In those dark hours
Published 4:10 pm Friday, October 13, 2017
When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20, New International Version). If you are familiar with the story you recognize that the verse quoted above was a description of the dire circumstances of Paul and a host of other individuals on a ship battling a destructive hurricane as they sailed toward Rome. Yet in the midst of the storm during those dark hours, God sent hope that they would be delivered. He used the Apostle Paul to encourage them with these words: “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me” (Acts 27:25).
Even though the direct reference was to a literal event that took place a long time ago, it might also serve as a reminder of some of the encounters we have in life that seem to bring darkness that produces hopelessness. It also contains guidance to bring us hope in the midst of the dark hours that we sometimes face.
I have been blessed with tremendous opportunities for many years to visit with the sick and hurting to offer them hope and encouragement. Needless to say I have seen and heard numerous accounts of individuals during the most desperate times of life. In the midst of suffering and uncertainty I have observed a variety of responses. Some of those responses of the suffering are etched deeply into my mind.
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I recall going to a facility and visiting an individual that was greatly afflicted by a condition that had eliminated her mobility and greatly hindered her ability to clearly communicate. Most of the time her speech was little more than babbling that was virtually impossible to decipher. On one occasion, however, I was pleasantly surprised at her ability to communicate verbally with me. While her speech was much less than perfect, it was still clear enough to understand.
To be completely confined to a bed and continuously connected to a feeding tube must surely be much like what those on that ship in Acts 27 experienced—no sun, no stars, no hope. That causes me to wonder what words I would choose if I had only an occasional period of alertness. I doubt if my words would be as gracious as those spoken to me by that young lady on that day.
Through a previous visit I was familiar with her condition and inability to communicate, so I had little expectation of anything understandable to flow from her lips when I stood by her bedside and spoke to her. To my great surprise she gave a big smile and with simple words stated: “God’s been good to me. I have no reason to complain!” No reason to complain? From the human side she had every reason to complain—unable to eat, unable to walk, unable to engage in the normal activities that a person of her age should be able to involve herself in. Surely she spoke from a hope that ran much deeper than circumstances, appearances, and expectations. I am convinced that she spoke from a heart that was filled with the love and presence of God. Humanly speaking she was experiencing a dark hour in life, but spiritually she remained alive and vibrant.
What do we do in those dark hours when it seems that neither sun nor stars appear for many days? Those words of Paul in Acts 27:25 point us to a good starting place: keep up the courage, maintain the faith, and continue to believe God’s Word. When we sincerely apply those three spiritual tools, regardless of our circumstances, we can say of a truth what that precious lady said to me that day: “God’s been good to me. I have no reason to complain!”