Blessings do not always come in good packages. When thinking of blessings in my life, the ones which stand out are not those inspiring gratitude but those which put me in the shadows. These life-shattering events could not be described as blessings at the time, yet without their occurrence I would not know God as I do today.
Some years ago God allowed my life to be covered by the shadow of a painful divorce and a life-threatening illness. Thoughts came that I would be consumed by the darkness. I cried out for relief, begged God to fix the problems, to send a little light my way, but shadows continued to loom, building upon each other until it seemed I faced a black wall.
I collapsed into the arms of God, someone who had always been in my life but up to this point, never had to BE my life. Now He was all I had; all else had been stripped away. The spiritual principle of the all-sufficiency of God was now being put to the test. After each day of facing what seemed to be insurmountable challenges, I would cast myself on God again, thankful that he had preserved me through another day. More than preserving, He had walked with me each moment, revealing Himself to me in a new way.
When I abandoned myself to God in my brokenness, experiencing all the pain all the way to the bottom, there my feet touched ground and my desire for God was discovered, where all else had been removed, giving Him room to respond with His desire for me. This meant giving Him all my dreams for this world; not that they were bad dreams or that some may be realized or not, but their allure was lessened by the larger dream of my desire for God and His for me.
There came a time when I could say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15) Therein lies the most precious blessing. I would rather truly know God in the shadows of adversity than be cold in the light of day without Him. Against the black backdrop of my trials God spread the jeweled facets of His character before me. The contrast of light on darkness made them sparkle all the more and I was drawn irresistibly into His love.
God said that He may give us bread of adversity and water of affliction, but He who teaches us will no longer keep Himself out of sight, but with our own eyes we will see Him. (Is.30:20) He reveals Himself in the shadows; a mysterious paradox which can be likened to how a blind person knows someone by feeling the shape of their face. We cannot see God, especially in the shadows of adversity, yet if we reach out in the dark His dear face is there for us to touch, and we will know Him. I could not see God in the shadows of my affliction, yet when I reached out in the dark, there He was. The things learned in the shadows about God and His character…His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision…I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.
There came an epiphany when I learned what it meant “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” (Phil.3:10) After a nurse in the hospital chemotherapy unit had painfully pierced the back of my already bruised hand, I lay back, exhausted and sick, while the toxic chemicals dripped into my veins. At a low point in this cancer journey, I silently prayed for strength to go on. The sun beamed through the window behind me, casting a shadow of the I.V. pole across my blanketed knees. It formed a slender cross, reminding me of Christ’s pain as He hung there, His hands pierced much more brutally than mine. I was brought to peace by identifying in this small way with my Savior. His sufferings were much greater, “but for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (Heb.12:2) Could I not carry my small cross, even consider it joy to face such a trial because my Lord Jesus had gone before me? I was blessed by the warmth of the sun illuminating a spiritual truth I needed to learn on a heart level.
We who are blessed by the Father need to look for His blessings not only in the light He shines on us, but also in the shadows of trials and tragedies. Romans 5 tells why. “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.”
I look forward with hope to the day when all shadows will flee and I will stand in the full light of my Lord’s eternal blessings.