In my late teenage years, I spent many of my summers at our local Christian summer camp. Camp Columbia was nestled in the forests of Thetis Island. It was more run-down that rustic, but I enjoyed much of the time I spent there. One summer, my role was to help with the Leadership Training program.
One evening, the group decided to wander up to Pride Rock. Pride rock was a clearing in the forest, where you could sit and look at the stars. As I was finishing some duties at the main house, I told the group that I would meet them later. It was only 10 minutes or so before I was walking up toward Pride Rock in pursuit of the group. My journey, however, did not go as smoothly as I would have liked.
There were two reasons why the trek to Pride Rock did not work in my favour. Firstly, it had grown dark. The sun had long ago set behind the horizon and the stars were beginning to come out. This meant that a pathway through the forest was nearly impossible to see. Furthermore, the deeper I got into the forest the less I could see. At one point it was close to pitch-black. I was convinced, however, that I knew the way. I had been to Pride Rock several times before; I was confident that I could find the appropriate pathway and meet the group.
Secondly . . .I didn’t have a flashlight.
The lack of a flashlight proved to be disastrous for me. At one point in my journey through the forest, the path zigged where I thought it zagged, and I went tumbling down a hill, landing in a bed of thorn bushes. I did not hurt myself, beyond a few scrapes on my legs, but now I had a new problem; I was deep in the forest, unable to see, and unsure which way I should go. I was disoriented and confused. And I couldn’t see anything! I called out to the group yet no reply came. Had I taken the wrong path? I tried to walk back up the hill, but with no visibility I could not make any progress. I tried to step in different directions, but it seemed that each way I moved brought me deeper into bushes, thorns, and scrapes. I will be honest, at one point panic started to set in.
Then I saw it. The light from the main House. I could see the light of the House cutting through the darkness of the forest. While I still could not see a defined trail, or the house itself, I could see the light, and I knew the light meant safety. Walk towards the light, I told myself. I began moving in that direction. With each step thorn bushes cut into my legs, but I had to keep going. The light was always before me, despite all the darkness and scrapes. I kept moving toward that light, and eventually, emerged from the forest and into the clearing by the main house.
The Psalmist declares, “Thy Word is a lamp unto our feat, and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). The Psalmist is not thinking specifically about the pages of scripture, but about an inner dynamic. When we live in relationship with God, we have the privilege of experiencing the voice of God spoken to us. Sometimes we may ‘hear a voice’, sometimes we may have a feeling; but like a light shining in through the darkness, God’s voice beckons us forward in our Christian lives. God guides our steps. God illuminates the way. God directs our path.
Of course, this does not stop us from experiencing some cuts and scrapes along the way. The word of God is not the voice of easy street. As we journey through life, we will still fall down hills, or experience the zigzaging paths. This is simply part of being imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Yet with God’s light shining before us, God will continually direct us into the places of life where we experience his presence, power, and healing. Even though the Psalmist is not thinking about leather bound books with gold-trimmed pages, we have the benefit of the Bible to aid us in in hearing the voice of God. Prayerfully reading scripture mediate’s God’s voice to us. The gift of scripture is that God’s voice is always open to us. When we read the text on the page, we hear God’s voice spoken into our hearts. God is always speaking.
Now we can turn to the light of God’s voice in two ways.
We can turn to the word of God when we find ourselves lost. Like falling down a hill in the middle of a forest, there may be times where we find ourselves in a situation that we are ill equipped to handle. In these times we can turn to God’s word as that light that breaks through all darkness. The light of God’s voice, spoken through scripture, becomes the way we journey through the unexpected tumbles of life. Of course, this does not stop us from getting hurt along the way. There will always be difficulty in life, and even with the light of God’s voice before us we may still find ourselves scraped or bruised. Yet God’s voice proves constant and faithful, and it will lead us out of the darkness.
There is nothing wrong with this approach to scripture. In fact, the very Psalm that lauds God’s word as a lamp and light speaks about the sufferings of Psalmist. When we find that life zigs where we zagged, when we fall down the hills of life and find ourselves knee-deep in some type of obstacle, we are encouraged to turn to scripture for guidance, healing, and wisdom. God’s voice is spoken in those times to protect us, to lead us, and to rescue us.
Still, it is one things to look to God’s voice as a distant beacon when we find ourselves in need of direction; it is quite another thing to carry a flashlight.
When we turn to God’s word as a flashlight – when we carry it with us daily – we find that we are able to avoid some of the pitfalls of life. When we carry God’s word with us, we walk in God’s will with every single step. We avoid the snares and traps that lurk in the darkness, and who can say how many hills we do not tumble down, simply because we are able to the right path clearly.
God’s voice is always there for us. It is a lamp unto our feet. It is a light to our path. God’s word provides direction when we are lost, healing when we feel battered by life, comfort in times of stress or panic. The faithfulness of God’s word is never in question. The only question we face is ‘how will we approach God’s voice?’ Will God’s word be a distant voice, turned to only in times when we need rescue? Or, will we take God’s voice with us as a cherished guide for each and every step, allowing God to illuminate where, and where not, we should step.