“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord… Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’” Job 1:20-22; 2:10
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:38
Charcoal and chalk meet in the early sky above air swept clean by overnight rain. Each adds its texture to the new day- bright and smudge, fluff and shadow- making for an esthetic that stirs and soothes with contrast, balance, and beauty. This morning would not be so lovely, so complete, so promising, were one not there.
At times we want to clean away the smudges so we can pretend life is tidy and pristine, but grey in our days gives contour to flat and shows off the undersides of God’s mercy and fortitude. Removing the shadows eliminates the resplendence of light. We might prefer soft and easy, but they serve only flabby faith, unrealistic vision, and shallow service.
Without some scratchy darkness, how would we learn compassion and empathy, or be able to relate to or genuinely comfort the hurting? Without wrestling with hopeless situations, how would we know to look long through to the light- that it still shines in the valley of the shadow? Without experiencing some hurt and distance, even dissension, how would we know the sweetness of forgiveness and reconciliation? Without having suffered brokenness, where would we know the glory and magnificence of divine repair?
Where has the charcoal of life sketched out God’s grace? Do we complain about getting pressed under circumstances rather than look for how God will lift us above them? Do we resist inconveniences and risks instead of trusting God for the way through? Are we constantly chafed at interruptions and difficulties? What if we instead marveled at the beauties of our Lord that shine brightest in the darkness? In what loss has the Lord brought great gain?
“Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below,
will be forever mine.” ~John Newton (1779)
Father, help me welcome the charcoal You smudge in my life, and delight in how You work in the light of chalk to show forth Your grace. May I shine it brightly!