What do you do when you feel like you are at the end of your rope?
I recently finished a painting called “Smoldering Wick,” which I’ve shared on Facebook a little bit, and many people have asked what it is about.
Even though I just finished the painting just at the end of last year, the idea came to me several years ago. I was feeling discouraged about certain things in my life that weren’t measuring up, my failures and mistakes glaring me in the face, and I wondered if God could forgive me.
Many times when I feel this way, I get on my knees, open up my Bible in front of me and ask God to speak to me out of His word. Although I know God is forgiving and that He also will help me in all my discouragement and difficulties in life, I want to experience this forgiveness and goodness from God.
I want to know He is right there with me.
Some people may be able to, but I have a hard time shutting of the floodgate of my feelings. When I feel down, I can’t just put a smile on my face and pretend everything is OK when, inside, I feel like I’m drowning.
And I’ve found from experience that nobody knows me like God, not even myself.
And nobody cares to listen to me pour out the bitterness of my soul like God.
And nobody has the answers that I so desperately need like God.
And so this is what I do. I seek the Lord until He comes and reigns His righteousness on me. I know if I spend enough time there before Him, sooner or later, He will break through the hardness of my heart, or mind, and unbelief will melt away, and His light will cascade down upon me, breaking through the darkness.
And this all comes through His word, in the Bible.
So it was that one day, that I sought the Lord in my time of need, and I came across this promise in Isaiah 42:
In another translation it says, ” a bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”
As I came across this verse, my heart was lifted up with joy. I felt the presence of God right there with me!
I knew that if I had even a flicker of a flame left burning for Him, He would not snuff it out.
In context, this verse, written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 B.C. was speaking prophetically of Jesus, who would be that suffering servant, God come in human flesh, the One would know what it was like to experience our pain, and could sympathize with us when were weak and beaten down.
And that’s exactly what I felt that day. It didn’t matter what I was going through, really. The trial that brought me up to this point, even if it was my fault. (Which it probably was) All that mattered was, God was in the house! God was in the room with me! And in experiencing that intimacy with Him: of His love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His gentleness, His kindness–I had everything I needed.
And so I wanted to commemorate this moment. Back in the Bible times, when God showed up, the ancient Israelites would put up a monument or a memorial stone to help them remember what God did for them. And so in the same way, I wanted to paint a picture to commemorate how God brought such encouragement to me! Also, I thought, “this may bring encouragement to someone else, if they get a glimpse of how kind, how patient God is with us.”
So I sketched it out. The title “Smoldering Wick” came right away. And then I thought, “I need to pick a time where they would use kerosene lamps to illuminate what they were trying to see,” so I picked the Victorian era.
The servant would symbolize Jesus, who shows compassion on us when we are discouraged.
I wanted the pose of the man to communicate that feeling, with his hand on his master’s shoulder. The man would be obviously distraught, but reading the Bible for comfort.
Because I wanted this to be a large painting with a ton of detail, it wouldn’t be started for another couple years after doing this sketch. I was still working part time at delivering newspapers and later working at a local recycling facility, and between that and commissioned artwork, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on one of my own paintings.
But I had the sketch, and the idea was recorded. When the time was right, the next step was to get together the photography for the painting, so that it would look realistic enough to convey the emotion and the concept to whoever looked at it.
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