Hope in Darkness

God gives hope in darkness.

The darkness and barren landscape and often overcast skies of late autumn and winter can be depressing to me. I probably could not live in a country with just a few hours of daylight. I’ve written before about some things that help me through the “winter blues.”

But I decided this week to do a quick Bible study about darkness to encourage myself (and hopefully you, as well).

I remind myself God made the seasons. He mentions them in creation (Genesis 1:14-15). And he told Noah, after the flood, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). He has a purpose for winter’s darkness as well as summer’s light.

God created light and darkness that we might know Him and know He is the only God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7).

Darkness signals time to rest. The need for rest reminds us of our limitations. We can trust he who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4) will watch over us. Psalm 104:19-23 says:

He made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
    seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
    and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
    and to his labor until the evening.
24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all.

Darkness sometimes indicates God’s chastening. This is a recurrent theme in the prophets. “Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive” (Jeremiah 13:15-17). But Micah looks forward with hope even though Israel is in darkness due to sin: “I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication” (Micah 7:9).

God delivers us from darkness. Many verses bring out this truth. Psalm 107:10-12 speaks of people imprisoned in darkness because of their sin and rebellion. Then verses 13-15 say, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Another passage is Ezekiel 34:11-12: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Darkness is not a problem for God. We don’t like darkness partly because we can’t see. We don’t know what’s outside when we hear a strange noise. But “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

God knows what is in the darkness: “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:22).

God protects us in darkness: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday” (Psalm 91:4-6).

God gives the treasures of darkness. “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3). In context, this passage is addressed to Cyrus, a foreign king who did not know the Lord, about how God chose him and was going to use him and reward him. The couple of commentaries I looked at said that “treasures in darkness” referred to the fact that in that day, people hid treasures away in dark places so no one else could find them. But God was going to give these hidden treasures to Cyrus. I think we have to be careful about over-spiritualizing historic events in the Bible, but I think we can see a parallel with the treasures that God will give His children.

We can trust God in darkness. “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” (Isaiah 50:10).

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:7-8).

We can serve others in darkness. “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

Darkness will not overcome God’s light. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Then I thought of the darkness of the seed in the ground and the butterfly forming in the chrysalis. Some day beauty will come from patient waiting in darkness. Light and warmth will surge into new growth. Elisabeth Elliot used to say that you can’t have resurrection without first having death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

This turned out to be a more extensive study than I thought it would be. And that’s not even including verses about night.

Darkness is still not my favorite, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. In John 3:19, Jesus said, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” There’s so much imagery, especially in the New Testament, about Jesus being light and our need to turn from darkness to light (Acts 26:18), cast off the works of darkness (Romans 13:12), and so on.

Also, sometimes darkness doesn’t indicate evil, but something hidden and unknown. For instance, in 1 Kings 8, Solomon’s temple has just been finished and the ark of the covenant has been brought in. “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon said, ‘The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness'” (verses 10-12). When Moses was given the Ten Commandments, “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deuteronomy 5:22).

Ecclesiastes 11:8 says, “So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.” A note on the word vanity says it means “vapor” or “a mere breath.” Our lives seem to pass away like mist.

But “It is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness” (Psalm 18:28). God gives us abundant hope in darkness.

Psalm 18:28. God lightens my darkness.

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