Even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You. (Psalm 139:12)
There’s enough darkness in the world to discourage even the most optimistic of us. Around every corner, we see more evidence that most people are living for themselves and apart from God. Mass shootings and terror attacks seem to be the rule rather than the exception, millions of people are routinely forced from their homes in war-torn countries, and every day, the news is riddled with stories of scandal. We don’t even need to look that far to find signs of darkness—our own sin is a constant reminder of the struggle between good and evil in this world. And perhaps that’s where our fear stems from—the realization that, on our own, we really aren’t that different from the worst offenders around us. Signs of a fallen and broken world are everywhere. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. So then, as children of God, how are we to respond? Are we to run and hide from the darkness? Pretend it doesn’t exist? Cower in fear, waiting for the Lord to return and take us to be with Him?
In his human frailty, David acknowledged his fear: “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night” (Psalm 139:11). Apart from God, David felt helpless and overtaken by the darkness that surrounded him. How often do we become overwhelmed and discouraged by the things happening around us? When a friend has cancer or loses a loved one, do we find ourselves wishing we could avoid the situation? When senseless violence claims the lives of innocent bystanders (who are made in the image of God), are we tempted to retreat and throw up our hands in defeat? When we’re discouraged by our own failure to honor God, do we become paralyzed with guilt and shame?
Fortunately, the next lines of David’s psalm offer another (and better) option: “Even the darkness is not dark to You, the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You” (Psalm 139:12). If God sees no difference between dark and light, then perhaps we should take a similar view. But what exactly does this mean? How can we be surrounded by darkness and live as light? Is it really possible to have hope in this dark world?
Darkness is Real
Losing our fear of the dark doesn’t mean we are ignorant of it. The darkness of sin and of this world is real. Our sin is real. Sickness is real, broken families and broken relationships are real, violence is real, racism is real, war is real, death is real. The consequences of sin are also real. Pain, sadness, and heartbreak are real and legitimate responses to living in a broken world.
All of these things are important reminders that things are not as they should be. Before sin entered the world, life in the Garden of Eden was characterized by unmarred and unbroken communion between God and His creation. There was no decay, no disease, no death. The effects of sin are visible in all of creation, and Paul looks forward to the day when the groans of creation are no more. This stark contrast should serve as motivation for those whose hope is not in this world, because a brighter day is coming!
It’s also important to remember that the battle we see in this physical world is really just an indication of the deeper battle going on in the spiritual realm. In order to fight it effectively, we must not only be aware of the power of evil, but more importantly, be confident in the tools God has given us to fight evil. If you’re a child of God, then you have every resource you need to overcome darkness. Sometimes, the solution is already there, and we just need to take hold of it. It’s no different than a child who is afraid of the dark and completely unaware that with one simple flick, light will flood the room. We can’t let our fear paralyze us. The key to losing our fear is to live like we have already won, because we have!
Darkness Has Been Defeated
When children are afraid of the dark, their fear is rooted in their inability to control their surroundings, because they lack the knowledge that light would give them. We can be the same way—when we start to feel overwhelmed by our own sin or the evil in the world around us, it’s most often because we feel helpless and our fears are overshadowing what we know to be true. The only way to get beyond our fear is to so fill ourselves with God’s Word and His truth that there is no room for anything else to take up residence. We may have lingering fears and doubts, but the truth needs to move us beyond those. The light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ has to be bigger than our fears.
God’s Word is wrought with men and women who were surrounded by evil and darkness, but who overcame their fear to live victoriously by faith in God. When the angel appeared to Gideon, he was hiding in his wine press for fear of the Midianites. Israel’s disobedience had caused God to remove the blessing of His protection, but when they finally cried out to the Lord, He graciously reminded them of who He is and commanded them to have no fear of the Amorites. (Judges 6:10) Gideon overcame his fear and ultimately led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites with just 300 men, because he obeyed God and trusted Him more than he did his own fears. Rahab committed an act of treason, punishable by death, when she hid the Israelite spies. She had a whole host of fears that could have prevented her from acting on their behalf, but she wisely recognized that God was on their side. God used this pagan woman to calm the fears of His own people, offering a beautiful illustration of how God uses people that society deems unworthy. We can find countless lessons of men and women overcoming fear of the evil around them through faith—Esther, David, Daniel, and Paul, to name a few.
Just as God isn’t afraid to enter into our messy and broken lives, He’s not afraid to work in this world, even if we can’t always see it. When the Word became flesh, He dwelt among us and became Immanuel, God with us. He didn’t run from the darkness, but came into the midst of the darkness to bring light. John says, “He is light, and in Him is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). As the Light of the World, He cannot be overshadowed by the darkness of tragedy, sin, and violence in this world. In fact, in darkness, His light shines brighter. Yet, in 1 Kings, God tells Solomon that He will “dwell in thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12). God is light, but He is willing to step into the dark to be close to His creation. Isn’t this an awesome thought?! The God of the universe values us more than He values His comfort. This means He will walk with us as we face our fears, doubts, and confusion. In fact, Psalm 23 tells us to fear no evil because, as our Good Shepherd, God actually LEADS us into the valley of the shadow of death. He goes before us, and nothing surprises Him as He works on our behalf.
Through Jesus, God has already defeated darkness. The story didn’t end when Jesus took on the full weight of the world’s sin on the cross, and darkness covered the sky. Three days later, He rose again, defeating sin and death for all time. While we are still witness to the battle unfolding here on earth, we know the outcome. If you are a child of God, you have also overcome! Yet, while our time here on earth is temporary, it is not futile. Just as Christ is light, we are light. Paul describes the transformation like this:
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light! (Ephesians 5:8)
Notice that we don’t just walk in light; we ARE light. As lights reflecting His light, we cause others to glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) What a high calling!
Darkness Needs Light
God often calls us into the darkness to be a light for others. Unless we’re willing to go into the darkness, there’s no way we can show others God’s love and the truth of His salvation. Fear of the unknown, physical harm, disease, financial loss, and spiritual contamination can keep us from walking alongside those who don’t know the Lord and ultimately being used by Him. If we run from the dark, how will we be a light for Him?
If we’re not constantly reminding ourselves of God’s promises and of our identity as children of God, our fear will trump our love for others. Nothing can take the place of spending time in the Word daily, being renewed and transformed to His image. As we fill ourselves with His Word, the voices of doubt and fear will be crowded out. As He becomes greater in our lives, our fear will become less, because fear is not of God. And sometimes, the dark is where we can hear God’s voice most clearly.
God’s not afraid of the dark, so we shouldn’t be either.