By SUSAN E. RICHARDSON
“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,” (Psalm 139:11-12).
We usually look at light and dark simplistically. Light represents good and dark is bad. When we find ourselves in spiritual or emotional darkness, our focus becomes how to get back into the light. But sometimes God leaves us in the dark for long periods, and then we have to ask what is happening in the darkness.
The darkness is a place where impenetrable light shines on the hidden places of the heart. As the Spirit works, we’re slowly able to bring those hidden places out into the light. Often they’re so painful we can’t face them until the Lord has both prepared us and worked for a time. We need darkness for this kind of growth.
Brenda Waggoner used the same metaphor in Fairy Tale Faith, as she spoke of finding hope in darkness.
“Like the amaryllis, when we experience a season of dried-up spiritual life, nothing consoles us. We’re not aware that anything productive is happening. We may feel useless, indifferent, trapped in the dark desperation of our loneliness. Or maybe we feel nothing. Yet during this time of dormancy, whatever it is we will next need is being stored up for a season we as yet know nothing about.”
Our walk through pain takes place during the soul’s night. Darkness presses in around us like soil around a bulb. Faith becomes a matter of being willing, when surrounded by blackness, to believe that light will return. More, we begin to understand that our time in the dark has a purpose.
Brenda gave me more perspective on this kind of growth in the same section of her book.
“Perhaps you’ve entered a dark season in your spiritual life and you are groping for God, feeling your way, hoping for a glimmer of light. All of us will face a time of crying out in desperation when God seems absent. At such times he is not doing nothing. He is tunneling, digging deeper, storing up, broadening, stretching us in ways we cannot see. We are ‘morphing,’ turning from a worm into a butterfly.”
We seldom choose the dark, but it comes to all of us. We have to learn to walk by faith, knowing God is doing something deep and important during this time, despite the pain.
Coming to this understanding isn’t easy, as I learned during my walk through counseling. I came to a point where I realized I was walking in full night. As the darkness closed around me, though, the stars became visible and occasionally a shooting star of insight flared across the sky. Spiritual darkness let me see things I couldn’t see in the light.
I began to find beauty in the night and became oddly contented in darkness. From wanting to get back into the light, I began to embrace the dark. Recognizing beauty and accepting the lessons made the journey easier. I was satisfied to stay as long as needed, watching for shooting stars and moving forward a step at a time.
Once we begin to embrace the darkness and pain, we can see how this gives us the opportunity to share in Jesus’ sufferings. Peter pointed this out in 1 Peter 4:13. “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
Jesus understands pain, both physical and emotional. He does not ask us to walk anywhere He has not walked first, including through the darkness of suffering. The journey still comes with challenges, but not purposeless pain. We embrace a path through suffering in obedience, looking to the healing that lies beyond the agony.
Take a minute to consider where you are in your journey. Do you have areas where you’ve moved back into light where you can see changes now? How is growth in the darkness changing your faith?
Lord, You guide us through the night, illuminating without breaking the darkness. You created darkness just as You did light. Let us find beauty through the process as our faith grows. In Your holy darkness, work Your transformation within us.
Susan E. Richardson has a passion for meeting people’s needs through the written word. You can reach her by email at Susan@chewedpetunias.com or check either of her two websites: www.chewedpetunias.com or www.nextlevelcritiques.com.