Thick fog draped the South Downs, marshes and fields as I drove over to Brighton from Hastings the other day, making driving conditions difficult and robbing the countryside of its usual verdant vibrancy.
I pondered how my emotional and spiritual life has felt fog-like over recent months, drudging as I have through a sludge of uncertainty, self-doubt, bereavements, practical problems, over-introspection, low mood and relationship difficulties, all no doubt exacerbated by physical tiredness from increasing demands and pressures at work and the endless broken nights forgivably caused by our delightful 2-year-old daughter!
Gingerly negotiating my way round the blind bends, I thought about how I’ve tried to ‘slow down’ in my spiritual fog recently, taking more time to pray and reflect, to seek more of God again*.
Driving along the A27, I remembered in reflection and prayer how fog often seems to be a precursor to glorious sunshine, and felt the Father’s assurance in my heart that this time of difficulty will soon give way to a period of peace and joy.
Travelling home later in the day, my expectation of sunshine – at least literally – was fulfilled, lifting my spirit and no doubt that of many others.
In previous blog posts I’ve referred to the Bible as our ‘starting-point’ – for Christians, at least. Of course, it’s much more than that, but it is at the very least our starting-point. What I mean is that it’s not an end in itself, but a signpost that points us towards the ‘end goals’ (e.g. actually knowing God and living his way) – a greater reality – and shows us how to get there.
So for example, as well as showing us exactly what God is like through the historical person, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Bible encourages us to really know Jesus – not just as a historical hero – but as a close-up saviour and friend in an experiential, present way – by receiving the Holy Spirit. We’re encouraged to keep on praying for more of this Spirit, and to make our desire for personally knowing God and his spiritual riches our greatest goal (e.g. Eph. 1:15-19; Php 3:7-14).
So the Bible points us to something – and Someone – greater than itself.
Another sense in which the Bible is a signpost is that it frequently points us towards nature to perceive who God is and to learn lessons of life. For example, this collection of books (Proverbs, in this case) instructs us to follow the example of ants – yes, ants.
Not like Woody Allen’s neurotic character ‘Z’ in Antz, but those ingenious, industrious insects who pull together selflessly and diligently to create and sustain a successful, cooperative community.
Similarly, the Bible’s Hebrew poetry expounds how the sun and the sky ‘preach’ to us about the majesty and glory of God (Psalm 19).
Jesus, in his hilltop discourse, points us to wild flowers and sparrows – the everyday nature that surrounds us – for a lesson in faith and the faithfulness of God.
Paul (in the book of Romans) goes so far as to say that when we look at nature, evidence for God is just plain obvious! Even today, despite the vociferousness of certain scientific atheists, there are many other scientists and observers of nature for whom our ever-expanding understanding of genetics and the subatomic world not only leaves us in awe of the universe but also gives us more and more reason to believe in – and be awestruck by – an unfathomably creative Designer.
So we turn to the Bible and find that it counsels us not only to study its own pages but also to look elsewhere to learn about and find God (the above are just a few of numerous examples). It signposts us to (among other places) nature and the Holy Spirit.
The fog succumbing to sunshine was nature’s (and God’s) message of comfort to me the other day. And then…
That very night, I had a dream… no, nothing as profound or far-reaching as Martin Luther King’s vision for society, I’m afraid. Something much more ordinary. And yet perhaps extraordinary, because the Bible promises that some of our dreams and visions will be from the Holy Spirit.
In my dream I was watching out of the back door of our house, for some time, at simultaneous sunshine and rain. Eventually, a rainbow appeared and I stood, marvelling at it.
The metaphor of a rainbow for hope and happiness may be a clichéd one but, for me at least, is no less moving or beautiful for its familiarity.
The Bible itself portrays the first rainbow as a sign of God’s peace with mankind. Like the fog-and-sunshine allegory, the rainbow dream speaks to me of the promise of a season of hope and happiness, and I’m comforted even more.
I sense the Holy Spirit’s activity in these metaphors of nature and dreams, and I feel very grateful for the way the Bible directs us to find and hear God not only within its pages but in so many ways throughout his universe.
If we believe what the Bible says, we’ll heed its advice to see(k) God in the bigger picture, to listen out for his voice in nature, dreams and the world around us, as well as in the Bible’s own pages, and to keep on praying and seeking and asking and praying and seeking and asking again for his Spirit in our lives.
*As part of the ‘slowing down’ process, I’ve temporarily deactivated my Facebook account. If you like this post (and you haven’t also abandoned Facebook for Lent!), then please share this on my behalf. Gracias.