By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
The Lord is my light and my rescue. Whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s stronghold. Of whom should I be afraid?… Teach me, O Lord, Your way, and lead me on a level path because of my adversaries.
(Ps 27.1&11; R Alter translation)
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble… The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? ..let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
It is the testimony of God’s people down the ages that again and again, His word speaks directly into their situation and brings counsel, comfort, rebuke and restoration. As I read the bible, on my own and in community, I find that I am fed and strengthened for the situations to which God has called me, and I praise and rejoice in his generosity and care.
In these days, I am facing imminent departure from a place and ministry which I had hoped would be my home and community for many years. This is not to be, and while I thank God for making it clear that we must move, I am grieving for the loss which will be involved, and fearful for a future which is as yet entirely unknown. I am tempted to waste my energy making plans, speculating about what to do – basically trying to create an illusion of control in a situation where I am absolutely without any authority over what is happening. When I recognise that this is what I am doing, I am driven to repent, to cling to my Father and to ask for his help to walk in this darkness of grief, loss and uncertainty. God is all-knowing, all powerful, perfect and just – I am not!
Our recent studies in Isaiah brought this passage, where God calls his faithful people to trust his word and to walk in the darkness rather than create lights for themselves. This has come as a real prompt to me – what am I tempted to do in the face of dashed hopes, loss and uncertainty? What lights am I trying to create for myself to deal with the fear?
The psalmist calls me back to safety, to the truth that my Lord is my light, and his purpose is to take me down paths which accord with his good and perfect will. The Lord is the stability of my times – what a marvellous picture of steadying, and sustaining, of bringing me back from wildly veering emotions and thoughts to a calm centre and the assurance of his power, strength and love all mobilised for me, his child. The story of God’s presence manifest to his people after the exodus from Egypt is a wonderful expression of a reality which remains for us today. He is always with us to guide us, and to provide the guidance and light which we need – maybe not as much as we might want – for the next steps.
Lord God, and loving Father, let me trust you and walk steadily as you guide me. Let me not try to find my own way through or around this time of trial, grief and uncertainty – deliver me from the temptation to create my own lights, to borrow wordly wisdom or rely on my own strength, and wisdom. Let me be content to walk in the darkness if need be, so long as I walk in dependence on you, content to trust your timing and leading. Lord, let me not panic, indulge in anxiety and worry, or jump to false conclusions about your nature and purposes for me. Let me glorify you through this trial, for Jesus’s sake, Amen.
[with thanks to Jean Dewar for the photograph used]