Soak in the Sun
Last week our family camped at a nearby state park to drink in the final dregs of summer. We returned to find the warmth had gone the way of the corn stalks surrounding our home. The chill of fall had come to stay. Now my body shivers as I grab my puppy’s leash to take him outside. Each time I reluctantly walk him out, I tiptoe past the shadow cast by my house towards the strip of light illuminating the grass farther out. I just need to feel the sunshine.
While my feet perch in the frosted grass, my brain refocuses and concentrates on the rays I feel against my body. I feel its shine penetrating the back of my neck, slowly soaking into me. I feel it heat the fabric on my shirt, and imagine it enveloping my frame. Though the temperature around me doesn’t change, I can feel the warmth filling me.
This is a routine I’ve perfected through the years. My husband will readily admit I don’t like to be cold. During early morning hikes, colder-than-normal boating trips, and those few winters we took to the beach, I would try my best to soak in the rays of the sun when I could find them. And it would help. In the midst of my discomfort, I’d lean towards the rays, focusing on the sliver of heat to hold on to.
Ironically, this practice is one that extends even beyond temperature, for in some of the coldest seasons of my life, I’ve found myself doing the same. Throughout many stages I’ve felt hopeless and overwhelmed by deep suffering. In those times it’s hard to dive into deep Bible study. It’s difficult to conjure up eloquent prayers to the Lord. It feels impossible to think theologically about the ins and outs of suffering. Instead, I could only clutch simple phrases of God’s Word.
“Preserve me O God, for in you I take refuge.”
“In Your presence there is fullness of joy”
“When my spirit faints, you know my way!”
They are slivers of sunlight I concentrated on amidst the cold. I soaked them in—repeating them again and again, hoping to embed their truths into my memory. For a moment the warmth of those phrases would slowly thaw the chill of my circumstances. Though the suffering continued, I felt the warmth upon my soul.
I think you see this pattern often amidst the Psalms. Verses of lament and sorrow fill the pages of so many of the songs. Yet small pieces of light break out amidst the cold. A ray of hope shines for the Psalmist and for us.
Psalm 56 paints a grim picture of defeat. David feels attacked all the day long, and trampled upon. Yet there in the darkness is light: “In God I trust, I shall not be afraid,” he repeats. Later he recounts, “This I know, that God is for me.”
Psalm 43 begs for vindication from the Lord against the unjust. The author feels rejected and alone, yet he ends the Psalm with this refrain, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
Psalm 143 finds David begging for mercy from the Lord and pouring out his trouble before him. David proclaims God as his refuge, and ends the Psalm with hope, proclaiming, “the righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.” Many more examples continue this pattern.
I used to read these Psalms and view the hopeful proclamations as a tidy bow at the end of a brief period of suffering. I believed they were proclaimed by a confident victor whose troubles were defeated. Now I wonder if they’re really the desperate utterings of a saint trying to warm himself with the promises of the Lord. I see them as gifts to the church today—ones that help us soak in the small slivers of light amidst whatever darkness is plaguing us. These phrases give us warmth and hope, even as we know the bitter wind may very well continue on around us.
If you’re going through a winter of deep suffering, keep moving your body towards the sun. Walk through the shadows until you feel that sliver of heat upon your back. Take in a verse, a sentence, a phrase of God’s Word and soak in its promise. Sometimes we will bask in the summer sun of theological doctrines, and other times we can only position ourselves in a fragment of light. Both realities should leave us ever-dependent on the true giver of light and life amidst whatever bitter cold may come. Keep soaking in the sun, for we find real hope in its life-giving rays.
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