In my first years as a Christian, I would respond to the altar call almost every Sunday evening, desiring to give my life completely to Christ and His kingdom. I wanted my life to count. It amuses me today to think that when I made those precious promises, that I would go anywhere in the world for Jesus, I didn’t realise that so much of it would be traversed by bus.

On a recent trip to Espera Feliz in Brazil, it was deeply frustrating when, with just an hour to go of a forty-two hour journey, the bus broke down in the middle of the night. The driver pulled over onto the hard shoulder to await help from the company and, as I sat there in the dark (the vehicle had no internal lighting), I believe that the Holy Spirit seized the opportunity to speak to me. It had been a very tough eighteen months for my wife and I in the ministry – unparalleled levels of stress, disappointment, and fatigue. In that darkened bus chair, the recent past played itself out in my mind like an in-board horror film, hardly edifying. And yet, in the midst of the ‘movie,’ I felt God gently ask me to “look out of the window.” There, shining bright, was a sight that I had seen many thousands of times before, but tonight it took on a holy significance. It was the moon. As I saw it, simultaneously I could almost hear these words, given at creation’s fourth day: “And He made the lesser light to govern the night” (Genesis 1:16).

A simple revelation broke out. Through it all: my uphill season of darkness, God had been faithful to make sure that it had never been completely ‘black’. While I had not been able to enjoy the “greater light” of a blessed day, there had always been the “lesser light” of the night. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). What a promise! There is a condition attached (we have to be following Him, not just pretending) but Jesus has a shadow that casts light. His presence is a comfort in our trial. The “lesser light” brings reassurance to those in the darkness that, behind the scenes, all is well.

Genesis says that the moon was given to “govern” the night (King James says “to rule”). That is also what heavenly light does: rule over us, ordering our character and our day to day behaviour. When walking through death’s dark vale, we might be tempted to think that there is a bylaw in the valley; a special dispensation for the suffering saint, that righteousness is not really expected or anticipated here. “Hey, I’m suffering!” says our subconscious. “Don’t tell me that I have to keep holy too!” Yes, pain and depression can block the spring of joy and stifle an optimistic spirit; yet, the Bible says that we are to live as children of light in all righteousness, goodness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9). Life always has its nights, but Christians do not belong to the night (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

God does not ask any less of us just because we are in the tunnel. He will strengthen those who seek Him out and produce some fruit that only grows in the dark. Christ knew something of this experience – of being blessed in the Jordan river but built in the sand of His wilderness temptations. In fact, it was the net result of His baptism in the Spirit that led Him into the desert places (Luke 4:1), not away from them. We’re not supposed to have it easy all the time. Each of God’s true generals has some sand between their toes.

Not despairing, let’s be reminded that the stars were given to establish the earth into seasons (Genesis 1:14). That’s the wonderful promise of being in moonlight. It doesn’t last forever. Our suffering, such as it is, will not go on indefinitely (Romans 8:18). For those currently walking under the governance of the moon, the dawn will break shortly, you’ll see. The sunshine of blessing will soon be with you! Until then, just keep looking out of the window. He’ll not forsake you.

Back in Brazil, you’ll be pleased to know that the bus company picked us all up about an hour later and I finally got to my bed. That evening, I preached the Gospel, just like I promised when standing at a youth celebration altar call in 1988. In my journal, I record an amazing night of signs and wonders. Men and women healed of deafness, crooked spines, laryngitis, and many more miracles. What a joy to witness the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. But, upon reflection, perhaps none of these things could quite compare with those five precious minutes in the moonlit chair.

Originally published in JOY Magazine, April 2010


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