Getting away to the north woods always inspires me. The slow pace and solitude clear my head and sharpen my focus. I always seem to witness something that makes me marvel at God’s creativity or power or greatness. This year was no exception. From the first night lying on our rock (that dwarfs some tiny houses) the immenseness of the heavens took my breath away.
I know there are just as many stars in the sky at home, but with all the light pollution, we rarely see them. But in the north woods of Maine, it seems the stars have multiplied exponentially. The Milky Way is bright and clear, like a magical walkway cutting through the night sky. The constellations are as clear as they are in books. It seems like the longer you stare into the sky, more and more stars appear.
It’s not like that in the daylight. You can only see one star and shouldn’t stare at it. It’s in the deepest darkness that the stars shine the brightest. Part of a Puritan prayer, The Valley of Vision, says:
“Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley.”¹
Thy light in my darkness. That’s what I was thinking lying there gazing into the heavens. I needed a flashlight to get to my spot on the rock. Where I was walking, there was nothing but darkness. The beam from the flashlight was very defined, carving a narrow stripe through the surrounding darkness. If I wanted to see what was to the left or right, I had to move the flashlight that direction. All I could see on my own was darkness.
Once on the rock, the flashlight was clicked off, and the starlight filled my vision. Their light outlined the treetops and their reflections sparkled on the lake’s surface. Though our cabin, just a dozen or so yards away, was swallowed up by darkness, the stars, billions of miles away, shone brightly. Looking up, there was beauty and light. But looking around me, there was only darkness and some strange noises that eventually drove me back inside the cabin.
Our circumstances often cloud our vision. Instead of focusing on God and the light of His purpose in our circumstances, we only see the scary darkness around us. But just like the stars being there even when we can’t see them, we can trust that God is there even when we question his presence. God is not only with us in the deep, dark wells of life, He is working out His purpose in our lives through our difficult circumstances.
I saw an interview today with victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. These folks have lost almost everything. Their circumstances couldn’t be much darker. But one woman was holding a cross that had been hanging on the wall of her destroyed home. It had the word “hope” written on it. The woman said hope was all she had left, but it was enough. She wasn’t letting that cross out of her sight. She could see God’s light in her darkness, His joy in her sorrow, His riches in her poverty, His glory in her valley and can face her uncertain future in His strength.
¹”The Valley of Vision.” The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Edited by Arthur Bennett, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, p. xv.