In 1972, while studying at Montpellier in the south of France, I played tourist one weekend and went exploring the countryside farther east. On that trip, I discovered the ruins of an old town, perched high on a rocky promontory. During the 16th century, Les-Baux-de-Provence had been a Huguenot stronghold in Catholic France. Standing before the remains of the Protestant church, I read the Latin inscription carved into the rock lintel above the empty window: Post Tenebras, Lux — "After the Shadows, Light".
While the purpose of the inscription had probably been to declare that the "light" of Reformed theology had brought the world from the "shadows" or "darkness" of the Catholicism of the day, those words and that scene came vividly to my mind a few days ago as I walked our country road. Recently, I have been living in "shadows", battling old thoughts and feelings brought on by a number of present circumstances in my life. Forty years ago, these same feelings had pushed me close to the brink of suicide. I did not welcome their return.
While I walked, I had been praying, and against the darkness of those feelings — and my inability to use my own strength and determination to escape or ignore them — quietly came words from God, as He broke through the shadows and spoke into my life:
Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NIV)
Then, the words of a hymn that I cherish formed in my mind:
- Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm
Out of the shadows indeed came light — the light of God's incredible, persistent love for me. The Lord spoke in a similar way to the apostle Paul:
2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (NIV)
If, after all, I could wrestle my feelings to the ground by my own strength, I would not need God. But I am weak, and by His grace, I do know Him and His love, embodied literally in Jesus, my Saviour. In the midst of my despair, He gave peace; from turmoil came quiet; out of the shadows, I walked into His light. My circumstances haven't changed, but I don't walk alone.
If you are struggling with feelings, circumstances, and shadows today, my heart goes out to you. Reach out to Jesus — let Him walk with you through your valley. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for walking with us even and especially through our dark times. Even though it is then often hard to sense Your presence, by faith, we know that You are there. Thank You for such love. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Fight The Good Fight" (Lyrics)