by Timothy W. Tron
Walking in a bleak and forsaken landscape, there seemed little to brighten the spirit within. It appeared the societal oppression had finally reached my soul. Alongside my pathway, the river ran a confluence of grayness, passing over rocks and eddies of congestion. Dark voids formed pools of contention. The sound of rushing water was the same as in the brilliant days of springtime, yet there were no blooms, no sunshine vistas – the world felt trapped in an eternal abyss of despair.
Daylight was quickly fading from the sky above. My thoughts turned to contemplate my return route and which way I should go. It was of little use to take the high ground since the sun was already nearly past the horizon. A blissful sunset was out of the question. Feeling a sudden urge, like a gentle nudge from on high, I decided to return home the way I had come, back through the darkness of the forest, a welcome cover to my demeanor. Turning around to retrace my steps, it was at that moment that the scene before me nearly took my breath away. The words from above suddenly filled my heart, “I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
There before me was a brilliant orange, fiery sunset in the backdrop of a forlorn winter sky. The glory of the LORD was above and reflected in the waters of the secretive Johns River below. Suddenly, that seemingly dead, distant landscape had come alive, a breathing, living being – a reflection of His almighty omnipotence. As the radiance of that fading image smiled across my face, a reminder of thankfulness began to warm my heart. The words of John’s testimony from Patmos echoed in my mind, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
We face a new year, and for many, they do so with much heaviness in their hearts. There has been much death and darkness in our world. In a time when it seemed like we could finally leave a recent train-wreck of history behind us, there seems to be no end to the calamities through which we must traverse. Looking ahead, we may only see forests like the bones of the dead underneath dark, foreboding skies. Yet, if we turn around and look, even against an aghast bleak sky, there is still something for which we can be thankful – something that we must realize was Godly; a blazing sunset to remind us that God was and is still with us through it all.
The beginning of a new year is often a time to make resolutions, but maybe we should try something different this year. Perhaps, we should instead think about looking back to the blessings with which we have been bestowed, no matter how small.
Sometimes self-reflection is more rewarding than one might anticipate. We often get so lost in the struggle to make it to the next day we fail to realize what we have accomplished. Sometimes we are reminded of self-reflection in the oddest circumstances.
I was recently walking with a colleague on campus and discussing the state of things. The conversation turned toward recent advances in technology. He asked if I had heard about the latest telescope that was about to be sent into orbit, the James Webb telescope. He told me how it would be so powerful that it could see back through time to the beginnings of the universe. Researching his statement revealed this from NASA’s website, “The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.”
When I hear about science trying to “look back in time” to find evidence of the “beginning” it somewhat irritates me. My frustration comes from the fact that many people who do not believe in God will do anything to try to prove that creation began with some miraculous spark of combustion out of nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my colleague is or is not a believer – that is yet to be seen. But rather, the lengths to which governments will spend taxpayer monies to research the creation in the name of science are sometimes laughable. It was in this vein of thought that the first thing that blurted out of my mouth when my colleague mentioned this incredible scientific breakthrough was, “What if someone on earth is looking through the lens of the orbiting telescope and sees in the distance another eyeball looking back at them?”
“You mean like another being, like an alien looking at us?”
“Not quite.” My mind was thinking more of God, but at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud.
“Or maybe you mean like us looking back in time at ourselves,” he said with a hint of mysticism in his voice, “Like through a wrinkle in time?”
“Perhaps,” I replied, but my thoughts had already begun to turn to how amused God must be at our incessant desire to disprove his existence by hoping to look back to the beginning of time. Under my breath, I mouthed the first lines of the gospel of John to ward off any more insolence, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
You see, by the sheer virtue of light, we were given life. Through humanity’s self-absorption, thinking that we can grow wiser than our creator, we can miss the mark. The answers to life, to from the beginning to the end, the alpha to the omega, are all handed to us by the one who we seek to find – God our creator.
Then my mind returned to the words of my colleague, “Us looking back at ourselves….”
It was then that the sunset on that dreary evening made sense. We didn’t need a state-of-the-art orbiting telescope to see it. We don’t need an international space agency to define the beginning of time to know who we are. The great Northern Irish mathematician, bioethicist, and Christian apologist, John Lennox writes, “To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power.”
When we seek what we cannot find, we lose our way. But when we seek Him, as the scriptures had said, if we knock, the door shall be opened. When we realize that all we need is merely for our asking, if only we ask, then the concept of realization of our existence begins to make sense. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
If you can find nothing else in this past year for which to give thanks, believe that there is at least one thing that was there all along. You may not have turned around and caught a glimpse of that setting sun, but then again, you had to turn from your ways before it could be seen. Once our time on earth is done, there won’t be any more opportunities to make restitution with God. Judgment day is at hand, and all will stand before the Lord. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
Are you ready for eternity?
Seek not things of this world, but seek that which gives life eternal, the salvation that comes only from Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.
 Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
 Revelations 22:1-2 KJV
 John 1:1-4 KJV
 Revelations 3:20 KJV
 Jeremiah 29:13 KJV
 2 Peter 3:7 KJV