On Easter Sunday morning 2001, we got up early to watch the sunrise over the coast of Papua New Guinea. We went out in the dark and we sang songs and read Scriptures. But as the sky got lighter, we saw that it was completely overcast with clouds. Everything was kind of gloomy and gray. As million-dollar-view ocean sunrises went, it was pretty disappointing.
So I stood there. Pouting on the hill because the sun wasn't shining.
And then I started to realize that the sun IS shining. What I see is clouds all over. Dark and disappointing. But the sun is still doing its thing, even though I can't see it.
(They called me Einstein in school.)
But here's what I've been pondering recently.
I don't have to "have faith" or "trust and obey" about the sun still shining.
I KNOW THE SUN IS SHINING.
And it would be completely crazy to think otherwise.
The sun is totally predictable. It comes up every morning and goes down every night. I, and billions of others, have experienced this without fail and know that it is true.
So. The incredible value of experience.
People say to me, "What am I supposed to be learning in this mess? I wish I could figure it out and get it over with!"
And I've learned all kinds of things in my messes. Things I know God wanted me to learn. I've had truths to face about myself and my motivations. Forgiveness to extend to those who hurt me. Abundance to offer out of what I have received.
But more than anything, my experience teaches me that this is true:
Lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the world.
Many, many of us have had our worlds end.
I have dear, darling friends who have been called upon to deal with way more than any human being should have to cope with.
Disease and death and abuse that results in overwhelming loss and grief.
But the Shepherd of my soul doesn't chuck a huge load on me and walk off to let me handle it until I learn my lesson.
He says: This world is full of trouble. Don't be ignorant about that. But take courage. I have overcome the world.
He says: Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
For all of us who wander, afraid and alone, and wish for home, he says: I have prepared a place. And I will come, and I will take you there, and you will be perfectly at home with Me.
However our world has ended, Jesus is there.
And those of us who have walked through the dark places? We know. We know that we know that we know.
Job, the innocent sufferer, said this, "I had heard about you before. But now I have seen you with my own eyes." (Job 42:5)
The story is not over. He has loved us with an everlasting love. Our names are written on the palms of His hands. Just like a nursing mother cannot forget her child, He cannot forget us.
And whatever else you might be learning in your valley, know this for sure:
"You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you." (Isaiah 43: 4)