Shrinking the Shadows
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:16b-18a
I will admit that I want this life to be easier. If you don’t connect to anything else in this devotional this week, I hope that my last statement at least provides some comfort that you are not alone in that feeling. In the perfect world of my imagination, every Christian would love one another and all of creation so magnificently that anyone that dares to not believe would be so compelled by our love that they would be drawn into the light of Christ like a bug zapper (okay… probably not the best choice of analogy…)
But that picture is not our reality. Yes, our command is still there to be the light of the world (live a life of worship), but darkness still exists. Any form of brokenness that exists in this world has a way of creating a shadow that we need to navigate around or through. Those shadows, the lingering darkness around us, is what breeds the fear that distracts us from keeping our eyes on the light of Christ.
The fear that results from an awareness of darkness (seeing shadows) is what causes all of us to stumble. Even John the Baptist (cousin of Jesus and master evangelist) was overcome by fear due to the darkness he was aware of and experiencing. When John found himself unjustly rotting in Herod’s prison cell, that shadow was thick enough to even turn his faith into fear. But Jesus sent his friends, not to change or minimize John’s circumstances, but to remind John that the Light will still overcome the darkness.
Now, we are not all going to experience a physical prison cell, but can I be honest again? Not only do I sometimes want life to be easier, I also want to live a life without fear, but more often than not, the shadows of life still get me to jump.
Of course, there are the corporate fears of things like global injustice, war, natural disasters, and so on, but just as powerful in our minds are those personal fears that we need to surrender to God far more often than we like to admit (myself included.)
Fear of making mistakes. Fear of not being enough. Fear of hurting others. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being betrayed. Fear of what others think. Fear we won’t be forgiven. Fear a conversation won’t go well. Fear a relationship will go/has gone bad. Fear of a medical diagnosis. Fear things won’t get better. Fear of being alone.
That last fear is twofold. The fear of loneliness has a way of compounding those others fears in the same way walking down a dark hallway is more fear-inducing when we don’t have anyone else with us on the journey. What makes matters worse is that the other fears mentioned often shadow the path to the same relationships we need to get through the darkness and into God’s light.
So, what do we do? First, we pray. We earnestly pray for God to help us trust in God’s love despite the shadows. Second, we take steps to being vulnerable with one another and facing our fears together. This is not time for platitudes or ingenuine connections. When fear is crippling us and preventing us from walking in joyful obedience, we need each other, and we need each other to be truthful and graceful. And then, just like John, hopefully the glimpses of light from others will begin to shrink those shadows that distract us from God’s love.
To close, I want to share the lyrics to a song by the Porter’s Gate. Let them be your prayer on this journey to overcoming fear. Feel free to add your own statements after asking God to “illuminate the shadows” of this life.
You are beloved.
“Illuminate the shadows, comfort those who are cast down. Illuminate the shadows, be our refuge in the time of storm. O God our help in the time of trouble. Illuminate the shadows, cast the evil ruler from His throne. Illuminate the shadows, break oppression with your mighty arm. O God our help in the time of trouble. Illuminate the shadows, until every idol has been trampled on. Illuminate the shadows, until every statue comes tumbling down. O God our help in the time of trouble.
You bring hope to the hopeless.” Amen