The title above comes from Psalm 104:20 in the NTR, an easy-to-read (Ha ha! As if anything in Romanian is easy!) Romanian translation, “Tu aduci întunericul şi se face noapte; atunci toate fiarele pădurii încep să mişune.” The English translation is, “You bring the darkness, and it becomes night, then all the wild beasts of the forest begin to move about.”
The “you” here is referring to God. There’s an uncomfortable truth here, a really uncomfortable truth if you take time to think about it. This verse says that the God who is light and joy and all things good is also the author and bringer of darkness, even difficulty and trouble.
Imagine you’ve taken a walk alone into the woods. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is beautiful. In this heavenly place, you find a tree just off the path and sit down in its shade. Soon enough, the wonder of the place draws your head to drowsiness, your eyelids close, and you dream happy dreams.
Suddenly, a cold breeze breathes against your neck, and your eyelids snap open. It’s night, and the sky is dark, covered by clouds, with only the vague sliver of a waning moon hinting far above. Your heart beats fast and adrenaline quickens your breathing. You can’t see the path anywhere; it’s just too dark! You desperately attempt to calm your careening thoughts, reminding yourself that those scratching of angry claws and the furtive sneaking of creatures your ears hear must certainly be nothing more than the creaking of tree branches and the rustling of leaves. And yet, your breathing stops when you hear the unmistakable howl of a wolf nearby. The heavy footsteps and grunting of a bear are even closer still, and you dare not breathe or move.
“You bring the darkness, and it becomes night, then all the wild beasts of the forest begin to move about.”
The reality in our lives may not be so melodramatic, but when we face darkness (whether a death, sickness, loss, fear, or some other difficulty), we often react as if we’re alone in the woods at night surrounded by hungry predators.
Not every moment of darkness in our lives is from God, but there are certainly times when God himself (our loving, loyal, faithful, kind, merciful, generous Father) does indeed send darkness to us and us into darkness.
Jesus himself gives probably the most dramatic picture of this. He’s baptized, and upon coming out of the water, “a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.’ Immediately the Spirit impelled him to go out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:11-13). Imagine being in the middle of an amazing worship service where the Holy Spirit audibly speaks to you, and you’re flooded with the visceral love, joy, and acceptance of God. But suddenly this dreamlike place comes crashing down as he tells you suddenly to leave. And then he removes the sense of his presence, and that’s the last time you feel his pleasure for the next forty days as you struggle just to keep going. And to top it all off, you know clearly that he said he loved you.
In Genesis, God is introduced to us hovering over the deep dark of the primordial waters (Genesis 1:2). God sends a deep, thick darkness–a darkness that can even be felt–over the entire country of Egypt prior to the exodus (Exodus 10:21-23). God appears on Mount Sinai in fire and lightning but also in “darkness, cloud, and thick gloom” (Deuteronomy 4:11) and from that darkness his voice issues forth (Deuteronomy 5:23). When he responds to the cry of one of his children, he comes, it says, “with darkness under his feet” (Psalm 18:9), and God himself is even hidden in darkness (Psalm 18:11). I am fascinated by that thought, that God hides himself, covers himself in the darkness. He’s there; if only we could actually see him…
There are many more references, but let’s move on.
God does not send his children into darkness to overwhelm them or crush them; no, that treatment is reserved for those refusing to surrender to his right to rule their lives. He’ll let that person walk in all sorts of darkness, so much darkness, in fact, that they have no idea where they’re going or where they are. And pretty soon along comes a big old pit to fall into.
But God sends his children into the darkness for a different purpose, to show off their (and his) light.
Fireflies don’t glow during the day. Think about that. In fact, besides not glowing, they look downright ugly in the light. But the minute the sun goes down, they begin to glow, and they’re beautiful.
Sometimes, we’re like those fireflies. We get used to the light, having things work out for us, and in that comfort we begin to get fat and lazy and we start to think life is all about ourselves and we complain and whine for what we want but do not yet have. Sometimes the best thing that can happen at that time is for the light to go out, for difficulty to arise. Suddenly, we realize life isn’t about us but about Jesus. God, to grow us and get us out of that self-absorbed funk, is more than willing to send the night.
And then there are the times when things are going just fine, when you’re really not complaining and you’re actually growing quite mature in your walk with God. Perhaps you’re on the verge of growing complacent, but still you’re doing well. Then, suddenly, trouble comes, the light goes out.
I am convinced that God not only sends us into the dark so we can learn how to shine, but also so that he can bring light to where it’s most needed. Darkness needs the light most, after all, and if the light will not go there, how else will it be made light? God intentionally sends us into darkness and sends darkness our way in order to remind a world of that which it has long since forgotten, the taste and scent and character of light.
“You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men…” (Matthew 5:14-16).
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:2).
In John 9, Jesus and his disciples pass by a man born blind. The disciples ask a question very common in Romania, “So, Jesus, who sinned that this man would be so judged? Was it the man himself who sinned or his parents?” They think the sickness surely must be God’s judgment on sin.
Jesus responds, though, “What kind of dumb question is that???” (That’s a slight paraphrase, of course.) He goes on, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
Too often we become afraid of the darkness rather than viewing it as a chance to show off God’s nature and kingdom, his light. God intends for us to shine into the darkness, but all too many times we allow it to intimidate us, scare us away, cover us up. Sometimes it’s our own trouble (we lose our job, we get a cold, we throw a fit, we crash the car) and sometimes it’s another’s trouble (a beggar has no legs, the waitress looks depressed, our neighbor’s kid killed himself). Whatever the difficulty, we have got to decide to shine into it. How will the light get there where it’s most desperately needed unless we choose to shine?
Show you trust Jesus more than your job, your health, your comfort. Show he’s more powerful than your reputation, than sickness, than setback. Show he’s more kind and more generous, more good, more bold. Show off his light in the face of darkness.
You were made to shine.
“The one forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these” (Isaiah 45:7).