When the Darkness is Winning
All my bones shall say: ‘O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him...’ Psalm 35:10
Curled up in a chair, sick, exhausted and overwhelmed, I chastised the Savior.
“The Darkness is too strong for me. It's winning. Where are you?” My tone was one of weak condemnation. I did my part—feeble though it may have been. But God—my champion, my rescuer seemingly vanished, leaving wounds seeping and gaps gaping.
This can’t be the way this ends. God—don’t you see? I’m falling through the cracks and am taking others with me.
I’ve listened to a thousand sermons. I’ve read my Bible cover to cover. I’ve read other people’s books who’ve read the Bible cover to cover. I’ve prayed. And cried. And waited.
Ever felt that way? Like you’ve done your part, but God hasn’t done his?
I wonder if the Bible legends had moments where they doubted God’s vision and proximity.
Daniel, drawing back, bracing for the first bone-crushing bite: “LORD—the lions are getting closer…”
Esther, sweat beading on her lip, voice trembling: “LORD, He doesn’t look happy to see me…”
Moses, feeling the collective pressure of a nation, pursued by slaughterers, standing before the sea: "Phenomenal works of deliverance…and now you’ve led us to a trap?”
For a story to great there must be conflict. Our hearts are similar. Take a faithful soul and lock her up with wild beasts, have her stand before a petulant judge, hem her in with impossible choices on both sides and watch the dross of the heart bubble up.
Fear. Doubt. Rage. Anguish. All of them at home in the heart—now set free by the key of affliction.
Darkness is real. And sometimes God allows it to get really close. Close enough for you to feel its death-grip and smell its stench. Close enough to despair that anything or anyone else could be closer.
Ahh…and here the key turns and another parasitical lie is disengaged from the heart: that darkness could ever win. Calvary lured darkness into a trap and blew it to smithereens with a light that burns brighter than 10,000 suns. For now, it lingers as a shadow content to latch itself on to gritty bits of sin and fear and anger that still plague the believer’s heart. But in Christ, we are more than conquerors. Not only will we overcome this scourge by the power of the Holy Spirit—but the shadow that sought our destruction will become our servant.
Here’s what Moses really said, standing at the banks of the Red Sea:
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.” Exodus 14:13
Stand firm. For today God will work for you.
The sea split, and God’s people walked to safety. The bloodthirsty army charged in afterward—thinking this miracle was for them too. Alas, it wasn’t.
The king smiled at his queen and beckoned her in.
Bowing in submission to the Lord's Angel, the lions’ closed their mouths against hunger.
And me, curled up in a ball, spent my last bit of energy on three things. I repented of trusting my sight more than my Savior. I sent a desperate prayer plea to friends who could bear me in my weakness. And I read Romans 8.
And the words flew from page to heart. And the Word became more real than reality. Daniel’s lions’ mouths were shut by the power of the Spirit and my heart was opened to receive salvation.
Let me tell you where I was—indeed where I AM. In your weakness I am your helper. You don’t know how to pray the way you ought so the Spirit prays for you with groanings too deep for words. He intercedes for you according to my will. This power—this grace makes all things work together for good for you. Distress, danger and fear cannot separate you from me—even now Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith sits at my right hand, pleading for you. That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s where I’ve been. (Romans 8:26-35)
I’m fragile. Short on courage and long on fear. I trust my senses too much and am prone to wander. But I have a savior who isn’t anything like me. He’s genuinely tender and astonishingly fierce. He’s a friend like no other—ripe with love and compassion, full of infinite wisdom and fortunately for me, abounding in forgiveness.
Peace returned to my trembling heart and when I looked around, I saw something new. The despair I thought would destroy me had only deceived me and once exposed, began to serve me.
How? It purged my heart of all kinds of poison. It softened me and made me kind. It removed some flesh (ouch!) and replaced it with indestructible faith. And love? Oh love!
For (now) I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height or depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
The next time despair has you doubting God's faithfulness, his compassion, his ability to effect change--doubt your doubt. Not your savior.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "