God in the Dark

“If you feel lonely, turn off every light in the house and watch a horror movie. Pretty soon, you won’t feel alone anymore.”

(Pinterest meme)

Since confession is good for the soul, you should know that I was scared of the dark until my mid-twenties. A full-time pastor’s wife with a college education sleeping with a nightlight. I was convinced that every villain, human or otherwise, would have unhampered access to me once I couldn’t see. (Only the gospel can give the freedom to share embarrassment like this and the grace needed to cover it.) If you’re in the same boat, I feel for you.

A verse weighted down with glory caught at my insides one day. Look at this beautiful thing: I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name (Isaiah 45:3).

Well, huh. Now I was curious. Where had I been living in the dark about, well, the dark? I decided to commence a Bible scavenger hunt. The results were extremely eye-opening (sorry, I couldn’t resist).*

From day one, God has invaded the dark. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). Light wasn’t creation’s canvas—darkness was. And the Lord was there, already at work before light was a thing.

God uses the dark to show His character. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt'” (Exodus 10:21). I hope you had a good dad, one you could brag about to your friends. This passage depicts our Abba showing off how powerful, how necessary, and how absolutely bent on setting His kids free He is. Darkness was a tool of deliverance.

Lack of light doesn’t mean a lack of the Lord’s presence; there’s actually a good chance He’s waiting for us in the shadows. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21). We all face times we can’t see well enough to maneuver on our own. How comforting it is to know that the One who fights for us is drawing us to Him, expanding our faith in the middle of the night.

The Light of the world is at home in the dark. Just listen to David’s song of awe: “Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). If we truly hold to the verse that cries, ‘How lovely is Your dwelling place,’ how can we despise that dwelling place? God has situated Himself in the dark in a very real way, and wherever our Father is is home to us. Love casts out fear, so we can rest despite the fact that we can’t see.

As uncomfortable as an absence of light makes us, God meets us there the same way we meet friends at a favorite coffee shop. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8). God has a way of illuminating things, but even if He’s content to sit with me in the dark for a while, I can be okay with that, too. It’s a pull to love the Light more than the light.

So many other verses—how we who dwelled in darkness have seen a great light, how Jesus prayed in the dark repeatedly, how the crucifixion was set to a darkened backdrop, how the darkness has not overcome the light—over and over, I find a friend in the shadow places. Fear has lost its grip.

If you’re in a season of darkness (confusion, waiting, conflict), take heart. You’re not in the dark alone (though, unlike the Pinterest meme, that’s a good thing). The same God who used a lack of light as His creative canvas can shape a Genesis week in you if you wait on Him. He will share with you the hoards of secret places, showing off His power and pursuit of you, drawing you in and enjoying your company as you sit together. Who knew the dark could be such a gift?

Where are you waiting for the treasures of darkness? How is God meeting you in the dark?

*”Darkness” has a few different connotations in Scripture. The verses I’ll allude to here don’t mean “wickedness or evil.” As I advocate becoming comfortable with the dark, as children of light, I’m not encouraging rampant sin. For the purposes of this post, “darkness” is a quality not of depravity but of ambiguity.

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