Message Bible
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author