Embracing the Darkness

Embracing the Darkness

I do not believe it would be an overstatement to say that we find ourselves in a time of darkness. At the writing of this entry, we are now nearing our first month of experiencing one of the greatest seismic shifts our modern culture has ever faced. As of this morning, there are nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases globally of covid-19, and even more grim, 89,733 reported deaths. Sadly, those numbers will only continue to exponentially increase throughout the day. And the U.S. is now well above 400,000 confirmed cases and nearing a total of 15,000 deaths.

While we are really only one month into this startling reality here in the U.S., the viral outbreak has been raging in other parts of the world for months. And yet, already I’m finding it easier to conveniently distract myself from these dark realities around us under the guise of ‘social distancing,’ forcing instead on my own ‘little world’ filled with ‘family time,’ house projects, movie-watching, random organizing, etc. Not that those things are at all bad; in fact, there have already been some beautiful things that have emerged from this time, which I imagine will be as widespread around the world as the pandemic itself; more focused and intentional time with family, needed space for reflection, regular exercise and attention on holistic health, to name a few.

And yet, if we’re not careful, we can too easily lose sight of how dark the ‘dark’ is right now. And it’s precisely this darkness that we must keep training ourselves to pay attention to.

Just like our eyes adjusting to the sudden diminishing of daylight while outdoors in the evening, just like the process of getting our bearings in a dark room after the lights go out, it would do us well to be aware of how our eyes are also adjusting to all the darkness around us.

Otherwise, I believe we are putting ourselves at great risk of missing something vital that God would have us see, share and know that’s unfolding around us and within us. Please don’t overlook the darkness. God doesn’t.

Finding Hope by Diving into the Darkness

Now, before you start to assume I’m about to take you on some ‘dark journey’ that you’re pretty sure your soul can’t handle right now, let me encourage you to stick with me on a journey into the darkness that just might lead to hope, while offering some perspective on what God might be up to in the midst of the darkness, both in our lives and collectively around the world.

First, let’s acknowledge some obvious truths: As human beings, we are made for light. In fact, I firmly believe we are made by Light. We are drawn to the light; we crave it; we need it to be healthy. And so, our many aversions to ‘darkness’ are quite understandable, especially when darkness represents fear, chaos, the unknown, and even sickness and death. No wonder we become so good at distracting, even emotionally and mentally distancing ourselves during such dark times.

It’s one thing to be physically distant. Given the times, that’s good. It’s another thing to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually distant. And that’s what distracting ourselves can certainly do.

At the same time, there are so many profound, parallel, edifying truths at work as it relates to darkness that I would like to invite you to explore with me.

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor, whose insights I’m indebted to throughout this post, explains the prevalence of both light and dark in our lives this way:

To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight. We need darkness; it is just as essential to our physical well-being as light. We not only need plenty of darkness to sleep well; we need it to be well.

In other words, while we are drawn to the light, we would also be wise to understand the values of darkness, even when the darkness represents things that are uncomfortable, unfamiliar, scary, painful and even inconvenient.

This leads to a first assurance of hope:

Sometimes the way out of darkness begins with our willingness to enter into the darkness.

Instead of avoiding the darkness, as we are often so prone to do, have you ever considered how it might prove more valuable to actually choose to enter into it?

To speak more candidly from a spiritual perspective, sometimes the way to God is choosing to go down instead of (instinctually) going up. In other words, when it comes to our desire to avoid, or even expedite the darkness, sometimes…

The way out is in.

The way up is down.

Such are the paradoxes of the manner in which God’s kingdom operates.

Let me explain. Go there with me…

Holy Week…and the Darkness of ‘Holy Saturday’

There is an incredible irony at work, I believe, as it relates to darkness during this particular week. Dating back to as early as the third century C.E., Christians have observed the week leading up to Easter Sunday as Holy Week, commemorating several significant events surrounding the final week of Jesus’ life in human form before making His way to the cross, the tomb, and of course, culminating with the celebration of His resurrection.

[For more on Holy Week, read my post A Brief Overview of Holy Week which includes links to several other great articles from The Gospel Coalition, Ann Voskamp and James Emory White.]

Holy Saturday

While Holy Week is typically recognized by days such as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there is one particular day that doesn’t quite get the attention it probably should – in particular, the day between the Cross of Good Friday and the Empty Tomb of Resurrection Sunday. ‘Holy Saturday,’ as it is sometimes referred to traditionally, marks the full-day (the second day) when Jesus was in the tomb. Although it is not observed in the same manner as the more notable days of Holy Week, it is sometimes associated with Jesus ‘descending into hell’ to wrestle away the keys of hell in order to fully secure His victory over death before ‘ascending into heaven’ and ‘sitting at the right hand of God.’

This depiction of Jesus descending into hell is not easy to support Biblically, and is therefore, not without plenty of debate, as is evident in contemporary forms of The Apostle’s Creed that omit the statement ‘He descended into hell’ as had been traditionally part of the Creed and the Catholic Church’s teaching dating back to its formation in the third century C.E. Reformers saw this particular statement problematic, and eventually omitted it from the Creed, reflecting the versions that most Protestants recite today.

“The Harrowing of Hell”

However, if we can get past the theological debate of whether or not Jesus actually descended into hell following His death on the Cross, there is a compelling thought to consider specifically related to the darkness of the tomb which makes the light of resurrection that much brighter.

The darkness of the tomb is a powerful reminder to us of where formation, and even transformation, takes place.

“Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”

Barbara Brown Taylor
Learning to Walk in the Dark (p.129)

As we’ll see, new creation always begins with darkness.

With this perspective in view, let’s descend even deeper into the darkness while considering how God has used it to reveal Himself in profound ways throughout Biblical history.

Dark Encounters

In Genesis chapter 15, we come across the story of sojourner named Abram. This is the second significant encounter between Abram and God, where God establishes a covenant with Abram to bless all the world through him by making him into a mighty nation whose descendants will outnumber the stars and the sand of the seashore (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:5). Here’s how the chapter begins:

Genesis 15:1 NIV After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

“After this” refers to the events recorded in Genesis 14 where Abram has rescued his nephew, Lot, from the Eastern kings. Perhaps in fear that these kings might retaliate, God speaks comfort to Abram to not be afraid, reminding Abram from whence his help, defense and reward come from. It is also significant to point out that this is the very first time in Scripture where we read the words “do not be afraid” or “fear not.”

The conversation continues…

Genesis 15:24 NIV But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”

Another first. This is the first time in the Bible we find the phrase, “the word of the Lord came.” Something of epic proportions is unfolding. “This man” mentioned in verse 4, referring to Eliezer of Damascus from verse 2, is perhaps referring to the same senior servant who, in Genesis 24, was sent by Abram (then Abraham) to Mesopotamia, where Abram had come from, to his own people, to find a wife for Isaac.

Watch what happens next…

Genesis 15:5 NIV He [the LORD] took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Try to imagine what all is going on here. This is obviously not a conversation that’s happening in the middle of the day. It’s at night. And it’s only at night that God could demonstrate to Abram what He was promising.

“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

The Night Sky

It’s interesting to me how the night sky has a way of healing us, but as Barbara Brown Taylor says, “not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe” (p.64). One of God’s active agents of healing for His people has been the gift of Sabbath, a day to ‘stop’ from all labor in order to be reminded that it is God, not man, that makes the world go round. Interestingly, it was the night, not the day, that ushered in the Sabbath. In the Hebrew tradition, Sabbath began at sundown, and according to the Rabbi’s, was inaugurated with the visibility of at least three stars in the night sky. In other words, it’s the night (and the stars) that have long welcomed God’s people back home to Himself and the life-giving abiding in His presence.

I distinctly remember a late-night drive through eastern Uganda in 2018. It wasn’t the first time I’d found myself on a rural, bumpy road somewhere in Africa. But it was perhaps one of the first times I’d ever truly taken in the darkness of immense poverty set against the backdrop of one of the most vivid night skies I’d ever seen. Imagining the hundreds, maybe thousands of beautiful people created in the image and likeness of God settling down for the night in some kind of home without the convenience of electricity, just in this one segment of the drive, with the Milky Way visible overhead, moved my heart in a way that I’ll never forget. In that moment, God reminded me of His mindfulness and concern for every person I couldn’t see, a people shrouded in darkness, and yet under the eye of their Creator.

This also reminded me of another late-night drive through South Africa where our friends pointed out to us the clouds of light from the Milky Way reflected so clearly in the night sky. I’d never observed such detail from this vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course, neither of these ‘scenes’ would have been possible without the absence of the artificial light that we humans have become far too dependent upon. If you’ve ever flown at night, you can’t help but notice the lights below, a reflection of our human determination to light the night, or as Taylor puts it, “to shrink the amount of darkness in our lives and in our world to the point that creation begins to suffer, both within us and around us.” The technical term for it is “light pollution.” And there’s lots of it. And too much of it keeps us from seeing what can only be visible in the dark. I remember the years I lived in Boone (NC), and the profound difference in the night sky from town verses one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway on a clear night.

Similar to Abram’s experience, the night sky, and the accompanying darkness, have far more to reveal to us than we often realize. And yet, between all the ‘artificial light’ we’re surrounded with, coupled with our aversion to the darkness, we can’t help but end up missing so much of what God wants us to see, hear and know.

Afraid of the Dark?

To be honest, some of us are simply afraid of the dark, with a built-in aversion to the dark. I was definitely afraid of the dark growing up, oftentimes needing the assistance of a nightlight just to get to sleep.

So it is with darkness. Many of us have been taught “to fear the dark, convinced it is dangerous – all of it, all the time, under every circumstance” – convinced that what we cannot see will almost certainly hurt us, and convinced that the best way to protect ourselves from such unseen maleficence is to stay inside after dark with the doors locked, and even to sleep with a nightlight on. (Brown, p.35)

But what I want us to see is that it was the darkness, in particular, the night sky, that ended up serving as the key player in Abram’s eventual decision to trust God. And sometimes learning how not to be afraid of God and what He’s doing begins with a willingness to go into, not run away, from the darkness.

The “John 3:16” of the Old Testament

Back to this conversation between God and Abram in Genesis 15: God calls Abram to stand under the night sky, inviting him to look up at the stars and count them, “if indeed you can count them” (v.5). I like that part. It’s almost as if God is saying, “don’t bother, Abram. There are too many to count. Just trust me; there are a lot of them, and so through your descendants, there will be a lot of you, ‘agents of blessing’ sent forth into the world to bless others and to make known the salvation and ‘good news’ of the LORD!”

Abram responds.

Genesis 15:6 NIV Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

This verse has been titled by many scholars as “the John 3:16 of the Old Testament” – John 3:16, of course, being one of the most familiar and pivotal verses in the Gospels to summarize the fundamentals of the “Good News” that culminates in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The word ‘believed’ in verse 6 is translated from the Hebrew, Aman, which essentially means to allow oneself to be carried or to lean your whole weight upon. In other words, by believing the Lord, Abram was not ‘made right’ with God (i.e: credited…righteousness) by making promises to God, but rather, by believing in the promises or God. Or perhaps we could say it this way:

We are not saved by making promises to God;
we are saved by believing in the promises of God.

This is the Gospel.

But sometimes in order for these promises to become visible, we need the darkness.

It’s Not Only All About Light

The account in Genesis 15 continues with yet another sunset and encounter with the dark.

Genesis 15:7-16 NIV He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Notice the words in verse 12, “a thick and dreadful darkness”. This is a darkness associated with God. “But wait,” you say. “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘God is Light’ and ‘in Him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5)?” Yes, it does. And yet, while there is no deceit nor wickedness found in God, which is what 1 John 1 is specifically referring, God is not limited by the darkness, and at times will not only use it, but will even associate with it. I don’t know about you, but this challenges a good bit of the theology I’ve grown up with, and most certainly challenges the theology prevalent in many churches and religious circles today. Because, you see, God can indeed be just as evident in the dark as He is the light. In other words, it’s not only all about the light.

God in the Dark

If it is true, as we said earlier, that new creation always begins with darkness, then think about this: In the beginning, there was darkness. And yet, God was there. Here’s how the opening account of Genesis describes it in full:

Genesis 1:1-5 NIV  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

I love Dr. Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on these first few verses:

“Matter is not eternal; it began when God spoke everything into existence.  Scripture doesn’t reveal why God chose to start His creative work with a chaotic mess that was dark, formless and empty, but the Holy Spirit brooding over the waters would bring order out of chaos and beauty and fullness out of emptiness.”

God doesn’t begin with light; He begins with a chaotic, dark ‘mess.’ There have been plenty of times in my life that could be described as such, and yet, these first two verses in Genesis remind me God was, and always has been, there, while also reminding me that He’s doing something with it, that He’s speaking something ‘good’ and useful into it.

“He wraps Himself in dazzling light…darkness”

It’s also profound to consider how God not only transforms the darkness, but how He also shrouds Himself in it at times. Perhaps similar to something being ‘white-hot,’ there is an intensity to the Light of God that can sometimes appear like dark-matter – something hard to see but contains a mysterious, immense, creative energy.

In Exodus 19, God appears before Israel at Mt. Sinai in the Theophany of dense cloud and a violent storm of thunder and lightning. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a severe thunderstorm where the clouds weren’t dark like smoke. And that’s precisely how the cloud that covered Sinai was described, growing in intensity as God descended…

Exodus 19: 9, 16-19 NIV The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said…

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

The Poet-Warrior King, David, described God’s coming to his rescue this way:

Psalm 18:9-11 NIV He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.

Does this mean that instead of looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, we should be looking for God in the coming of dark clouds?

I don’t know…but perhaps.

God in Camouflage

Perhaps one of the reasons why we aren’t comfortable with the thought of God revealing Himself in ‘darkness’ is because it can seem God is actually camouflaging Himself in our darkness. It’s in the moments of our darkness – whether it be moments of our own making or seemingly inexplainable moments of God’s making – when we are so desperate for some kind of break in the clouds, so desperate for God, that it seems maddening to imagine God shrouding Himself in darkness. God covering Himself in darkness makes Him camouflaged in our darkness, which means it’s not always easy to make Him out in the chaotic, dark messes of life.

But isn’t that how it feel sometimes? Just when we need God most, He couldn’t seem further away. And yet, the assurance we have in Scripture is that He has neither abandoned nor forsaken us. He is right there, closer than we think. Just not in the ‘light’ we’re looking for, but sometimes shrouded, hidden in plain sight, in darkness.

Let that sink in.

“The Dark Night of the Soul”

In 1579, a Spanish (Carmelite) monk by the name of St. John of the Cross composed a poem titled The Dark Night of the Soul. The poem, which was developed while John was in prison, was penned following his imprisonment, and later accompanied by a short book that provides a sort of commentary, or explanation, of the poem. The Dark Night of the Soul ultimately describes how the child of God enters into deeper love and faith through the experience of temporary darkness and seeming separation from God. The experience of the dark night of the soul, however long it should last, can disorient us to God’s loving presence, leaving us feeling abandoned, as if God were apparently absent, risking us being left in utter despair. No wonder we have such an avoidance to the darkness! That’s certainly not the kind of darkness I ever want to willingly experience!

But what The Dark Night of the Soul seems to be affirming for us is this: If God is only light, then it would most certainly seem that God is gone in our moments of darkness.

And yet, while it can be an unwonted, excruciating experience to traverse through any season that could be described as a dark night of the soul in our lives, it is also one that I’m convinced is absolutely necessary for us at times.

John of the Cross (1542-1591)

A friend of mine loaned me his copy of Taylor’s, Learning to Walk in the Dark, in the midst of one of the darkest, most confusing seasons in my life. In fact, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that season is fully over. I have certainly found myself disoriented plenty of times, questioning God’s goodness and Sovereignty. I have had plenty of moments where I’ve felt abandoned and forsaken, longing to once more enjoy the sweet, comforting presence of God; but so often, I’ve felt nothing but sadness and anger.

I still don’t fully understand why God has allowed me to experience what I have, nor the ‘hidden fruit’ that is so often promised as a result of such times. But I do seem to have a better understanding of what Job must have experienced, especially at the hands of his friends, who were convinced that his ‘dark night’ was somehow entirely of his own making. It’s a shame the abandonment we experience from others when we walk through dark times, because not only do we tend to avoid darkness in our own lives, we also have a tendency to want to avoid it in others, explaining it away as something that must be wrong with them, and subsequently leaving them to struggle on their own while we press on for the future God has for us.

It’s hard enough to experience what feels like abandonment from God during dark times; but the hurt is only compounded when we experience abandonment from the people around us we’ve devoted our lives to. This has proven to be one of the hardest realities I’ve experienced in this most recent dark night of the soul.

While I’m tempted to try to keep writing with some hope of making sense of my own experience and why God allows the darkness to invade and prevail over us, I find it more necessary to consider how these very things I’m describing summarize Jesus’ journey to the Cross, and subsequently His experience on the Cross. Abandoned, misunderstood, considered afflicted by God, forsaken, heartbroken. And yet, look what it brought us.

Running from God?

Just like a person being afraid of the dark, our proneness is to run from the dark night of the soul out of our fear of the darkness.  I get it. But think about this: When we run from the darkness, how much do we really know about what we are running from? 

Isn’t there a chance we could actually be running from God?

In my moments of wanting to push away from the darkness, is it possible that I could be pushing away from God?

Barbara Brown Taylor adds this thought:

“Sometimes God puts out our lights to keep us safe…because we are never more in danger of stumbling than when we think we know where we are going.” 

Barbara Brown Taylor

Is it possible that the darkness is part of God’s protection for us?

And while we long to understand why God would allow us to experience such times, I find a strange comfort in Augustine’s words:

“If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.” 

St. Augustine

I may never understand. While I may take notice of some of the fruit God has produced in my life as a result of these dark seasons, the truth is, I may never fully understand why He allowed it and all that He’s doing in it.

I may never understand God the way I want, but I take comfort that God understands me in ways that far exceed my own understanding.

Comprehending the Darkness

As much as we can’t understand, let me conclude with what we can understand as we make sense of the darkness(es) we experience both personally and collectively, especially bearing in mind the darkness our world is experiencing at a time of pandemic, death and economic crisis.

1. Darkness is the place of formation and transformation.

Remember, it all starts in the dark – the seed in the ground, the baby in the womb, Jesus in the tomb. New creation begins in the dark. In the midst of a broken world fractured by sin, and in light of God’s power and sovereignty, I may never understand why God has allowed what He’s allowed. However, I do trust that God can and will redeem it, using the darkness to form something new.

What new thing(s) might God be forming in you, in us, in the world? How might God use the darkness to transform you/me into a new creation?

2. Darkness reveals promise. 

Remember that without the darkness, we can’t see the stars. And the darker the night, the brighter the stars. How might God be using this present darkness to make more visible His promises to you?

During our ‘at-home’ worship times as a family these last several weeks, as we have prayed for those who are sick, those grieving from loss, those on the front-lines, those whose jobs and economic situations put them at greater risk to be exposed to the virus…I have found myself longing all the more for the promise of a New Creation, for the Re-Creation of the world under the Second Advent of Christ, when all things will be made new, restored to harmony, where peace will reign, and where healing will be complete.

Revelation 21:1-5a NIV
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bridebeautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Although I’m pretty sure accounts like the Left Behind series get in wrong in how all this is going to be inaugurated one day, one thing we can agree on is that Jesus will return and all things will be made well. No more disease. No more death. No more tears. All things new! How we long for that promise to be fulfilled during such dark times. Until then, we trust that God has not abandoned us to the darkness, but that our Immanuel is somehow in the midst of it with us.

Wresting with the Dark

Many years following Abram’s encounter with God under the night sky, His grandson, Jacob, has his own unique encounter with God in the dark.

Genesis 32:22-32 NIV That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

It sort of makes you wonder: Who in their right mind would dare to wrestle a dark angel all night? ANSWER: someone in deep need of blessing. Jacob would be left with a limp for the rest of his life as a result of this wrestling match, but the limp would also serve as a sign of the blessing He received.

Isn’t it amazing that God would even allow us to wrestle with Him? At any moment, God could apply a finishing move and end the match. God didn’t have to wrestle with Jacob all night, but He allowed it. And as a result, He changed Jacob’s name to ‘Israel,’ which means one who contends or struggles with God.

I remember someone asking a well known author years ago, if he could rename the Bible, what would he name it. He answered, the struggle.

Perhaps that’s part of the point. God allows darkness, so that we might struggle with Him in order that we might know Him. Jacob walked away from the struggle in the darkness with three things:

  1. A new NAME (Israel)
  2. A new WALK (a limp)
  3. A new RELATIONSHIP

I believe these same results apply to the one who is willing to enter into the darkness with God with a desperation to not let go until we’ve received the full measure of blessing God would have for us. Our willingness to embrace the identity of a ‘struggler in the dark,’ and to walk with a limp as a result, bears evidence that the darkness wasn’t wasted, but led to a knowing of God we would have otherwise never known.

Benediction

So, while you long for the light, may you also learn how to more willingly embrace the darkness, trusting that God has not abandoned you, but is there. May you come to recognize the darkness for what it is – an opportunity, an occasion for formation and transformation, all under the Sovereign care and control of a God who is good, present, engaged and at work to make all things new, including you.

May you have the wisdom to discern the darkness well. Where the darkness is a result of your own making per poor choices and sin, may you refuse to wander aimlessly in the darkness, and instead, may you quickly turn to the light of His grace, knowing with confidence that mercy and forgiveness are waiting, that God is not surprised by your sin, but has atoned for it through the Cross. And while God may not spare us from the consequences here on earth, may you find comfort and rest in the knowledge of your unhindered, right standing with Him.

And in those moments and seasons when you can’t make sense of the dark, when it seems the darkness must somehow be of God’s making, may you be given eyes that are able to adjust to the darkness in order to see the true brightness of the stars. And as you gaze upon the stars, may you especially know that the God who numbers them and knows them each by name is the same God who numbers your tears, who knows your name, and who is just as concerned for the seemingly small cares of your heart as He is the crises facing this world.

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 their God.

Isaiah 50:10 NIV

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