By Marcelo Tolopilo
Why did we choose the image of a “lighthouse” to symbolize different facets of our ministry? There’s a twofold answer I would like to share with you, and which I hope will be an encouragement to you.
The first can be found in the practical goal of Walking In The Promises, which is to guide God’s people by the light of God’s Word through their journey in this world to the safety of their eternal home in heaven.
A dangerous journey . . .
This life is fraught with dangers for the Christian pilgrim. In today’s world of instant information (via the media), believers are continually bombarded by false teaching and teachers. There seems to be a growing number of men and women who by their “trickery” and “deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14) peddle seductive promises designed to lure us and lead us astray from God and His proven paths.
The enemy of our souls, the devil, has assailed believers with his “schemes” (Ephesians 6:11) for millennia, and you can bet he has honed his craftiness with the passage of time. Regardless of his many stratagems, his design for us is always the same, our destruction. And of course there is always the pull of this world with its vast offerings of tantalizing morsels (materialism, popularity, self-exaltation, sexual immorality, etc.). All these promise pleasure and happiness, but ultimately deliver only a cornucopia of misery.
There are indeed numerous dangers for us as we navigate this journey on our way to God’s celestial shore. There are many who will reject the Gospel, disregard the truth as a moral compass, and shipwreck their lives on the reefs of unbelief (1 Timothy 1:19). But for us, God’s pilgrims, God has provided a means to avoid the hidden shoals of danger where our lives can run aground and suffer hardship.
The beacon of God’s revelation . . .
The means God has given us to safely navigate our way home is the light of His revelation to us, the Scriptures. A lighthouse is a wonderful old world analogy that illustrates this principle. Historically lighthouses have pierced the dangerous darkness of the ocean’s night to safely guide mariners on their voyage. They stand immovable, faithfully shining their resplendent light, identifying treacherous coastlands, unforeseen shoals, and securely leading trusting vessels to the protection of their appointed harbor.
Like a lighthouse, God’s Word warns us of the dangers we face on our pilgrimage. It protects us against error, the schemes of the devil, and the devastating allurements of this passing age. The Bible will continue to be our beacon in this life and guide us until we land safely in heaven’s harbor.
It is the aim of our ministry to shine the light of God’s word on our journey, so that we may sail with certainty through the voyage of this life and navigate safely home to the eternal day of Christ Jesus our Lord. Hence our affinity for “the lighthouse.”
There is also a second reason why we have been drawn to the analogy of a lighthouse, and it comes from our personal experience (my wife’s and mine) over the last two years.
Sailing into an unforeseen and raging squall . . .
As some of you may know God led us through some turbulent waters over the last two years. Valorie, my beloved wife of 23 years was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as my mother – whom we cared for at home – began to succumb to the final ravages of Alzheimers, and as we entered a particularly difficult season of ministry.
We went from the calm and joyous peace of the holiday season in 2004, to the tumultuous series of events that rattled us to our core in the first six months of 2005. I won’t burden you with the details, but the first half of ’05 was the most trying time our family has ever faced.
Navigating in the dark . . .
The first month and a half was particularly difficult, not simply because we had never faced such challenges, but because the news spiraled from bad to worse with every passing week. At first the lump my wife discovered was deemed “Probably not a big deal,” which became “Well, it’s cancer, but it’s the most curable cancer you can have…” to “No, there is more at play here than meets the eye …” to “What in the world is this lump in your lymph nodes?” to “We’re going to schedule an immediate double mastectomy, and radical chemotherapy.”
As Val’s prognosis grew worse by the week, my mother’s dementia and physical deterioration spiraled dramatically, and her care escalated to a 24/7 intensity we had not known before. It broke our hearts to see the woman who had given me life die such a shocking death. There were other variables at play during this time that made life exceedingly difficult, and I remember reaching a point of near despair when I had never felt so scared, so alone, and so much in a dark place. I felt hopeless and Psalm 69 became my lament and prayer.
A guiding light pierces through the darkness . . .
Yet it was in the darkest period of grief when a distant light broke through the darkness and beckoned us to follow its beam. I’ll never forget pouring out my troubled thoughts to God when the Lord providentially brought to mind a picture we had hanging in one of the rooms of our home. It was a picture I had never paid particular attention to, but that suddenly, inexorably drew my attention. I got up from my office desk and proceeded to the room where the picture hung. It was a sequential photograph of a lighthouse being overwhelmed by a massive wave.
In the first frame, the threatening sea loomed as it gathered its strength to attack the lighthouse. In the second frame, the wave crashed into the stalwart pillar with all its might. And in the third frame, the wave overwhelmed and nearly eclipsed the entire tower of the lighthouse as it exploded over the structure. I could almost hear the roar of the fierce collision.
I stood there contemplating the scene, my eyes still burning from the tears I had wept. The raging storm depicted in the simple black and white photos certainly fit the feeling of tumult in my life at that time. But then as I considered this image, I suddenly realized that though the storm raged in its anger against the lighthouse, the tower itself did not budge an inch. It stood perfectly erect impervious to the violence it faced. The lighthouse was strong, immovable, indeed indestructible. That seemed strangely comforting to me.
God’s resplendent light guides to safety . . .
No sooner had that thought occupied my mind, when a verse of scripture I had sung untold times flashed across my reason. The Scripture was Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD (Yahweh) is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.” I don’t think I have to work too hard to help you connect the dots on this one.
My head collapsed into my open hands in a new wave of tears, tears of utter joy and gratitude. The lesson was simple but life changing for me and, in the moments that followed, for my wife. Though the storm rages furiously, as the Scripture says, those who seek their shelter in the Name of the Lord (“Name” i.e., all that God is, the sum of His glorious attributes!), are safe! It was then and there that I understood as never before that nothing, not death itself, could shake my stronghold, my God in whom I took my refuge. Come life or death, we were safe in the hollow of God’s hands. What a simple and yet splendid truth that is!
I eagerly sought my wife to explain to her the little object lesson God’s Spirit had taught me. Having done so I turned to her and said “Honey, I don’t know what part of the wave sequence represents our lives at the moment, but I know this, we are safe in that strong tower. We are perfectly, peacefully safe in the Lord, our refuge. Though the sea of life roar all around us our God is immovable and we are secure in Him.”
A reminder of God’s faithfulness . . .
We shared that story with no one else. It was a treasured lesson between my wife and I. Two weeks after that incident an anonymous Christian family gave us an original, beautiful Thomas Kincade painting. I was told that this painting had been a constant encouragement to this family during a time of great distress.
It was a rendering of a lighthouse standing tall on a precipice overlooking the ocean in the midst of a surging squall. In the distance clear skies could be seen and would in time dominate the coastland, but whether under fair and sunny skies, or in the throws of a howling storm, the lighthouse stood immovable, unchanged and certainly those in it kept safe.
Extremely difficult days were yet to come in the months that followed, but God, our refuge, surrounded us with His protection (Psalm 3:3, 18:2) and His supernatural peace (Philippians 4:6-7). Since those early days of our trial, the lighthouse has become a treasured symbol to us. It is a reminder of God’s guiding light to us in the Scriptures through this voyage of life, and of the strength that is found in His unchanging character. We hope that when you see this image on our ministry literature you will be reminded of, and encouraged by the same.