The Diamond Ring Effect
Over the years, I have shared great amounts of my story. Some of you may have picked up that my walk wasn’t always at a steady pace, nor was it always on firm ground. Since I accepted Christ, I have walked through many dark moments. Our family has lost several significant family members, some moms, some brothers, sisters, dads, sons and daughters, friends…and all within a 12 month period; Faye, Rita, Uncle Buck, Mitch, Tyler, Dennis, Cole and (to be frank) too many others to mention. Our family has also carried several women and men through various medical diagnosis including cancer, diabetes, alcoholism and drug addiction, stroke, and divorce.
I recall the forest fires of 2016 which swept away acres of familiar forests that are now recovering in Mother Nature’s way of mud slides and re-vegetation. The winter of 2016-2017, worked over many of our communities as some experienced total loss of houses, barns and property; closed roads making travel impossible to get to work; and our electricity sources compromised.
The world continues to spin despite what we are going through; piling uncertainty that looms throughout the world and discouraging politics can weigh us down without us even knowing it. In a world where the news only has negative reports, it’s easy to let darkness consume us and feel that joy is not present and is not achievable here on earth.
Imagine with me, a backpack on your shoulders. Now weigh it down with cancer diagnosis, 50 pounds; loss of a family member, 20 pounds; getting laid off of your job, 15 pounds; bankruptcy, 20 pounds; divorce, 45 pounds. Before you know it you are weighed down with 150 pounds of darkness. Your knees ache. Your back hurts and your brain…well your brain tries hard to stay positive but, hit-after-hit, it’s getting harder. When darkness consumes you, how in the world do you find the light? How in the world do you find joy?
When my daughter was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a terminal genetic disorder, my world went black. I cried and I cried harder. I prayed and I prayed harder. Tessa was baptized in the hospital by Pastor Kunz from a local Salt Lake church. We were then sent home with her baptismal candle and medical diagnosis just a week after we found out that only 10% of children with this disorder live to see their 1st birthday (now there is a bundle of hope). We had a couple of phone numbers to medical supply companies, including the Hospice folks who were going to walk us through this difficult time… and made our way back to Bondurant.
I wanted to hide. I wanted to protect my daughter from her disorder; to hold her every moment. I wanted badly for her to know the things that I know; to go on hikes with me, maybe I could teach her how to bake or ride horses. Why? Why did this have to happen to her? How long did we have? Can we take her anywhere? Am I ever going to hear “I love you” or see her walk? Am I ever going to feel her tiny arms around me or see her smile? The gloom and chill of the darkness encompassed me for some time before I was called out of the storm.
Do you know the testimony of Gideon? His story is one of the decks stacked against him. He was pushed to a point where all he could rely on were God's promises. Judges Chapter 6 tells us the Midianites were an oppressor that swept across the countryside, plundering it like a multitude of locusts. They were constantly picking a fight with Israel and God chose to call on Gideon to become a mighty warrior to, eventually, defeat the Midianites. Gideon obeyed with several tasks in preparation for God to hand over the Midianites to Gideon.
With every command (attack), God also made a promise. The promise of Victory. He promised to deliver the oppressor every time. The final story with Gideon is where God reduced Gideon’s army down to 300 men going against 100,000 Midianites. The ratio was not looking good- 1 of Gideon’s men to 450 Midianites. In order to defeat this army, Gideon’s men had a HUGE workload in front of them. Can you imagine going into this battle, being in the army’s war gear? Can you relate to feeling defeated before you even start? Alone? Scared? Overwhelmed? Beaten? Overpowered? Crushed?
When I feel as though the deck is stacked against me…honestly there is only one promise I remember and that is the promise of VICTORY. Judges 6:23 says “Then the Lord said to him, Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die”…no you shall not die, you shall have VICTORY! Jesus already claimed Victory for you on the cross. As believers, we are already winners! We are conquerors! We are victors! You see- God doesn’t want us exhausted, fretting, confused or misled…it says so in Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light”.
The MESSAGE translation puts that same verse this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Light, as used in this passage in Matthew comes from the greek word “elafros”; meaning of little weight (light); easily managed (carried), easy to bear (move with).
WOW! His burden is light! His burden is light! His burden WEIGHS NOTHING! When we cast our cares upon Him, when we are anxious in nothing, when we take it to God as He asks us to in prayer (in Philippians 4:6)… the weight of the cancer diagnosis, death, job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, hard times…the weight of the world is gone!
The skeptic might say “That’s impossible!” But to the believer it’s a different story. To the believer we keep our eyes on the sky. To the believer we know a secret that should be shouted from the mountaintops! The burdens of this world were carried by Christ. Our burdens (yours and mine) hung on the cross over 2000 years ago with our Savior. He died for us. He died so that we may know the weight of grace; the weight of light. He died so darkness would be conquered FOR us. He died for us so He could RISE AGAIN. And in the ascension He could then bring LIGHT; bring about Glory!
John the Baptist
The book of John, Chapter 1 tells about John the Baptist. What an extraordinary purpose to have been sent by God to be witness of the Light that all through him might believe! John was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. And John 8:12 Jesus declares “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of eternal life!”
Did you know that John the Baptist wasn’t the only man given this purpose- to bear witness to the light? Through our trials. Through our pain. How we publicly handle ourselves when others are watching. There we find testimony. There we find witness of the light in the world today. In those hard times, if we keep our eyes to the sky, other people (believers and non-believers) are able to witness the behavior of a trusting soul; trusting in something that this world cannot offer as we take hit after hit; blow after blow.
Only one other passage in the Bible uses light (elafros) as we find it in Matthew 11:30. We find this passage in 2 Corinthians Chapter 4. There it says “…therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Paul was the one that made that statement. Do you know about Paul? A man that was beaten; imprisoned; tortured; bruised. Now that’s a man that experienced great affliction. The Holman Study Bible for Women commentary states that “Paul reveals a key to the thriving Christian life. A person with a great command of rich doctrinal truths can be renewed daily by the mercy and truth of God, thereby sustaining the outer body, which faces great trials. Paul had already shared the severity of afflictions he and others faced. Yet, with this practice of daily renewal, he was able to view such hardship as light affliction.”
What was Paul thinking? Light affliction? For only a moment? The dark moments in my life don’t just come and go quickly. Some linger for years! What about the moments that seem to last forever?
I can tell you that those dark moments were when I was the most thirsty. I would have drunk from any well…in fact I did drink from many wells- but the well that finally quenched my thirst was the WORD. And the WORD was where I found light. I found daily renewal in the time I spent buried in my bible; buried in CS Lewis, RC Sproul and AW Tozer. Time spent daily, writing my own letters to God; on my face before the Lord with a pleading heart; and eager, thirsty to know more…
In August 2017 Jackson experienced a total solar eclipse where totality lasted approximately 2 minutes and 15 seconds…whereas the entire event lasted approximately 2 hours and 44 minutes. 2% of this event is in total darkness. The rest of the 98% of time is spent with some fraction of light. As we are experiencing the most difficult of circumstances…the darkest moments in our life, we are tempted to think they will last forever. But the truth is, those dark moments don’t last that long at all. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you OUT of darkness into HIS marvelous light. We are God’s kiddos. We have access to His grace; His mercy through His very own son Jesus Christ!”
Those dark moments don’t seem so dark if we can look onto eternity and embrace who we are as God’s own children. Heirs of grace; princes and princesses; sons and daughters of the KING.
Light as used in Peter and earlier in John where Jesus declares He is the Light of the World stems from the greek word “phos”- meaning light, source of light, radiance.
Why do we need darkness anyway? Jewelry stores display diamonds in clear, glass. But what does a jeweler do, when he pulls the diamond out of the case? He puts a black cloth underneath the diamond. Why? To see the shine. To see the sparkle. To illuminate the beauty of the gem.
The Diamond Ring Effect
The moment right before and after the full eclipse, is what they call the diamond ring effect. My cousin Kathy stated in an article she recently wrote that “she cannot help but smile at the reference to a sparkling jewel in such darkness. As we search for light in the midst of our struggles we are rewarded with so much beauty”. I think that if there is any purpose of darkness here on earth…my conclusion is for those dark moments to make Jesus shine brighter. Jesus is our sparkling jewel.
It’s easy to get frustrated…sometimes I think my prayers are not heard, or the news is too grim and I wonder “God! What’s your problem?!! Why don’t you just fix this?” I have gone to bed at night with tear-stained skin wondering and screaming out to the Father for an answer. But you know what…God doesn’t have to be accountable to me. He was never the problem. He was never the one causing the shadow; the darkness to consume me.
Close your eyes and imagine a dark room. A flood light turns on and you stand in front of the flood light. What happens when we turn our back to the floodlight? We see a shadow.
Like the moon gets between the sun and the earth and casts a shadow during the solar eclipse, I realized that sometimes, it was me standing in the way of His light. It was my eyes turned away from Him…looking to all sorts of worldly goods to bring happiness (or perceived light). When we focus on our insecurities, bad news, or dis-satisfaction in the worldly sense- it is easy to stand in the way. But, like John the Baptist, we were made to be witnesses to His light. Like the way a diamond reflects fragments of light; like the way a rainbow is so much brighter when its backdrop is the black clouds of the storm that just passed. We were made to reflect the Glory of Christ in such a way that it draws others to the light.
We were not made to stand in God’s way. Renee Swope says it best in her book A Confident Heart, “We were made to follow Him such that our lives become a message about Him, the One who came to illuminate our darkness with His redeeming love.”
Turning toward the light; it’s critical for us to survive in the darkness.
Turning away from self. Turning toward God.
Turning away from doubt. Turning toward truth.
Turning away from darkness. Turning toward light.
Renee Swope goes on to say “Turning is crucial…so we can listen to what He says about who we are and what we can do.” Turning toward truth, so we can know who He is and what He wants to do through our lives as we depend on Him. Turning toward the light of God’s promises for us in every area of our lives- as a woman or man, mom or dad, husband or wife, friend, leader, follower of Jesus…so our life can be about living, loving, and leading others to the light of God’s truth as we walk it out in our everyday lives.
Yes, I said our everyday lives. If our lives mirror the eclipse at all, 98% of our everyday lives will experience happiness; but the other 2%...the darkness of a total eclipse on your life…those are the moments where we look to the sky to find peace…where we find a burden of Light; where we find hope that those dark moments won’t last forever.
Emit Your Light
This testimony from Mercy Me lead singer touched my heart extraordinarily one evening. Tears flowed from my eyes as I experienced someone else’s pain. Someone else’s hope of a child living with a difficult illness; difficult decisions; difficult navigation as a parent. I would like to share it with you as I believe it brings hope to many different situations.
The testimonies of my sisters also bring light.
My sister Jamie will bring light to the world through 2 diagnosis of breast cancer by starting a non-profit to help others walk through their diagnosis and walk closer to God.
My sister Kindra will bring light to the world through the unexpected loss of her son by being a guide for other parents with tough kiddos. In fact, she just doesn’t stop. She gave me a book by John Eldridge “Wild at Heart” with a picture of her 18-year old son, Cole, whom we just lost in April in a car accident. She said, “this book changed everything about the way I was a parent to my son”. She has given, and continues to give, to parents with strong-minded little boys.
My dear Aunt Kathy will bring light to the world through the long struggle of mental illness with her son by living transparently for others to hear her testimony of faith.
My daughter has brought light to the world through the grim diagnosis of Trisomy 18. She has gone on hikes with me; baked cookies and cakes; gone 4-wheelin’ and fishin’. She loved mobility. I didn’t ever need to hear her say “I love you” because I saw it in her eyes and I felt it with her squeezes around my neck. I don’t need to know why she was chosen to shine this light…but I am honored to have hosted such an angel on earth.
Through our tragedies, diagnosis, illnesses, and troubling, dark times that bring upon us heartbreak, tears and pain- we can see the silver lining through it all. The silver lining of hope in Jesus. The dark doesn’t last long- and a reliance on faith will testify to others Christ’s love for His children. When the lights go out, remember that there is a God that who seeks you.
The question I posed in the beginning was this: when darkness consumes you, how in the world do you find the light, how in the world do you find joy?
Well I don’t think it is so much how you find the light…Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So maybe that question is better asked like this…
When the lights go out. When pain consumes you. When you are overwhelmed and overburdened. Will you seek Him so that you may experience peace and joy in this world?
Let me leave you with this parting thought. God is always here. He is here for you when the deck is stacked against you like Gideon; He is here for you when you experience ongoing affliction like Paul; He will renew you day-by-day when you seek Him. Seek him and you will find the light that overcomes the eclipse you are living through.
God Bless You. Let the Light Shine Through.