The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. – Isaiah 9:2
Have you ever been caught in a whirlpool on a Class IV whitewater river? I have! The worst part about it, or the best depending on who you are, I did it intentionally! And somehow, over 20 years later, my 12 year old daughter taught me a great lesson about it. I’ll explain.
I recently gave an opening illustration when preaching on Psalm 27
which begins “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.”
In that illustration I talked about a time when I experienced first hand the importance of light. In my 20s I really loved to whitewater kayak and one time we were intentionally swimming in whirlpools. Yes for fun!
And this one really got a hold of me and dragged me down deep. I felt like I got flushed down a toilet bowl. I became completely disoriented and in darkness and was running out of air. I decided to swim, even though I didn’t know which way was up, and much to my delight, after a few strokes I saw a glimmer above me which turned into a beam which eventually told me I was heading to the light. When I eventually popped up, I did so pretty far from where I started from and to the cheers of friends. Here is a photo capturing the event as the whirlpool died out and I surfaced. Yes, I’m gasping for air.
So, what’s the lesson? Besides not to tempt fate…or do something stupid?! Well, in the context of the sermon on Psalm 27, David is saying God is his light and his salvation in the midst of the darkness that he faces being on the run from enemies. I talked about how often we feel like we’re caught in a disorienting and dark whirlpool of life. And its in those times that we appreciate more than ever the light. I know I sure did. It showed me where salvation was. So, in the depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness look to the Light! I thought it was a great analogy.
But, the greatest lesson I learned from this came from my daughter at lunch afterwards, during our weekly routine of discussing the sermon. She said:
The whirlpool is kinda like sin. It might look like fun to swim into it, but before you realize, it will take you under and hold you down in darkness. But Jesus is the one who saves us from our sins and gives us light.
That was not my analogy at all! I used the whirlpool to symbolize how we so often get caught in a funk and can’t find the light but its there. But she flipped the thing on its head and related it to sin’s hold on our lives! Yes! That’s the Spirit, man. He revealed the truth she knows and applied it to a story that should have been so obvious to me. Its an amazing thought that occurred to me that my daughter is actually my sister-in-Christ. And His light is working in her, and he’s using her to illuminate Biblical truths to me. Now that’s a cool and joyful thought!
Two verses came to mind in light of her reflection. First, Romans 7:23,
but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
And next, James 1:14-15
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
So, again, sin is like these whirlpools, they look like fun (to some of us), you think you can manage it, it can even give you a ride, but before you know it you can be in over your heard, caught in its grip, deep, disoriented, dark and lost, and unable to break free of its grip.
Yes, Jesus comes to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18) and the weary (Matthew 11:28) and he brings great hope (Romans 5:1-5, 15:13). But first and foremost, he saves us from our sins. That is what was foretold.
“…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
As the Old Testament tells us that Jesus rescues people from their enemies, in the New Testament we see that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12) but our real enemies are sin (Matt 1:21), death (1 Cor 15:26) , and the devil (1 John 3:8).
And we see in all of this, whether we are captive to emotional darkness or captive to our sin patterns, that it all robs us of who we are meant to be in Christ.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
So, whether you are caught in darkness because of life circumstances that are consuming you or because you are buried deep in sin , Look to the Light. Repent, which means to have a change of mind. Turn from yourself, your anxiety, fear, anguish, your sin, your idolatry, your selfishness, and turn to Jesus- Who gives hope in the darkness, who frees us from guilt and shame, and most importantly forgives our sins and gives us life. That is Light and Life.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:13