On the first morning of a family vacation to the North Carolina coast, I awoke to find my husband and my baby were missing. They had beat me to the beach and were playing in the water.
Above them, “the blue” was beginning to transition from grey to shades of pink and orange as the sun hinted at its arrival. And when it did make its appearance, we were not disappointed. The sky was ablaze with God’s majesty, proclaiming His handiwork.
“God’s just showing off. Because He can,”
reverberated in my mind.
We took a morning walk along the beach after breakfast and I snapped pictures of others’ footprints, noticing how quickly they disappeared once the tide reached the imprint. We built a family sand castle and then returned to sit and watch the ocean reclaim the building materials later that afternoon. And the day ended with yet another firmament on fire. It was a glorious day.
Twice that day I stood on the beach, toes in the sand, and worshipped. My heart was full and so aware of God’s presence and His power. Worries from the previous few weeks seemed to follow the pattern of those footprints ~ washed away. Both morning and evening, I filled my phone with photos. Way too many photos.
I woke up even earlier the next morning with a plan. My husband and I took chairs and the thermal carafe of coffee to the shore. I would savor every moment of sunrise and linger. We positioned ourselves to wait.
But this morning was different. Clouds had moved in.
No pinks. No orange. No sky on fire. No showing off.
The clouds were so thick we couldn’t see the sun ball at all.
The sun still rose, but there was no evidence beyond the diffused light.
I don’t have pictures to show of that morning. They didn’t inspire clicks. There was no breathtaking commentary. But as I sat there staring at the drab — yet enlightened — horizon, I pondered what it illustrated about faith.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.”
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
“How precious are your thoughts about me,
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up, you are still with me!”
(Psalm 139:17-18 NLT)
The same sun that rose the day before had risen on that morning, even though I couldn’t see it. I was confident.
The same God who had “shown off the night before” was on His throne that dull morning. No doubt.
The lack of wonder in His creation didn’t cause me to wonder if He still cared about His child. I was certain.
Showing off vs. Showing up
We have no problem reconciling the shifting seasons and unpredictable weather with a God who never changes. But when the storms of life move in or the days of gray skies linger longer than we like ~ well, that can sometimes be a challenge.
Why is that?
- I think we sometimes confuse “showing off” with “showing up.”
- We begin to base our faith on the evidence of answered prayers instead of the promise of a God who hears.
- We let our emotions and experiences tell the story in our head instead of defining the narrative with the truth of God’s Word.
But when it comes to faith:
What is seen (or not seen)
cannot trump what is known.
There is no substitute for Scripture – not even the sense of God’s presence, the power we feel when we pray, or the times when He provides an answer in an unmistakable way. Those are glorious blessings of walking in faith, but there will be times that walking by faith means simply stepping from one promise to another in God’s Word.
When all is stripped away,
one thing remains.
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Focused on #NoFilter
We naturally gravitate toward, record, and recount painted sky moments. The #blessed #nofilter instagram-worthy images and occasions.
There’s nothing wrong with those and celebrating answered prayers is good. Doing so causes us to reflect on God’s providence in our lives and give Him glory for all that is praiseworthy. In today’s world, we have countless mediums and platforms to share the good news of healed bodies, saved souls, and restored relationships.
But defining whether or not
God is hearing us
by looking for the evidence
of His working
can morph into another form of
walking by sight.
If those times of empirical evidence become the source for determining if God “showed up,” then we are building sandcastles in the sand. The cornerstone of salvation is Jesus himself and the building blocks of our faith must be His Word. Period.
Absence of color does not equal absence of light
Dear reader, this message is one I have lived to write about. During a season of trials and setbacks, my prayers were seemingly answered with, “Cricket. Cricket.” I cried out to God and blasted praise music like it was a can of Lysol. Nothing.
I was left with this question: “Is His Word enough?” God’s Word had to sustain me when other spiritual experiences seemingly failed me. And The Word didn’t fail.
But it was through that experience of being pruned from answered prayers that the roots of my faith stretched deeper. It was an unexpected experience. Prior to that time of life, I never would have thought of answered prayers as being a crutch and a hindrance to growth. But in hindsight I understand. And sitting on that beach, I saw the lesson in pictures.
I cannot put my trust
in the painted sky.
I can only appreciate its beauty.
Faith must be settled in the light,
even when it stays behind the clouds.
The same is true for you.
You may be in a time of trials. It may seem that God is distant. Maybe you are being tested by God or attacked by Satan. You may be even fighting your own flesh. It may feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers or care about your pain. All around you see evidence of others’ answered prayers and wonder if you’ve been left out.
Despite the way it seems. Regardless of the way you feel. Scripture cuts through the darkness with light of truth. Start with Psalm 139 (copied at the end of this post). And remember this:
On those days, weeks, months or even years when you can’t see the color, you can still see the light.
The light will NOT fail you
and the Word WILL sustain you.
Even if it doesn’t seem like
God is “showing off” in your life,
He has never failed to SHOW UP.
P.S. Are you my email friend?
If you’re reading this, it’s quite possible you need encouragement. I have something that might help: my Scripture mini-guide, 6 Cries of the Heart. It comes with a link to a companion set of praise song playlists. It’s free for my email friends. Life is hard. Don’t do it alone.
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O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.