I was five years old when I had my tonsils removed. A lot of medical concerns and procedures were different back then. They had me spend the night before surgery in the hospital. I remember my initial impression was that of getting to do a sleep over at a hotel without Mom and Dad. Kind of exciting!
It all seemed great until I was taken in to be prepped for surgery early the next morning before my parents arrived. Everything quickly went blank when they put a cup over my nose and mouth. My strongest memory of the entire episode was a growing awareness of an intense sore throat while still in complete darkness. A disconcerting panic arose as confusing conversations from unseen bodies were taking place around me. I desperately wanted a light to be turned on. But there was nothing. Finally, one voice among the many stood out. My mother! And though I couldn’t see her, I knew she was there and that made all the difference. I was then able to be at peace. Everything would be okay because someone who I trusted to care for me was with me even though I couldn’t see.
When There’s No Light
Darkness stirs an assortment of emotions. Yes, there is the glory of the nighttime sky with the brightly shining stars or the beauty of a full moon casting its silver lining across the edge of a black horizon. But when it comes to navigating a path or figuring out what’s going on with no stars, no moon, and no lamp of any kind, the lack of light can be terrifying. Total darkness seems to scream that there are unseen terrors hidden nearby. Some kind of illumination is needed, something to guide, something to comfort. And so, we grasp at anything that might shine light on our path, even a tiny bit, to provide some sense of control.
Many years ago, I came upon a scripture in the Old Testament that I have returned to often.
“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 ESV)
Jesus Followers in the Dark
I am always reminded of several things when I read the above words from the prophet.
Light in the Darkness
My hope, when I feel stuck in a dark place, is that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b ESV). His sight is not clouded by our gloom. When we take hold of His hand, trusting what He has already shown us, reminding ourselves of His blameless, gracious, and faithful character, we can be assured that He will lead us through. On the other side is increased wisdom, growth, and greater clarity of what is truly valuable.
In another place, the prophet Isaiah further records God’s promises for our dark days.
“And 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 ESV).
Being led while unable to see the ground you’re planting your next step on is not comfortable. God never promises that a walk through the darkness is easy. He simply asks you to trust that He will not forsake you no matter what circumstances feel like at the moment. For that is what He is ultimately after. Trust. Complete reliance on Him. He knows that you were originally designed to function entirely dependent on Him, and that is where He is drawing you back to. Total reliance on His goodness, His strength, His grace.
What forms will this guidance in the darkness take? Just like my experience as a child of hearing my mother’s voice, even when I couldn’t see her face, our Heavenly Father wants to teach us all the subtle ways of recognizing, and then of course trusting in, His voice (sometimes just a whisper), His presence – even in the dark. We must remember what He has done in the past and that He hasn’t changed. We must internalize His word so that it becomes real food for our sustenance. We must acknowledge our need for Him daily, His salvation from the things from which we cannot, and never will be able to, save ourselves.
True darkness is lonely, cold, and seeks to suck out all memory, hope, and belief in God’s eternal life-giving light. Nothing you or I ever create or light-up on our own can dispel that kind of darkness. Wherever you find yourself right now, reach out and admit that you cannot light your own path. Your Heavenly Father, the One who desperately wants to save you is reaching His hand out to you. Reach out and take it, even if you can’t see it.
Go ahead. Listen for His voice. Take hold of His hand. And take the next step into His faithfulness.