Light In The Darkness

Light In The Darkness

Isaiah 50:10-11
10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

There are times in our lives when, as Christians, we are called to serve God in the midst of darkness. There are times when it is difficult to see very far ahead. Like driving on a dark highway on a moonless night in the middle of a rainstorm, our lives sometimes feel as if we are going nowhere fast and we are not sure if we will make it to our destination.

It is interesting to me that many Christians desire to be “overcomers”, but do not want much to overcome. We want to go to heaven, but we do not want to die to go there. We want our faith increased, without having to rely on anyone. We want all good times, all the time, and that is simply not how life works. Life is filled with melody and misery, high times and hard times. You may be experiencing a dark time right now, what many saints of the past termed “a dark night of the soul.” You may be at a point right now where you aren’t able to make sense of what is happening in your life. There are times, seasons in our lives, where we have studied the lessons, learned our formulas, memorized the promises of the Bible and think we have it all figured out — and suddenly we are plunged into a deep, deep darkness.

What do you do when the lights go out? When deep darkness comes into your life?
It has been said that in school one learns the lessons first and tests second. In life, we take the test first and learn the lessons second. Hopefully, today you will come to see that there are lessons to be learned when the lights go out.

Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God

In this verse, the Bible is talking about a faithful servant of God. This person loves and fears God. He or she is being obedient. This is not a backslider or someone who has wandered off from God. This is an active Christian who loves the Lord and is being obedient to God’s voice, yet they are in a dark place.

There is a distorted idea out there that once a person becomes a Christian it is all honey and no bees. Not true. It rains on both the just and the unjust. There are tens of thousands of Christians who love God and are obediently serving Him who are experiencing dark times. Over a hundred thousand are martyred across the globe annually.

Job said, “God has put darkness in my path” (Job 19:8) Habakkuk exclaimed, “How long shall I cry out and you not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus from the cell in which he was imprisoned asking Him if He really was the Messiah. Each of these godly men came to a point in their life that they did not fully comprehend. They experienced a time of darkness, when they did not understand what was happening to them nor why God was allowing it.

When you are in darkness it doesn’t necessarily mean you have sinned or that you are outside of God’s will for your life. It might be that God has put you in a dark time so that His light shines brighter and you can see Him more clearly.

Faith is like film. It is developed in the dark. We grow the most spiritually when we are forced to look to Jesus alone for help. You will never know how much you need Jesus until Jesus is all you have. As Christians, we are called to live by faith – not by explanations. Our verse tells us to trust or lean on the name of the Lord. Even when tough times come. If you do not have the conviction that God is good all the time then you will not stand when darkness falls. Job said – “even if He slays me I will trust in Him.” When walking in darkness we must trust, lean on, God and His promises – which never fail.

When you are in the dark you don’t need explanations. You need God. An explanation sometimes makes things worse. Sometimes God removes all the answers to give us Himself. A relationship with Him is more important than reasons. In his blindness, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. In prison John Bunyon wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. In exile, John wrote Revelation. In the dark, God develops our faith. Never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light. The test of our character is what we do, how we react, in the dark. God is still God when the darkness comes. He is still reigning on His throne. He still works out things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Some things, some truths in life, are only learned in the dark. For example, have you ever said, “the stars are out tonight?” Did you know they are out in the daytime but you cannot see them because of the sun’s brightness? There are some treasures, some beautiful things that are only revealed in the dark.

Psalm 148:3 says the stars are there to praise the Lord. Do you have a star in your darkness with which to praise God?

Here are some treasures of the dark. In the light, we see things that are near. In the dark, we see far away – light years away into outer space. We may think our brightest thoughts in the day, but we think our deepest thoughts at night. In the light, we see more clearly. In the dark, we see further. There are some aspects of our future God reveals to us in the dark. If you are praying for God to reveal to you what is next up for your life, be prepared for dark times so that He can show you things that are far off. Just ask Daniel and John about that.

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

There is a danger in the dark that Scripture warns us about. One of our most dangerous temptations is that we will be tempted to light our own fire. That is the warning of verse 11. If God has placed darkness around you, then you need to wait on God to remove it. It is better to be in the dark with God than to stand alone in man-made light. Do not ever give into despair during dark times. Darkness cannot overcome light. Remember, you don’t open a door to let darkness in. You open a door to spill out light.

If light has been removed from the situations in your life, then God, in His wisdom, has allowed it so that your faith can be developed and so that He can show you a glimpse of the future. If God is the One who has placed darkness in your path than do not be so foolish as to light your own fire. A man made fire is deceptive. It is not a sure guide to follow. God says that if we light our own fire in the middle of a God ordained darkness we will suffer.

Abraham and Sarah could not wait. Abraham created his own fire with Hagar to produce Ishmael. Untold centuries of suffering have followed his decision. Has darkness come into your life? Are you waiting on God or trying to light your own fire?
Even in the darkest of nights the sun will still rise and chase it away. Eventually God’s light will shine again and the lessons you learn in the dark will last for all eternity. You will see things and know truths that you had never seen or known before. Weeping may endure for a night says Psalm 30:5, but joy will come in the morning.

Remember this, when you are walking on a sunny day, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays, those rays are 8.3 minutes old when they reach your face. Even though you feel the sun’s warmth, you have never experienced its full intensity. The sun’s surface temperature is approximately 10,000° F. Its inner core is in excess of 27,000,000 °F. You have felt her warmth but not her intensity.

Likewise, we can feel the warmth of God’s presence but we haven’t experienced the full intensity of His glory yet. There is coming a day when we will, but now we only see a fraction of it. When the lights go out God is still there, shining. He wants to give you a star to praise Him more. Our trials become stars in order to praise the Lord. When the lights go out, develop your faith, lean on the Lord, trust in Him and you will see further than you ever have before.

The Burden of Grief

In reading Martin Luther’s Letters of Spiritual Council,” I was struck by how profound many of his insights into healthy grieving were. Since I currently work as a hospice chaplain, I spend extended time with patients and families both before death occurs and up to 13 months after it happens, I see many types of grieving behavior. Those who grew up being admonished for not “getting over” the loss of a loved one quickly or for grieving “inappropriately” would benefit from reading his wise words. Far too often, Christian leaders have used 1 Thessalonians 4:10 (do not grieve as those who have no hope) out of context. This verse does not preclude mourning, wailing or giving lament to one’s loss. It does prohibit the giving up of one’s hope of ever seeing a fellow believer again or losing one’s self to self destructive despair.

Luther insists that while we should not become hysterical, there is nothing disgraceful about mourning, nothing unfaithful in giving vent to one’s feelings (just read Job or Habbakuk.) The stiff upper lip mindset we inherited from Victorian England should have been retired long ago. Indeed, a Christian can grieve harder over death because he or she knows that death is unnatural, a consequence of the Fall. Death is described in the New Testament as our enemy. We mourn over what should have never been — separation in this life. We grieve hard over the death of non-believers, knowing their fate. The fact that they are lost to us forever cuts us deeply.  Luther, in fact, suggests that it is a sign of unfaith when people never mourn.

In “All Our Losses, All Our Griefs,” by co-authors Kenneth Mitchell and Hubert Anderson, there is this quote: “To be a follower of Christ is to love life and to value people; things that God has given us in such a way that losing them brings sadness.” p38.

Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death. Jewish people and many other cultures hired mourners and grieving went on for several days, sometime weeks. A whole book of the Bible, Lamentations, deals with loss as do many Psalms. Scripture records that the mourning for Jacob’s death lasted 70 days and for Moses 30 days (Genesis 50:3 and Deuteronomy 34:8) Why would we think that a few days off of work is all a person needs to come to terms with a significant loss.

We mourn – not at the thought of a person being lost to us forever (with the exception of non-believers), nor because we do not know where they are. We mourn because we valued them as a person made in God’s image, a unique person. We miss their camaraderie, their love, spontaneity,  friendship and a thousand other things that made them special to us. We need to let people grieve fully. We need to stop telling them to “get over it” and “move one.” Let God work the healing process. He is far better at it than you could ever possibly be. There is a time for everything, including mourning. It doesn’t last forever — one morning joy will come again and surprise us when it does. The deeper one loves the deeper one grieves. The deeper one loves God, the better one can lean on Him for strength in times of sorrow. He is well acquainted with grief. Jesus is described as a Man of Sorrows and one who suffered many losses.

I mourn my losses deeply, more deeply as the years go by, but I don’t fly into hysterics because I know my God and He is good. I trust in Him to make sense of it for me when I can’t see any sense in it. I have faith that He is both just and merciful in equal measure and that He knew what was best for my loved one’s life.

When you council with the grieving, let them know that they have permission to cry, to feel lonely, to hurt, to vent feelings without being judged. The best way to help them grieve is to help them remember the loved one. Share memories, share experiences with them. This sharing time helps to normalize the reality of death and allows the griever to know that their loved one’s life mattered to others. By talking about them, sharing pictures and moments about them it keeps alive, in a way, and diffuses the pain. Many times it allows laughter to mix with the tears. We are called to share each other’s burdens and the burden of grief is one that all of us can use help shouldering.