We are almost three weeks into the new year and there have definitely been some hard knocks for many people already. Devastating diagnoses, death, divorce proceedings, distress, grief, sickness, debt, loved ones slowly fading away or homeless and lost in shelters and mental illness or out at sea.
These troubles are more than enough to weigh any soul down.
Oh, there have been exciting things, too, like babies born and birthday celebrations, healing taking place in bodies, hearts and souls.
We are a forgetful people though and when the days are long and the nights are dark and the bad news tips the scales, just as we need air to breath, we need words of comfort and assurance.
On those dark nights, look up. It won't take away the pain, but it will give you new perspective. It will help you breath when life has knocked the wind out of you.
Lift up your eyes unto the stars. Your troubles will grow smaller and you will behold the greatness of God. In God, you will be comforted.
We get to the end of a cold day in January; the saddest day of the year, some say.
The schoolwork has been spread open all day, the books that were used are still scattered, dinner was prepared while the kids squealed and sledded down the little hill to the side of the house, and the rosy-cheeked and famished kids came in and devoured their steaming lasagna and then scrubbed all the dishes clean.
After the noise, the laughter and the fresh-out-of-the-oven snicker doodles with mint tea, and Bible reading, we settle down in the silence of the evening. Long after the sun has sunk in the Western horizon and the bright stars have been strung once again on the black canvas of the night, the boy and I, we read another chapter out loud from a biography of Nathanial Bowditch: the self-taught, brilliant American scientist and mathematician born in 1773.
We are almost half way through the book, and Josiah tells me he loves the book, but there has been too much dying and he's not sure it can be a favourite book of his with so much death—Nat has already lost five people in his young life. It's not a feel good novel, but a lot of life doesn't feel good.
"Sometimes if you look at the stars long enough, they sort of shrink your troubles down to size." Nat Bowditch thoughtfully advised in "Carry On Mr. Bowditch" by Jean Lee Latham.
Did you hear that? I read it again. There is something there that we all need know.
"Sometimes if you look at the stars long enough, they sort of shrink your troubles down to size."
Nat knows all about death, disfunction, and shattered dreams, but he presses on and "sails by ash breeze". He teaches himself math, science, astronomy, Latin, French, and navigation while he's been indentured for 9 years and is prisoner in his apprenticeship.
We are all dealing with shattered dreams, broken pieces of our lives, challenging circumstances, and demanding people.
Sometimes, if you look away from your day-by-day troubles and look up to the stars that God hung in place, it sort of shrinks them down.
There, in the darkest night shine the brightest lights.
"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing."
These words are words of comfort and assurance to the people of God that would be taken captive by their enemy, but God would never abandon them even when they were deeply afflicted. He brings good news to a people who just received devastating news and He promises through His prophet Isaiah to send a Deliverer—the Son of God would come and redeem His people and call them to Himself.
You cannot know all of His ways, His understanding is unsearchable, just as you can't see all the stars in the sky. But He brings each star out, every one that He has named and in His greatness He will do exactly the same for His people—He will call them by name and will renew the strength for everyone who waits on the Lord.
Look up to the sky tonight. See the greatness of God, trust in His Word; for the starry heavens you gaze up to will pass away, but the words of God will never pass away.