May 7, 2013

Light in darkness

Darkness and light are metaphors God uses to bring home the difference between blind spiritual ignorance and His amazing spiritual enlightenment. Yet even when the Holy Spirit opens a Christian’s heart and mind to the light of God, we are not guaranteed perfect vision or entirely sunshiny days.
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10–11)

These verses could be talking about those who have no fear of God and are not obedient to Him, but today’s devotional writer links the first sentence with the rest and writes about Christians who spend most of their lives without that special sense of God’s presence and light. As I recall when this darkness has overwhelmed me, I shudder at the idea of it being a major portion of life.

The last few weeks have felt like a revolving door between darkness and light. For one day or sometimes only one minute, God would enlighten my thinking and grant a strong sense of His nearness. Then my spiritual senses seemed plunged into a pit where God was gone, grace had departed, and I was blind and helpless. Worse than any roller coaster ride, these times of darkness robbed me of sleep, never mind peace of mind. Darkness is horrible.

These verses from Isaiah describe what to do, and what not to do in such situations. I’m supposed to trust in the Lord and rely on Him, even when all seems dark. I’m not supposed to come up with some sort of ‘light’ of my own and let that guide me through this sense of darkness, for doing that will only bring torment.

Sometimes I learn the hard way. I tried my own light. It didn’t work, just as God said. I know torment. However, I did find promises from God that gave me something to cling to, promises like…

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10)

I cannot imagine spending my entire Christian life walking in faith without any sense of light, only clinging to what God has said without some kind of subjective evidence. That is, He promises to supply all my needs but could I endure a perpetual sense of being needy? Would I question even His existence? Or would I be like Job who proved that God’s gift of faith makes it possible to cling to Him even in darkness?

Without light, there is no comfort from the Holy Spirit. I read the Bible and am not joyful in its truths. I go to church but the music is dull and the message is blurry (or sharp and unbearable). Yet during all of this, I see what God is doing, so there is some light. He seems to leave me alone for a time so that I might know how useless and vulnerable to sin and death I am without Him. In the darkness, I realize more deeply that without His divine presence, even His blessings are bland and meaningless.

Of course, Satan makes use of such darkness. If he could, he would bring spiritual and even physical death. If not perishing, he produces bewilderment designed to destroy any power or desire to keep holding the hand of God. Yet even with all his destructive power, he is weaker than God who graciously says…

I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

For the record, the consistent light of life is again my portion. God “has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light” (Job 33:28). Actually, that light is Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

For that, I reply, “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56:12–13). 

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