Every year at our church’s youth camp out, young people and adult workers alike enjoy a scenic bike ride on the Elroy-Sparta Trail, once a railroad path but now a quiet trek through the countryside of western Wisconsin. A favorite spot along our fourteen-mile route is a long tunnel that drips water but perfectly amplifies the human voice, so that the usual trip through this 1/8 mile of darkness is accompanied by groups singing at the tops of their lungs in 4-6 part harmony. Flashlights are a must and no one is allowed to ride his bike through the darkness. The idiom, “light at the end of the tunnel” is made tangible for everyone who walks his bike through the many feet of darkness.
Emerging from the dark interior of the tunnel reminds me of what it is like to finally understand the reality of certain sins in our lives. Even as believers, we are sometimes unaware of a particular sin that accompanies us along the path of life. Just last year the Holy Spirit confronted me about such a sin, and I saw it starkly for what it was—rebellion against a loving God. I had grown to tolerate it, but His awareness nudged me persistently to the reality that, in pleasing myself, I had broken the greatest commandment and failed to love Him completely.
The reality of this sin stared me down daily. Like walking through that dark tunnel, I felt plagued by its thoughts. It was as if my own sinfulness was amplified, as are voices in the tunnel. Although I had already confessed it, the fact that I had allowed it to live in such close harmony within my thoughts and daily life awakened within me a keen perception of its many tentacles, and I shrunk from their sting, aware of what Charles Wesley called the “wandering of my will”:
“I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear,
A sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near;
Help me the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire,
To catch the wandering of my will, to quench the kindl’ing fire”
(from the hymn “I Want a Principle Within”).
Like the light that becomes ever more apparent near the tunnel’s exit point, that godly fear began to emerge as I experienced first-hand the truth of 2 Corinthians 7:11—biblical sorrow works repentance:
“For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
My turning from this sin proceeded down a pathway of surrender, and a carefulness overtook me, the likes of which I had not before experienced. And yet I still felt conflict, for the dark and depressing view of myself towered over me, hiding from me the triumph in Christ. I knew I should look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1), my Example, and it was comforting to do so; but it seemed my introspection still dug deep. And then I came across this quote:
“For every look at yourself you take, take ten looks at the Lord Jesus” (Memoir and Remains, ed. Andrew Bonar, 293).
And this one by Thomas Chalmers, which I took the liberty to put in second person:
“For every thought [you cast] downwardly upon [your]self, [you] should cast ten upwardly and outwardly upon Jesus, and upon the glorious truths of the gospel” (Letters of Thomas Chalmers).
There’s no Bible verse that says ten times is a magic formula in experiencing victory, but these men of God left me with a glorious thought: a perpetual look at the Savior (the Light) can transform my darkness (the sin I saw in myself). I can victoriously place my focus upon the triumphs of His cross!
I set a goal to do just that. To help me, I made the following simple alphabetic reminders of some of the attributes of my Lord.
He is my…
Assurance of Heaven
Companion on the road of life
Deliverer from every temptation
Ever-present Help in trouble
Helper, so that I need fear what man will do to me
Omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient
Quick to hear
Ready to forgive
Savior of the world
X-cellent in all the earth
Yesterday, today, and forever—the same
Z: the beginning and the End
In meditating upon His attributes, the bright light of illumination—to obey, to follow God’s will, to be filled with His Spirit—brilliantly over-floods the darkness of introspection and replaces it with an inner glow brought forth by the Light of the World.
“I am the Light of the World:
he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life”