How the Bible sustained me in the dark

Your Word is a lamp is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

I was in the hospital umbilically attached to my bag of cancer-killing chemicals on an IV pole, which takes anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to empty one of those bags into your blood stream. It’s always been my habit to bring a book wherever I go, but even more so since spending three or four lifetimes in hospital waiting rooms, examination areas, and chemo dispensaries (more attractively known as “Infusion Centers”). Another off-and-on habit of mine is to memorize Scripture from sheets of handwritten passages folded to pocket size. Especially during the first year or two of my dark days, the Spirit pointed out a bunch of passages that were spot-on applicable to me. So, in addition to a Bible and other books I was reading, I carried to the hospital and everywhere I went a sheet of these passages to memorize and meditate on. Of all the things the Lord used to sustain me in those years, this practice is among the top five:  God’s personal presence, Bob and Jean, my precious kids, my faithful friends, and the Word.

One day I had my sheet of passages in one hand – tattered from living in my back right pocket – the other arm was occupied with needles, tubes, and tape – always lots of tape, which, when removed, hurt as much as the needles and tubes. The nurse came to check on me, saw the worn handwritten paper in my hand and asked, “What’s that, a love letter?”

“No,” then I paused and thought better of it, “Umm… yeah. It’s a love letter — a love letter from God.” I paused again, this time for effect, more of a planned pause. Remember, I’ve been a preacher for a long time and was taught the power of the pause. During the pause his brow furrowed and his head tilted like my dog’s used to when she was puzzled. “These are passages from the Bible, God’s love letter. I’m meditating on them.”

This guy works with cancer-riddled people and everyday he sees desperate souls reaching for anything that will bring them comfort and hope. These range from good luck charms to religious trinkets and artifacts. I’m sure, as a good health care professional, he’s always supportive of whatever works for the sufferer. He smiled and with a nod of approval went about his rounds.

I don’t know what you think of the Bible, but for me, since I got acquainted with Jesus, he has communicated to me through its pages over and over. I’m a big believer in it and it’s power to guide, comfort, convict, empower, train, reveal, teach. Sometimes it seems like he put things in there just for me, to remind me how much he loves me and how I can love him back if I choose to.

A suffering friend of mine, a former pastor who lost his wife to cancer, told me he doesn’t read the Bible anymore because he already knows what it says. Of course, I didn’t criticize him; he’s in enough pain as it is. But I said that’s like not talking to your best friend because you’ve had enough conversations in the past or like not going to the doctor because you’ve been there before. The Bible is like food. You can miss a meal and survive, but if you quit eating you’ll die.

I love the Bible and can’t imagine my life without it. Its truths are splints for my soul. God talks to me through it and I wouldn’t like living without hearing his voice.

Did your hear about the rabbi ­– no, this isn’t a joke – who always said if you study the Torah, it would put Scripture on your heart. One of his students asked him, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” He answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading it can put the Word on your hearts, then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.” I’ve had more of his words “fall inside” me since my heart has been broken.

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Ecclesiastes 12:11

There were countless passages that goaded me to listen to the Lord and kept me nailed down to truth when life was its toughest. Of them I’ve selected a dozen or so goads and nails. Not intending to unpack each one exhaustively, I’ll share one or two ways each one helped me make my way in the dark.

I’ve put some of my comments in first person form – from God to me. I’m not implying, unless otherwise specified, that I “heard” these specific words. But these represent the gist of the things that jumped off the pages of the Bible and seemed intended just for me at a time I needed to hear his voice most.

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