My daughter has one of these cool new nightlights – the kind that projects a beam of light onto the ceiling. A flashlight stays within reach of her bed too. She’s not alone in her fear of the dark – a lot of kids and even adults say that they’re uneasy when the lights go out. In a survey of 2000 adults, 40% reported being frightened when walking around their own houses in the dark.
When asked: “Why are people scared of darkness?” a panel of Yahoo users gave these answers:
- “That’s the stuff horror movies are made of.”
- “People are not afraid of darkness. People are afraid of the unknown.”
- “When I was afraid of the dark, I used to say: It’s not the dark I’m afraid of… it’s what’s IN the dark I’m afraid of.”
- “Because they can’t afford night vision goggles” (wise guy).
- “Read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.”
The last response reminds me that as a teenager I was riveted by the depiction of spiritual warfare in This Present Darkness. Frank Peretti’s book disturbed me into the awareness that this dark domain is more active than I had imagined –
(“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil…” Ephesians 6:12).
But these days I’ve been aware of another kind of darkness. It’s not of this dark dominion. It’s not eternal darkness. I’m convinced that the Light of the world makes this darkness flee –
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.” – the words of Jesus ( John 12:46).
“For (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” (Colossians 1:13)
While this is an assuring guarantee for Christ-followers, we still have to live in a world where the shadow of sin and death is far-reaching. At times darkness falls across our paths through illness, grief, loneliness, rejection, sadness, fear, weakness, loss, and uncertainty. The way ahead is unknown. Sometimes a veil clouds our awareness of God. We can’t see Him. We wonder – does He see us?
The honest laments of the psalmists, as in Psalm 88, assure us that godly people aren’t exempt from these struggles and doubts –
“I am overwhelmed with troubles …. My eyes are dim with grief … Why do You hide Your face from me? Darkness is my closest friend” (verses 3, 9, 14, 18).
And Micah the prophet lamented, “What misery is mine! … I sit in darkness” (see Micah 7).
In his book When I Don’t Desire God (an honest title that intrigued me) Pastor John Piper reassures his readers that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life. Remember that most people’s discomfort with darkness is primarily a fear of what they cannot see or anticipate. While we rely heavily on our sight to navigate the physical world, this Christian journey is one of believing and not of seeing (2 Corinthians 5:7). When clouds of fear or doubt obscure our view of God, we must anchor our faith in His character, not our feelings or senses. As Piper says, “…the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his.”
My faith rises and falls. God’s faithfulness does not rise and fall. I may not always see Him in my circumstances but I will trust His character:
“When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.” *
What helps me in dark times is to remember that God is not absent when I can’t see Him. In fact, throughout Scripture, He shows Himself working out a glorious plan in the midst of darkness.
Exodus 14 –
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the (Red) sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (verses 21 – 22).
Mark 6 –
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn He went out to them, walking on the lake …. when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed …” (verses 47 – 51)
Acts 12 –
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists (verses 6 – 7).
Acts 16 –
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. (verses 25 – 33)
A dawn of deliverance and deepened faith awaited Moses and the children of Israel, the disciples, Peter, Paul, Silas, and the jailer. Whether chased by an angry army, bound by prison chains, or rocked by natural forces, these people experienced God making a way. And when morning came, they were changed. Their stories still speak of a God who moves in the darkness.
Scripture promises us that what seems dark & hidden to us is plain to Him (Psalm 139: 11 & 12). Even as He keeps dawn on the horizon, He choreographs a timetable and a plan for the midst of the night. Perhaps like Peter He will give us rest. Or like Paul and Silas He is calling us to worship and drawing those around us to the Gospel. It could be that like the disciples we will experience Him in a jaw-dropping way. Perhaps like the children of Israel, He is preparing a miraculous story that will be shared for generations to come.
And although we experience the shifting of shadows here on this earth, the Day is coming. There will be a new dawn of deliverance as the inexhaustible Light cuts through the darkness. It will be so pure that nothing will obscure it. No more shadows of sin and death. We see dimly now, but on that Day we will know and see fully.
When it comes to the dark, I don’t know what’s there but I know Who’s there. So I won’t be afraid. And as surely as the sun (Son) rises, morning is on the way!
Isaiah 60:19 – 20 – The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Revelation 22: 3 – 5 – No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Psalm 139: 11 – 12 – If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” – a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (see Luke 4: 16 – 31).
Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 50:10 – Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.
Psalm 30:5 – …weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
2 Corinthians 5:7 – We walk by faith and not by sight.
“Why Many Adults are Still Afraid of the Dark” http://www.bps.org.uk/news/many-adults-are-afraid-dark
“Why Are People Afraid of Darkness?” http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060616005052AAZjM7U
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti – http://frankperetti.com/
* My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (The Solid Rock) hymn lyrics by Edward Mote
When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper – http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/when-i-dont-desire-god