The “valley of the shadow” does not discriminate. Ps. 23:4 Dark times come across everyone’s path.There is no exemption for suffering and there is mystery in the proportion of its’ allotment. I don’t always fully know where I’m going, the complete explanation of where I just came from, or how to navigate where I currently find myself. How then, do I stand strong in the dark?
As Christians, we have many identifying descriptions don’t we? (almost as many as spy operative Jason Bourne has passports!) Here is one grouping: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…foreigners and exiles.” 1 Pet. 2:9-11 (Italics mine) Exiles live an unsettled life, feeling at times like refugees seeking for a place to belong. Particular segments of the journey can be a quandry. Am I expecting something in the present, that is reserved for the future? It’s true, that I have partaken of a great illumination to my inner man, 2 Cor. 4:6 but compared to the “face to face” that is future, I currently “see through a glass darkly.” 1 Cor. 13:12 The comfort in the journey is that though pilgrims, we are securely engraved on the palms of His hands. Isa. 49:16
The very launch of the “people of God” was marked by a “forced migration” – Abram was selected to inaugurate the chosen people and the first part of the process was to journey to an unknown place. He was primarily instructed to do three things: build altars, pray, and then move onward to the promised land. God gives glimpses to fuel our vision, but not a full disclosure on all the details. Otherwise we would miss the joy of the “search and discover” process, by which we grow in maturity and character.
Like their founder, Israel was familiar with exile. Three primary exile accounts resound in their history: Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Unwavering throughout, are the promises of God. “Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away. The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’” Isa. 49:19-20
In a literal sense, this promises applies to the children born while captive in Assyria, who would replenish the population. In a spiritual sense, I relate it to the birthing process of the Holy Spirit, especially in the midst of a time of testing, trial, or loss – seasons of bereavement when I feel as if my life is being plundered by the enemy. Yet in the aftermath, deeply rooted fruit emerges, sown, grown, and developed in the dark. Our hearts are enlarged by what is birthed during times of bereavement and captivity.
Have you ever been in so painful of a place, that you could “feel” the darkness? “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” Ex. 10:21-23 Here’s the challenge: How do I navigate a season of life, when I feel like I’m living on the Egypt side? Aside from putting out an SOS to trusted friends, I recommend this: find a promise that fits the niche where you are. Here’s one I like: “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame… 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.” Isa. 50: 7,10 Stay strong. Trust. Even in the dark.
Many years ago, I was in a tough bind, having just relocated to the Midwest, and drowning in uncertainties. I had a friend who told me that in the end, everything wraps around the truth that God is good. No matter how things seem, he said, you can count on God’s goodness. Ex. 33:19 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Ps. 23:6 Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the incarnation of the Father’s goodness. Jn. 10:14-15 “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” Rom. 8:28 (AMP)
He works out everything, which leads me to say that “Everything will work out.”
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37-39 In all these things (Paul’s aforementioned challenges) he was “convinced.” When my conviction wanes, I must find a way to be convinced again. “Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. I have made your forehead like emery (diamond), harder than flint. Ezek. 3:8-9 (Emphasis mine) When facing an insurgency within my own soul, I know it’s time to “up my game” to a higher level, beyond flint, into the diamond realm, armed with the promises of God.
God is still at the helm, of wilderness journeys. Deut 2:7 “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.” Ps. 139:11-12 The path to overcome is the same as the one trod by Christ in his darkest hour and remains as the hope of every suffering saint. “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Isa. 53:11
Tethered to the Light-bearer, I will emerge from the dark, transformed.