Posted in Faith

Finding Hope in the Dark

holding candle

She stood at my front door. A young woman I guessed to be in her late teens, she looked a little cold, or maybe nervous. I couldn’t quite tell. She had frantically rung our door bell in the early morning hours, waking our household from deep sleep. My husband, Jonathan, did the honors of answering the door.

She had just gotten off work. Her car had broken down. The battery in her phone had died. Could we please help her?

Jonathan went to fetch me to help, closing the door behind him, leaving the young woman outside. I hastily threw on my bathrobe and tied the sash in a knot as I scurried down the hall. I opened the door, leaving the screen door latched, as she repeated her story. As she spoke, I felt strangely drawn to her. She was beautiful with long flowing dark hair. She carried herself with a sense of intelligence and charm. But there was something more. Could this be a divine appointment? The compassion of Christ welled up within me, and I felt compelled to offer more than the use of my phone. There was something special about this young woman. I wanted to find out more about her.

I opened the screen door and invited her inside. I asked questions about her situation. The answers didn’t quite line up. She dropped my phone while attempting to call her mom. “Why is she so jittery?” I thought.

As she started the task of calling again, I wondered what I should do if nobody answered. It would certainly be too dangerous to send her out into the darkness alone. I imagined myself pouring her a hot cup of tea and encouraging her to stay a little while until the sun came up. Then we could take her where she needed to go. My plans were suddenly interrupted as she thrust my phone back into my hands. “I have some friends that live around here,” she blurted. “I’ll just go there, and they’ll help me.”

She ran out of the house into the shadows.

Her sudden departure shocked me. I was worried about her safety. I decided I would run outside, barefoot and all, and convince her to return to the house. She could wait there until daylight. I hesitated for a moment, the screen door still ajar.

My world was instantly shattered as two masked gunmen appeared out of nowhere, forcing their way into my home and my life.

It has been fourteen months since that horrific morning. The Lord has graciously carried my family and me through the healing process, as the pieces of this criminal case have come together.

From day one, my prayers have been extended toward the gunmen and the young woman who opened the door to this attack by her deception. Yes, their actions harmed my safety and my psyche, but I have never doubted that the Lord is with me. He is my strength moment by moment, day by day. My life is full of meaning, because He fills my soul with His gracious love. I am not concerned about myself. No matter what happens to me, I am secure. But I am not so sure about the three invaders, and that makes me deeply troubled. I have not stopped praying for them to experience God’s love, to open their hearts to forgiveness through Christ, and for their lives to be restored. But I continued to be haunted by why I invited the young woman inside. Did I misread the Lord’s prompting and open my family up to danger?

It was emotionally difficult to attend the sentencing hearings of the two young men. Jonathan and I were able to share the impact their actions had on us and then speak words of forgiveness. We talked about God’s love for them and urged them to make a better life for themselves. That wasn’t the hard part. We saw them caught in a generational cycle of poverty, lack of education, and family dysfunction that, barring a miracle, they will repeat again. That was truly devastating. I keep praying for the Lord to break through the perceived hopelessness, and that these young men will yield their lives to Him, allowing Him to change them as only He can do. God’s heart is to restore broken people. That’s where I find hope.

Sometimes God’s surprises us by showing larger glimpses of Himself at work. During those times, hope shines a little more brightly.

In April we attended the sentencing hearing for the young woman. She was fortunate to be transferred to the juvenile system and given opportunities to better herself. Jonathan and I again discussed how her actions continue to affect us and then extended forgiveness. We again shared our wishes for her to experience God’s love, and that she would use her beauty, intelligence, and charm to better our world rather than cause harm. This time the scenario was drastically different. The judge spoke to us words of affirmation and encouragement. She shared about the positive progress the young woman had made during her long detention and since her release. The young woman will be graduating from high school in June with plans to attend college. She has a part time job, and has been volunteering as an intern. At the end of the hearing, I extended my hand to the young woman before she passed. She embraced me and cried, “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.”

We continued a conversation for ten minutes outside the courtroom, and I sensed the same compassion of Christ as I did fourteen months before. Things had come full circle, this time with a far better outcome.

I don’t know if I will see the young woman again. It’s likely I will run into her somewhere in the community. One way or another, I pray the Lord uses our brief connections to influence her to continue to make positive choices and ultimately to open her heart to His love. It has been a powerful reminder to me that God is the God of restoration. He is at work even when I do not understand and I cannot see it. My calling is to keep praying and to not lose heart. There is always hope, even in the dark.

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:4-5, NLT).

 

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Posted in Faith

Joy Comes with the Morning

sunrise-sky-blue-sunlight-67832

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).

My grandpa passed away earlier this month. Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a gentleman who was active and well respected in the community. I also learned that one of Life Choices’ long time monthly supporters lost his battle with cancer. In addition, people who are dear to me are struggling with serious trouble in their relationships. My heart has been heavy with loss, grief, and concern.

In the midst of difficulties, I have to remind myself that sorrow will not last forever. This verse in the Book of Psalms keeps me grounded and hopeful In Jesus. It is comforting to know that what is now will not always be forever. There are better days ahead, even when I don’t see them!

In her devotional book, Jesus Always: Embracing Joy, Sarah Young writes “Sadness tends to duplicate itself along the timeline—convincing you that you’ll always be unhappy. But this is a lie! The truth is, all My followers have infinite Joy ahead of them, guaranteed throughout eternity.”

When you think about night, what comes to mind? At night, the darkness is present and it is difficult to see without a source of light. In the Bible, night often represents a time of adversity, despair, and overwhelming confusion.

Thankfully, night is not a forever condition. In Alaska during the December winter solstice, there is as little as two hours of sunlight. That’s a lot of night! But, even there it isn’t dark forever, and families find ways to celebrate the shortest day of the year with lanterns.

As a little girl, I was an early riser. (I wish I were like that now.) My parents’ rule was that I had to stay in bed until the sun came up. I remember sitting at the edge of my bed and looking out the window waiting…waiting…waiting… impatient for the dawn. It was arduous to gaze into the dark. I thought the daylight would never come, but suddenly the sun rose slightly above the horizon. I was free from the restraints of night!

If you are currently in a dark season of life, take heart. It will come to an end. The dawn will arise, and scatter the night. Joy comes in the morning.

Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19, NLT, emphasis mine).

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You are always near, even when I don’t sense Your presence. Help me during this dark season of life to keep hope alive. As I weep during the night, comfort me with the knowledge that joy comes in the morning. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.