I know. I know. I sound like Scrooge talking about light pollution just as people are going to great lengths to hang little twinkly lights all over their homes and hearths (I see you on your ladders and applaud your efforts!).
At first, Advent may seem a strange season to talk about darkness; however, the deep and persistent darkness set the backdrop on which the brilliant star pointed to the more brilliant Savior.
Four hundred years of prophetic silence. No fresh “Thus says the Lord” upon which to hang their hope. Even a recent correction proves the presence of the loving Father, but there was not even that for four hundred years.
The famous Isaiah 9 passage that we love to hear children quote in their precious voices begins with “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them light has shone” (Isa. 9:2). It seems a prerequisite to enjoying the light is understanding and experiencing the darkness. As much as I want to rush the process, the Lord has been covering me with his hand and holding me in what feels like darkness.
I’ve been wrestling with God’s goodness even though I know deep-down that He is altogether good. My mind knows it, but my heart often struggles to keep pace. I’ve been doing my part, dragging my doubts and questions and stubborn struggles into his presence. I’ve been digging deeply into the Word, asking for my community to pray for me. I was beginning to get frustrated with the Lord until he gave me an image that has helped me.
He reminded me that we pay great amounts of money and expend great energy as city-dwellers to get away from the distractions, the light pollution, the busy pace. We rent cabins and drive to far-away trail heads. Our family literally did this last week with a few other pastor friends and their families!
Sometimes, in order to show us the brilliance of his light, our gracious God willingly and wisely leads us into dark places and spaces.
When we are surrounded by scores of other lesser light sources, we don’t appreciate the sun by day and the moon by night. My life is so busy with so many illuminative blessings that, sometimes, they obscure my hunger and need for the Light of the world.
How sweet and intimate of the Lord to lead my soul into dark places and hold me there. My eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness and are beginning to see the outlines of glories and graces even in a dark cave.
David, who literally dwelt in dark caves for a good season of his life, understood the light of the Lord’s presence even in darkness. Countless psalms he wrote attest to the light of goodness of God seen even in the darkest of circumstances.
“If I say, ‘Surely, the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me night.’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as day, for darkness is as light with you” (Ps. 139:11-12).
The minor prophet Micah, who served Israel during one of its distinctly darker seasons, wrote along the same lines:
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in the darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).
The Lord allowed me to stumble upon the following quote from Alexander MacLaren which expresses beautifully what I have been experiencing.
“He who patiently endures without despondency or the desire to ‘recompense evil for evil,’ and to whom by faith even ‘the night is light about him,’ is far on the way to perfection. God is always near us, but never nearer than when our hearts are heavy and our way rough and dark. Our sorrows make rents through which His strength flows. We can see more of heaven when the leaves are off the trees. It is a law of the Divine dealings that His strength is ‘made perfect in weakness.’ God leads us in to a darkened room to show us His wonders.”
When the Lord sees fit to draw my soul out of these caverns, what a gloriously blinding light I will see! If you find yourself in dark circumstances, may you know God’s power even in the darkness!
The Light of the World will return in his glory. Until then, let us hold fast to His promises!