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Can a Candle Burn from Three Ends?

Both logic and reality would say (emphatically) “No.”

My life, however, would suggest otherwise. I’ve felt like a candle burning at more ends than it has for the better part of seven years. Different things have been the source of the flame in different seasons, but whatever this season is I find myself in… it’s like every aspect of life lit a match and contributed to the flames consuming the candle of my life and mental and emotional capacity.

By the grace of God, and honestly that alone, I’ve managed to make a habit of carving out devotional time in the mornings. I sit down with my One Year and my journal and listen to what God has to say.

The Old Testament seems to be treated as a bit of a chore when it comes to One Year reading. Many read it to check the box so they can move the Psalms or New Testament. I felt similarly at one point, too, but lately, I’ve realized how much rich, practical application is found in the words of the Old Testament.

A few weeks ago, I wrapped up II Kings and was pretty awestruck by this verse:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. (II Kings 19:14)

This man had a letter intended to sow fear and doubt delivered to him, personally, and he could not pretend it didn’t impact him. So he didn’t. He didn’t talk himself out of his feelings. He didn’t pretend these threats weren’t real. He didn’t act tough, rip up the letter and step on the pieces.

He “went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord.

He got into the presence of God in a place where he would be uninterrupted - free from distractions - laid the letter that caused the fear and doubt in his heart before the Lord and prayed.

And what did he pray?

15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood, and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” (II Kings 19:15-19)

In other words…

  • Verse 15 – Lord, I know who You are

  • Verse 16 – Lord, I know I need You

  • Verse 17 + 18 – Lord, this is what I’m seeing before my eyes; this is my perspective, and what I need you to speak into or act on

  • Verse 19 – Lord, I am asking You for rescue because I know You’re the only One who can

Hezekiah has an awareness of who God is regardless of his circumstances and how they make him feel.

He is humble and aware of his need for the Lord to listen and act.

He is not afraid to be real with the Lord about his perspective, his fears, and doubts, or what caused them.

He is confident that God can rescue his people.

Consider not just your prayer life, but the posture of your heart as it relates to praying in moments of struggle. Are you willing to spread the letters before the Lord? Do you set time aside when you’re uninterrupted and free from distractions to give God space to meet you where you are? If not, I’m guessing you’ve experienced one of the following:

  1. You’ve spent periods of time drowning in feelings that became unmanageable in the face of unchanging circumstances that were causing negative emotions. Those negative emotions also probably lead to inactivity as it relates to what is most meaningful, or what you’ve been called to.

  2. You’ve spent an insane amount of energy suppressing feelings you don’t want to deal with, and therefore now wouldn’t know how to deal with it even if you felt like it. This attitude leaves you with the belief that you have to be your own savior because asking for help would be an admission of weakness, which you’ve spent a lot of time and energy avoiding.

I sat here for a bit wondering if there’s a third, more neutral alternative. But I firmly believe there is not.

The only other alternative is the healthy one we see evidenced by Hezekiah.

So what did God do with Hezekiah’s letter laid before Him?

He sent Isaiah, the prophet, to encourage him. God does that a lot…uses people to meet us where we are with exactly what we need.

At no time in the Bible do we see the Lord meet man’s broken, humble, vulnerable cries with wrath, judgment, condemnation, or dismissal. Not in the Old Testament. Not in the New Testament.

Instead, God meets them right where they are through someone else or quite literally meets them where they are with His presence like He did in Exodus 34 with Moses.

That’s our God.

So the encouragement I hope you take from this devotional is simply this:

Be like Hezekiah. Spread your letter(s) – no matter what the pages contain – before the Lord with a humble, honest “cry” and give Him your undivided attention.

And to do that… you may have to put a flame (or two) out. If you go on burning at both ends, you’ll be too busy to feel the things you need to bring before the Lord to sort out.

Until you have no candle left, anyway. Until your body calls it quits for a few weeks. Or until you finally realize your relationships are hanging on by a very thin thread. Or until your emotional stability is akin to a seesaw and not even you can deal with you anymore.

You can’t let your light shine if you burn your candle to the ground.

Take a breath. Take some time with the Lord. And take your “letters” with you so you can spread them out before the Lord.

Everything about the truth of Scripture leads me to be confident that if you do, He’ll meet you there and you won’t leave the same.

~ Alyssa

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