Seeing the Light in Dark Times

Prayer: God flood our lives with light.No matter how dark things appear, light is breaking through, always. The question is, will we see it? When difficulties come, it’s so easy to focus on the challenges and disappointments, and in that, to forget the heart, power, presence, and purposes of Christ.

I’ve noticed something lately, something that happens again and Sunrise over the ocean with quote from postagain. So often, my most challenging moments, in Christ’s hands, become so life-giving. When C19 hit, my ministry lost an entire year of conferences, and therefore a year worth of funding. At the time, I felt confused and uncertain. But God used the pause and our renewed focus on Him to lead us into new, increasingly fruitful territory.

This pattern has played out in my relationships as well. When we lived in Southern California, my marriage was in a rough place. I felt so alone and ached to connect deeply with my husband, but the hours and stress of his job routinely stole him from me. For a while, the situation seemed to get worse. But even then, God was working, revealing things to both of us we too easily ignored prior. That dark period became a catalyst for change and growth.

Perhaps the most vivid light-piercing-darkness event occurred when I first became sick. Initially, fighting my illness alone, I tried various supplemental “cures.” The more out of control my body felt, the more I fought for control. By the time I sought a doctor and received a diagnosis, my latent, previously manageable and largely “ignored” OCD morphed into obvious germaphobia.

That period was so hard on all of us, but it also led to deep healing. We couldn’t justify or downplay my behavior anymore. I wasn’t simply focused or particular. When life became challenging and darkness pressed in, it squeezed out my inner gunk that we had learned to ignore.

We could’ve become suffocated by the darkness. Instead, by God’s grace, we linked arms, turned to Jesus, and steadily sought and followed His light. And His light indeed broke through in such a beautiful, life-giving way. While this didn’t eliminate our pain, that period changed us, for the better.

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV).

Jesus didn’t come during a rosy time in history. Lives were ravished by King Herod’s infanticide, Roman oppression, poverty and hunger, leprosy and the lifelong isolation that accompanied it. But God was doing a mighty work not even the most powerful tyrannical ruler or most devastating disease could halt. He was bringing life to the dead and piercing the darkness with light.

The Pharisees couldn’t see this. They were blinded, distracted by the darkness, the darkness within themselves, yes, but also all the oppression and uncertainty in their world. All they could see was what they might lose, should this faith-movement continue: Their prestigious roles as religious leaders, their already tenuous relationship with the Roman authorities, their way of life. They couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see the light—the gift of life and freedom Christ offered.

No matter what 2021 brings, I refuse to be like them. I refuse to become so engulfed in today’s challenges that I fail to see God’s light breaking through. Because I know it’s there. It always is, a light nothing, not the pain of today or the uncertainty of tomorrow, can extinguish.

Speaking of intentionally seeing and pursuing the light, I invite you to begin your new year determined to walk in God’s truth. Join me as I read—and write—chronologically through the New Testament. Each week, we’ll kick off with a devotional post, similar to today’s, followed by five days of suggested reading.

Bible reading plan imageWeek one:

Day one: Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1-4, John 1:1-5

Day two: John 1:6-18

Day three: Luke 1;5-17

Day four: Luke 1:18-25

Day five: Luke 1:26-38

Let’s talk about this!

How is God’s light breaking through your circumstances this month? And perhaps more importantly, how can you seek out and hold tight to that light when dark circumstances hit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

And speaking of God’s light breaking through relational challenges …

You are Beloved

God's lovePlease note: Gina Conroy is giving away a copy of Digging Up Death (see the book description below) to one of you, randomly chosen from the comments left on this post.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 3:31-35; John 15:5-7

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 3:32

For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright.

Today’s focus: Intimacy with God

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Throughout the Bible, we read accounts of people who “walked with God.” In fact, I think we read about this so often, it’s easy to take this truth for granted. As easy as it is to take Immanuel–God with us–for granted in our daily lives. And yet, if we were honest with ourselves, if we could truly catch a glimpse of the deepest recesses of our heart, I suspect what we long for most is not that next promotion, that next gadget, or that next opportunity. No, what we want, what we need, is to feel loved. Cherished. Heard. To know, no matter what we face or who may turn against us, there is someone who remains, who walks beside us, and looks upon us with a love so deep, if we let it, it will penetrate to our very depths, bringing with it freedom and wholeness and peace.
eIMG_0969 4x6 cropToday, author Gina Conroy reminds us of who we are to God.

You are Dulcinea, God’s Beloved
By Gina Conroy

I remember the time I say Broadway’s Man of La Mancha. Though I vaguely knew the story of the crazed man who fought windmills, I didn’t know God would use this story to speak to my heart. Filled with interesting and wretched characters (which completely contrast Don Quixote’s virtues of honor, love and faithfulness,) the story took me to a place I didn’t expect to go.

The harsh character of Aldonza, a self-proclaimed whore, touched my heart. She wore her pain and self-hate on her sleeve, her heart hardened to everyone including herself. At first she made fun of Don Quixote, like the others. His vision of her as Dulcinea, the virtuous virgin, perplexed her, but also intrigued her. She couldn’t stay away from him. Why couldn’t Don Quixote see her for who she really was, a wretched whore born on a dung heap and would die on a dung heap?

Yet, he insisted she was Dulcinea, the most beautiful and virtuous woman he’d ever met. His lady, the one he’d fight for on his quests.That’s when it hit me. I’m Aldonza, a wretched sinner in the eyes of everyone except my Don Quixote. My God.

Aldonza couldn’t accept Don Quixote’s vision of her. But when things got bad enough, when she had enough of Aldonza, she sought out Don Quixote and wanted to be his Dulcinea. She needed to be his Dulcinea.

We’re all Dulcinea’s in the eyes of God, but like Aldonza we can’t see it and those around us can’t see it also. Yet, someone saw past her sin to the person she was really meant to be. Dulcinea.

Do you wish someone would see the Dulcinea in you instead of Aldonza? Someone does.

You are Dulcinea.

God’s beloved. He will fight for you to the end!

Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s leaning on the Lord to show her the way. After seven years of dream pursuit, she held her first novella, Buried Deception in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, in her hands and recently released her first full length mystery, Digging Up Death. Gina founded Writer…Interrupted  to encourage busy writers and chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, or pursuing her new passion — ballroom and swing dancing!

“Dig into a fun story with Digging Up Death. It’s got all the dirt you want–a tangled mystery, a quirky heroine, hints of romance, and page-turning action. Conroy keeps the story real and delves into the clean and the not so clean parts of life. Highly recommended.” Christy Barritt, author of the Squeaky Clean Mysteries series

DigginUpDeath_GinaConroy_EbookDigging Up Death:

Archaeology Professor Mari Duggins is adjusting to life as a single mom and trying to balance a television career, but gets caught between the pull of her former flame, a field archaeologist, and her ex-husband who is wanted by the FBI on an antiquities crime. Then her colleague is murdered, and she gets in over her head as she searches for truth in a desert of lies. Mari Duggins’ life caves in as she tries to excavate the truth, but realizes only God can dig her out of the hole she’s created. Will Mari sort through her muddled feelings and put her trust in someone else before her world caves in? Or will the truth bury her alive?

Buy Digging Up Death here

Cherry Blossom Capers JPEGHer Novella: Buried Deception in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection

Mount Vernon archaeology intern and widow Samantha Steele wants to provide for her children without assistance from anyone. Security guard and ex-cop Nick Porter is haunted by his past and keeps his heart guarded. But when they discover an artifact at Mount Vernon is a fake, Nick and Samantha need to work together, set aside their stubbornness, and rely on each other or the results could be deadly. Will Samantha relinquish her control to a man she hardly knows? Can Nick learn to trust again? And will they both allow God to excavate their hearts so they can find new love?

 ***

Pause for a moment to recall a time when you felt especially close to God. If you’re like me, although I have moments of being close with God, I also spent way too much time falling into routine and taking Him for granted. Every once in a while I need a divine date night. 😉 I suggest you do the same.

Here are some possible ways to do that:

Make your Bible reading time special. I like to curl into the corner of the couch with a nice cup of warm, fragrant tea, with some soft music playing and my pen and notebook handy. There are some mornings where my time is short, but on Saturdays, I like to slow things down, giving myself ample time to connect with God.

So here are some things to discuss and/or ponder:

1) How can you make your Bible reading time more intimate? Perhaps light a sweet-smelling candle? Is there a drink or snack you’d enjoy? Find something special to add to really help you get in an intimate, relaxed mood.

2) Go on a mini-retreat. When we lived in Kansas City, there was a park I enjoyed going to. I’d bring my Bible, my Pandora radio (on my phone), and a notebook. Being out in God’s creation with the warm sun on my face and the sweet smell of flowers and grass all around me, really helped me slow my mind down and connect with God.

Determine to do both of these actions this week. Set a day and time for your mini-retreat. It doesn’t have to be long, but make a point to actually go somewhere, with the mindset of really connecting with God. Then come back and tell us where you went, what you did, and how it helped you experience God.

Let’s talk about this! Join the discussion in the comments below, Living by Grace, or join our Yahoo Bible Study group by clicking the link below.
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I’d love to hear from you. How and when will you create a divine “date night” this week? I’d also love to hear about any special times with God you’ve had in the past. Where did you go and how did you encounter God?