Darkness is a message of joy.
Do you believe this is true? God has promised that all things work for the good of those who love Him. Do you believe it? My aunt once said to me in a particularly dark time of her life that she was “trying to learn all that God had to teach [her].” I thought to myself, “wow, how on earth does a person arrive at a place where they can honestly say that?” So I ask you again, do you believe it? How can one really take hold of what God has promised tenaciously enough to give voice to joy and with dry eyes say “I trust you God?” The answer is really quite simple…to trust God you have to enjoy the darkness.
Sometimes Christians have difficulty admitting things. In particular Christians cannot seem to admit the “shameful” things which continue in their lives after they become believers in Christ. Despite our efforts at denial it will always be true that every one of us is gloriously messed up. I heard a pastor say once, that we are all a mess, we raise little messes, and they in turn give birth to the best thing of all…grand-messes. True Christianity must always start with a fundamental admission; that we are sinners in need of a savior. This admission however, is not the end but the beginning. To grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ another admission must take place in our souls…we continue to sin even though we lay claim to the promises of Jesus.
Sin, you see, is a very deceitful thing. Something which can be a part of our souls without us even knowing it is there. Do not be deceived, it exists even if we are ignorant (or in denial) of its presence. Sin is down there in our souls bottled and corked and washed on the outside so it looks pretty, like a crystal vase with rotting flowers in it. The problem we will always have is that even though we may fool ourselves God walks into the living room of our souls and looks around…he sees there on the mantle the brightly polished vase…but he smells the stink of rottenness.
You might be wondering “what is he talking about? I see darkness in this, but certainly no joy.” That is exactly why Christians have to learn to enjoy the darkness. Seeing our souls the way they really are is the beginning of healing. God will never be in the business of making us more comfortable and self assured. God is in the business of sanctification. He is making us more pure; He is shining light on the shameful things and exposing what we want to keep hidden. God is teaching us to become more like him…and for creatures like us who are fallen and sinful that process takes us into what we perceive as valleys and dark places. But the darkness is a message of Joy.
I have in the past weeks become acutely aware that darkness comes into our lives from more than one avenue. Sometimes darkness comes simply from life. Our sin and that of others will never be the only cause of suffering. Grief over the loss of a loved one, a lost job, health problems...and the list goes on; these can all cause periods of darkness. A friend of mine is flying home from Africa today…with empty arms. Two days before he was to leave to go pick up his son he and his wife received news that their precious boy had died. He went on the trip anyway in hopes that he could minister to the folks there who cared for his little boy. His trip to Africa was supposed to be a journey filled with joy over the blessing of his new little one. Now it is a pilgrimage filled with sorrow over the loss of his son…but it is filled with something else too. My friend, as he was leaving in a cloud of darkness, was somehow overflowing with joy. I could hear him fighting tears, but I could also hear him saying with the psalmist “I know, oh Lord, that your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” He was holding fast to the promises of God and the darkness was a message of joy. Yes even the darkness of death.
Let me take you to two scenes, two men, facing death, facing darkness. The First faced death at the hands of the Romans. At his execution Jesus prayed that God would forgive the men who killed him then looked up to heaven and cried out “my God My God why have you forsaken me.” Jesus, in his darkest hour, looked to heaven for comfort and no one was there…God had turned his back. Jesus faced darkness; the darkness of sin and the curse and for him there was no comfort, no rest, no redemption…only judgment, only death.
Only a few years later Stephen told the true history of Israel to a group of Pharisees, they were so enraged over what Stephen said that they picked up stones and began stoning him. Like Jesus, Stephen asked God to forgive his executioners and like Jesus, Stephen looked up to heaven, but for Stephen there was no darkness in the hour of his death. Stephen’s death was a vision of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord, and his face shown like that of an angel.
These two men were nothing alike. Stephen was a sinner fallen and under the curse. Jesus was innocent. Of all the people who ever lived Jesus is the only one with the right to have a relationship with God. Stephen’s death should have been the dark one. Jesus faced the darkness for him. Darkness is a message of joy because Jesus has overcome the darkness. Jesus, by his blood has purchased redemption and the darkness is powerless against him.
I stood up from my aunt’s couch that day somewhat bewildered (as I suspect some of you are in reading this). “I don’t understand how she could find joy in this…how will I ever get there?” I went home and one month later boarded an airplane for Africa. The very moment our feet left the ground God breaking us of…well…of our-selves. I look at my children, this beautiful tapestry of life that fills my home, and I see one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me. Not because it is easy. Not because the darkness has left the building. My Children have shown me more clearly than any thing else in my life that I am a sinner in need of a savior. When I look at them my soul is laid bare before my eyes, they are a mirror to me. God has given me, in my children, a window into my soul, and what I find there is sin…darkness…but there is a Healer…there is a Healer. One who faced the darkness on my behalf with no hope of deliverance, One who has broken the power of darkness with his blood, One who is ever present to help in times of need, One who fought and continues to fight the battle for me. Adoption…my Children (all of them not just the adopted ones) are what God has used to show me how truly needy I am…and in so doing God has taught me that I can trust him. I am learning what my aunt already knew; because of Christ, because of his matchless life and sacrifice, yes because of his resurrection, darkness is a message of joy.
Having our sins exposed, is never fun…suffering loss is never fun. But all things and all circumstances can be joyful if they fall under the protecting shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ. By the merit of his blood there is redemption.
All things will work out for the good of those who love him.
I believe Lord help my unbelief.