All of life is yet a dance from dark to light and light to dark. It seems I live my “dark” days trying to get back into the light, and my “light” days trying to outrun the dark that always seems to follow me. I don’t like the dark and the feeling of abandonment it provides. As I approach this season of lent and all that is to come with the death and resurrection of Jesus, I am reminded that this cycle of dark and light was actually created by God as a purposeful representation of the gospel.
“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And in the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34
All of the pain and agony and separation from the Father that Jesus experienced is made manifest in this darkness. It’s almost as if Jesus needed the world to actually see what he was feeling at that moment….and the darkness obeyed. “I will show them!” it might have said. For this total darkness made the light of the resurrection shine that much brighter. How much more we appreciate the light when it follows darkness. When we have truly felt the pain of darkness in our lives, we long for the light. Jesus felt the dark. He felt all of the pain and agony of our sins and oh, don’t you know he longed for the light, for the time when He could be with his father once again. But God knew that His son must endure this darkness that the world could experience forgiveness. In order for us to get to be with our heavenly Father, the darkness had to come. Darkness has purpose in our lives.
You take my hand, oh Lover of my soul and pull me gently into the shadows. Your touch warms my skin as the cool wind dances across the lawn. Your eyes are full of intent, and kind in every way. What you have to tell me must be very important! But I hesitate to join you. The terrain is rough and my feet so tender. Must we have waited until midnight? I cannot see for all the darkness!
You gently brush my hair away from my face as you cup your hand to my ear. I listen. Suddenly, it is very quiet. Gone is the noise that plagues my life. I can hear you. Oh glory, I can hear! Healed by the silencing of the noise, I can now hear your voice. Your words are tender, merciful and full of hope.
You illuminate your truth here in the darkness. My soul is opened as your presence abounds. You never waste my pain. I am glad I came.
Why do I hear the voice of the Lord so much better in the dark? In the throes of adversity and in the pit of despair? When it is so dark I cannot see to run, I must be still and listen. It is all I have. His voice is so much clearer when I have exhausted every other resource for survival. When all I have left is Him, I can hear His voice loud and clear. It is In this darkness where I learn I cannot truly see with my eyes. The struggle to shut out the world and its distractions is gone and I can finally listen with my heart. The whir of life, which drowns out His voice, is now quieted within the darkness.
It hasn’t always been this way. Honestly, I hate the dark. I wish I could run so fast that I could outrun pain, leaving no footprints for it to track me down. I was plagued by deafness during my times of great pain and learned to pursue safety whatever the cost. I felt betrayed by a God who let such suffering come into my life and eventually I quit running. I gave up. At first, I just sat down and let pain trample over me like a mighty warrior in battle. But as the pain grew more intense and I could take no more, I crouched behind a rock, hiding not only from the pain but also from the only One who could save me. So intent on hiding from pain, I no longer listened for God’s voice. In fact, I really didn’t want to hear what He had to say. I saw Him as the enemy, the one who caused all of the pain in the first place. I was all alone in my safety, cut off from the world. Blind and deaf. But safe.
I remember where I was when I first said to God, “I wouldn’t trade what I know about you for the pain I have been through.” I was appalled and honestly kind of mad at myself for saying it. I would have traded the world for what I had lost! But I would not trade what God revealed to me in that darkness. He pulled me aside. He crouched down behind that rock and pulled me gently to my feet. Without saying a word, He took my hands and whispered into my heart. I knew then that He was good. I knew He loved me. I knew He was a God I had never known. Such depth, such breadth, such power! I wept knowing I had only known a shell of the One True God. Immediately I knew it was only in the quiet of this darkness that He could get my attention.
When God speaks to us through our pain, it is intimate. He knows us. He knows that life is busy and loud and attention seeking. He knows we are inclined to get lost in the frivolity of the circus of life. He knows all of the distractions this world provides. He knows we love to fill our aching hearts with things that help only for a moment, and then we are empty yet again. He knows. But He doesn’t give up on us. His passion for our attention is so great that He pursues our hearts through the darkness. He takes us to this place not out of failure on His part to protect us, but on purpose to speak, reveal and lift.
Have there been times when you have felt abandoned by God in your darkness? All the times you thought He just forgot to protect you and you were hurt? All the times you collapsed, weary from trying to remember His goodness? Perhaps those were times He gently pulled you into the shadows to speak to your soul. What an intimate God to take us into this place to speak to us privately as a lover to His bride. To whisper truth that we rely on when pain comes knocking on our door yet again. And we know, through this purposeful encounter that there is a reason for our pain. It will never be wasted. It is not a mistake. Pain is a fertile ground for growth and intimacy with God.
Morning light always follows the darkness. I am eager to escape the dark but relish in the message and the intimacy. I hold it unto my heart as the noise of life begins to fill my ears once again. I would not trade the pain for the secrets He has shared with me.
Maybe you pray this:
“Oh God. Sometimes intimacy with you feels scary. There has just been so much pain. I'm so tired of fighting and running and hiding. I want to listen but it is so hard to slow down--so hard to make myself stop. The voices that fill my head are filling the sad silence within my soul. I am scared of the quiet that will come when I tune them out. I am scared you will not show up. But I want to know who you really are. I want to know the good, gentle and kind God who loves me enough to pursue me in the darkness. I choose to take your hand and trust you as you whisper into my ear. I choose to remain still, to quit fighting and hiding. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say.”