I have always found the words of Psalm 139 disconcerting, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” But, these words have become very personal for me.
A number of years ago, after a joyful season of ministry, my wife and I decided that I should pursue further education. As I began this endeavor I felt an impression that God wanted to use this time to shift my perspective to give me, “an undivided heart.” I knew that this experience would be costly, but I couldn’t imagine how costly.
Soon after I entered a season of darkness. Where the voice of God and sense of His presence was removed. I panicked. Trying to find some way to control God, to make Him give me what I had lost. I tired to find something to fix, to change, some wrong to right. But, nothing that I did changed this relationship, this absence. So, I tried manipulating God, threatening Him, sulking in self-pity, blaming Him, anything I could think of. But, nothing changed. I felt like I was walking through life deaf and blind. And I began to understand, in a minor way, Jesus’ words on Good Friday, “My God, My God, Why Have you forsaken me!”
As I finished my education, I returned to ministry, thinking that God must end this darkness. But, He did not. And I realized that I needed to learn to trust Him differently, because I had to lead without the voice of my shepherd. A part of this was learning to trust the voice of God in others, and to trust that in His goodness He would protect and guide me.
This experience went on for years, where it seemed that the darkness was as light to Him. And I settled into the idea that it may never change. And then very slowly something began to shift. It was almost imperceptible, as are the first signs of dawn in the morning. And then slowly, and gradually light began to come. And I began to experience His presence and voice again.
I am still working through and unpacking the lessons of this time. I realize that I still have a long way to go, but God has shaped my character through this experience. I have gained a healthier view of myself. I learned, as many others with similar experiences, that I am not God. He does not exist to serve my ends and desires, and He owes me nothing. I know more deeply that He has created me for Himself, and I am here to serve Him and bring Him glory. I have also come to know more of what it means to trust God in faith, to believe that He is who He said He is without any felt proof. To know that He can care for and guide me. That I can trust Him. And that the Christian life is not about my effort, but about receiving His grace.
He has taught me about the value of perseverance. And that He is a prize worth enduring hardship for. And I am beginning to see, that somehow, this time is a gift that He wanted to share with me. That He wanted me to join Him in the experience of feeling abandoned so that I would know and love Him more.
I write these thoughts because I hope they will be of help to someone. And, as we look at Easter that we would more fully empathize with the unique feelings of the descending darkness of Friday, the lonely waiting of Saturday and the slow and striking dawn of Sunday.