Where Do We Start?

Mark Keathley’s “Dance of Grace” painting hangs in our living room. It depicts a circle of six children playfully dancing with Jesus. I can almost hear the uptempo music and the children’s laughter whenever I pause long enough to soak in that moment. Jesus’ smile says it all. He seems to be having a most delightful time. Stepping into that scene with Jesus allows me to sop up every ounce of innocent, childlike joy.

We have another Keathley painting on its way. “Mountain Glory” captures a beautiful sunrise behind a North Carolina mountaintop. Keathley wanted to give glory and honor to the Creator and instill peace in the onlooker’s soul. The gleaming sun shining through the clouds reminds me that there is ALWAYS blue sky behind even the darkest clouds.

There is still another Keathley painting I would love to have someday. “More Are With Us” depicts a powerful scene from one of my favorite Old Testament stories. In 2 Kings 6, the king of Syria is warring against Israel. However, each time he maps out a battle plan, the prophet Elisha informs Israel’s king of the plan. Israel’s army then knows how to stay out of harm’s way. This infuriates Syria’s king enough to accuse his commanders of leaking information. Finally, it’s determined that God’s prophet, Elisha, is the one thwarting their plans. So, they go after him.

Once Elisha is located, enemy horses, chariots, and a vast army are sent to surround him and his servant during the night. What comes next is too good for my paraphrase! Here’s the direct quote: “When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings 6:15-17NLT) (Don’t you know I loved reading this story to my elementary Sunday school classes!)

On our good days, we tend to be like Elisha. We see the blue sky behind every dark cloud. Even when we feel the odds are stacked against us, we choose to keep our spiritual eyes open and focus on the overwhelming power available from the greater army surrounding our enemy. We find peace and long for others to see things through spiritual eyes.

Yet, on other days, crushing circumstances often stand on our eyelids, and we let darkness get the best of us. Like Elisha’s servant, we feel surrounded on every side with no way out. Bad doctor reports, relationship issues, financial hardships, joyless jobs, and news of a world gone mad threaten our peace and security. We long to reopen our spiritual eyes so that we can focus once again on God’s fiery chariots surrounding Satan’s pitifully puny army. But where do we start?

We begin where Elisha began; we pray. We pray for God to open our eyes wide. It helps me to go outside and behold God’s creation. I am blessed to live on a mountaintop where God paints beautiful sunrises. There, I am reminded that God is still God, He is still in control, and He will never leave me feeling defeated. Soon, I am surrounded by comfort. The Psalmist said it this way: “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalms 121NLT)

We cannot open the spiritual eyes of others going through a difficult time, but we can pray for God to open them. When your friends are surrounded by sickness or grief, feel outnumbered by circumstances, or are anxious about the chaos in our world, pray. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12NLT) After praying for our spiritual eyes to open, we can join Jesus in His dance of grace and pour every drop of innocent, childlike joy into the world around us. God knows it could use a smile!

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