The Lighthouse by Deborah Joyner Johnson

The Lighthouse

by Deborah Joyner Johnson

In these times of uncertainty, it is comforting to know that the Lord cares about the smallest to the largest events in our lives. No matter what happens, we can be safe through any crisis. When we are sometimes put in situations that seem beyond what we can handle, He has given the Helper to be with us, and nothing is too great for Him. However, we also see in Scripture that the faithful are not slothful, but diligent, as we read in such verses as Proverbs 12:24, "The hand of the diligent will rule" and Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage."

Some foolishly believe that if they trust in the Lord, they do not need to prepare. The Scriptures are clear that the faithful, or those who are full of faith, use their time wisely and trust the Lord to lead them to prepare for the times, while also trusting Him to supply that which is beyond their ability. The following is a true story about a lighthouse keeper that illustrates this point.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines the word lighthouse as a tower or other building with a powerful light at the top, erected at the entrance of a port, or at some important point on a coast, to serve as a guide to mariners at night. In the same way, the Lord uses people who are faithful and full of His light for the sojourners on this earth. They shine forth with His light to keep others away from the dangers, helping them find the harbor that can protect them from the storms. Lighthouses have to be strong enough to withstand storms and shine even brighter in the darkness of a storm. All Christians are called to be lights in darkness and storms, illuminating the light of the Lord within us. 

Abbie Burgess was a lighthouse keeper who was given a job that seemed far beyond her abilities, yet with wisdom and perseverance, she was able to not only keep a lighthouse shining brightly through terrible storms, but she saved her family. Her story is a prophetic parallel for how we, too, need to prepare for the times ahead. 


In 1853, Samuel Burgess was hired as the lighthouse keeper for the Matinicus Rock Lighthouse, which was situated on a thirty-three acre island of barren rock located twenty-four miles off the coast of Rockland, Maine guarding the entrance to Penobscot Bay. It was imperative that the lighthouse remain shining because it was considered one of the most dangerous locations on the East Coast of the United States for mariners who passed near there, not only because of the treacherous rocks but for the intense fog. 

When Samuel moved his invalid wife and several of their children to the island, Abbie was just fourteen at the time. But as the oldest daughter at home, she was trained in lighthouse duties so her father could supplement the family's income by lobstering. The daily routine of a lighthouse keeper was solitary, tedious, and demanding. The light from the lamp had to be kept burning from sunset to sunrise and a daily journal had to be logged. The oil lamps had to be checked and filled, the wicks trimmed, the lens cleaned and polished, and the framework of the apparatus dusted daily. A lighthouse keeper also had to learn all the necessary survival skills when bad weather came. Through training, study, and experience, Abbie became proficient in all these.


Abbie did not know that all of her skills as a lighthouse keeper were to be tested to the limit when she was just seventeen. On January 15, 1856, Samuel pulled Abbie aside and told her that he could not take the chance of them being cutoff from supplies for the winter, so he was going to Rockland to purchase what they needed. His last words to her as he sailed off were "I can depend on you Abbie." 

When Abbie tended the lighthouse, she did not waste her time but used it to study old logbooks from previous lighthouse keepers. This diligence would save her life, as well as the lives of her family. While reading these logs, she realized that her family would not be safe in their present location if a northeaster came, especially her invalid mother, who was growing weaker daily. No storm was in sight, but the urgency to move her family to the strongest part of the lighthouse would not leave, so she moved her mother and sisters to the north tower.  

By lunchtime the day her father left, the wind suddenly veered to the northeast and the first signs of a terrible storm could be seen. On January 19, great winds roared across the island, and the waves knocked down the old tower where her family had moved from—not even one piece of foundation was left. She knew God had saved them. The storm raged for four weeks stopping her father from returning.

One day while there was a brief calm in the storm, Abbie determined to save their chickens. She grabbed a basket, waded through knee-deep water, and rescued all but one. As she made it back to the lighthouse and was shutting the door, a huge wave slammed on to the shore and destroyed the chicken coop.  

Not once while her father was gone did the lights go out under her watch. Abbie said: "Under God, I was able to perform all my accustomed duties as well as my father's." Much rejoicing occurred when Samuel was finally able to return with supplies. Abbie was her father's hero.  

The following January, Samuel had to leave again for supplies. Soon after he left, another northeaster came up. For twenty-one days, Abbie took care of her mother, sisters, and the lighthouse, as she prayed for her father's safe return. With wisdom far beyond her years, she rationed the food so that each one was given one cup of cornmeal mash and an egg a day so they could survive with the little food they had left. She also kept the light burning strongly as the storm raged. When Samuel was able to return, he was again amazed at the maturity, courage, and wisdom of his daughter.

Abbie continued to help her father tend the Matinicus Rock Lighthouse until he lost his job in 1861 for political reasons. His friend, Captain John Grant, became the next lighthouse keeper. Abbie trained Captain Grant and his son, Isaac, the assistant keeper. A romance quickly formed between Abbie and Isaac, and they married that year. Abbie had never been paid for keeping the lighthouse, but after they were married, she received a promotion to assistant lighthouse keeper and received her first salary. Isaac and Abbie had four children at Matinicus Rock.    

Abbie is a nickname for Abigail, a Hebrew name that means "her Father's joy." Samuel had told her, "I can depend on you," and he could. Likewise, for the Lord to know that we will accomplish what He asks us to do—even tasks that may seem beyond our abilities—it brings Him great joy when we are faithful.

Like Abbie, our commission is to protect our families, and even in the greatest storms of life to keep the light burning for others. Who knows how many ships might have smashed into the rocks if Abbie had not been so diligent. As we get closer to the Lord, we will become shining lights to the sea of people around us, helping them stay away from dangers and to find their port. We might not know until we stand before the Lord on that great judgment day just how many others we helped by keeping our lights burning. We must keep oil in our lamps and never let our lights go out. Matthew 5:14-16 says:
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
"nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  

Abbie had wisdom beyond her years. She saved her family by foreseeing the need to move them to a safe place before a storm came. Likewise, many prophetic and biblical warnings have been prophesied concerning the storms that are coming. If we heed the Lord's voice and prepare, we will be a refuge, not only for our families but for many others. Isaiah 60:1-4 tells us:

"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
"For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. 
"Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 
"Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you." 

Just as Abbie saved her family from certain death and even rescued their beloved chickens, in the storms ahead, we may be called to rescue many others. Courage comes when we take action in the midst of fearful circumstances. Also like Abbie, who used her time to study the experiences of those who had served before her, we, too, will be much better prepared if we do not waste our time, but study the lives and experiences of those who have gone before us. The Bible is basically a logbook, or a history book, of God's dealings with men that can give us light for our own times. Only a foolish lighthouse keeper would neglect the wisdom of the others who had kept that watch. We, too, are foolish if we are not diligent to learn from the experiences of others before us, which will help us in what we are now called to do. 

Because Abbie remained faithful where she was and did not shut down in an emergency, but was strong and took action, she was later promoted—a spiritual parallel if we can complete what our Father asks us to do. Our victories as well as struggles do not go unseen by the Lord. "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (see Matthew 6:4 NIV). 

 Though the future may seem unsure and the storms may come, we can be prepared, and we must keep the light burning that we have been given, which is likely to help keep many others safe as well. Do not let your light grow dim, and do not waste your time when it is calm. Always remember what Jesus said,
"I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" (see John 8:12). 

Permission is granted to reprint the article without any changes to the text. 

By: Deborah Joyner Johnson

Copyright: 19.1 Morning Star Journal 2009

Used by Permission

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