I read the story of Saul of Tarsus in the Bible this morning - talk about a guy who needed a clean slate. He was a man filled with hate who oversaw the murdering of multitudes of people. Worse yet, it seems he didn't even view what he was doing as wrong in the least. How could this be? It took God appearing to him on a road and blinding him for three days to get him to really see. Sound familiar to anyone? Sometimes, it's in the dark when we can't see anything at all, when we feel most lost and confused, when we have the most questions - it's then God shows up just as He did for Saul, and the scales fall from our eyes. We get our vision back. We get our very life back.
I can only imagine what those three days of darkness were like for Saul. Everything he thought he knew was stripped away. I'm sure he was terrified. After all, the people he had been murdering were people who believed in Jesus. And it was Jesus that appeared to him on the road and took his sight away. Saul must have been thinking that blindness was just the beginning of him getting what he deserved. But God sends a man named Ananias to find Saul in his darkness. And get what God says to Ananias - "I have chosen him to tell kings and foreigners about me." ?????? Uh... God... you make no sense. And I love it. Can you even imagine what Ananias must be thinking as he heads to where Saul is staying?? I imagine he was having a Jonah moment where he wanted to completely do the opposite of what God had told him. But he went and here's what happened in Acts 9:17-18...
Ananias left and went into the house where Saul was staying. Ananias placed his hands on him and said, “Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me. He is the same one who appeared to you along the road. He wants you to be able to see and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Suddenly something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see.
I read this over and over this morning. He WANTS you to be able to see. He WANTS you to be filled with all the life and fullness that God has for you through His spirit. The God of the universe wants that for you and for me. And friends, sometimes it takes the darkness to get us to the place where we can see. We won't always understand, but God will give us what we need to see Him in the middle of whatever situations we find ourselves in. It's been my experience this past year that we receive very few answers in this life and we understand very little, but when we can see and trust the beauty of God's light and presence in us and with us, and His desire for nothing but our ultimate good, our need for answers disappears,even in the middle of the dark.
Saul had three days in the dark, and I've had three months. Some of you have had three years. It doesn't matter the time - dark is dark regardless of whether it stays for days, months or years. But those words - "He wants you to be able to see"- they should be our mantra for this new year. They should be the hope that we allow to seep into our hearts. And the time will come when suddenly the scales will fall from our eyes and we SHALL see. We shall SEE. Because God desires fullness for our lives. He wants us to live in joy, and sometimes the way to joy is through the pitch dark. My eyes are starting to squint open... the scales are starting to fall off...the darkness is being driven away...my vision is returning better than before. And it's all because God makes us new.
Saul got a new name- Paul. He got a brand spanking new life. He got a new heart and a new hope. God did what He said He would do in Saul's life. He restored his sight and gave Paul a reason to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world.
Maybe you find yourselves sitting in the deep dark today. I have been there...I am just crawling out myself. I know the fear and insecurity and desperation it brings. I know how easily the voice saying "He WANTS you to be able to see" can be swallowed up by all the others. But hold on. Vision is on its way. Light is coming. I'm not there yet, but I have a feeling on the other side of this darkness is a whole new way of living. And I know there will be a day (and soon) when I will say that the ability to see with fresh eyes will be worth every second in the pitch black.
Psalm 18 says:He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning;
My God turns my darkness into light.
My God turns my darkness into light. Amen.