Life on planet Earth is far from perfect; anyone can attest to that. There are sunny days, when it honestly feels like nothing could ruin the moment, and then there are the dark days where it feels like you’ll never see the sun again. We love to live in the happy and we do all we can to hold on to those sweet moments. Additionally, we do everything in our power to manage the hard times so that we can return to the good times as quickly as possible.
But sometimes those dark days don’t seem to leave. Sometimes those days turn to weeks, or months, or even years. When you’re walking in the dark days it can feel like you’re in a continual downward descent with nothing but a bottomless abyss in sight.
Depression – that sinking feeling that curls around you, threatening to choke you. The oppression that threatens to never leave and to change you into a mere shadow of the person you once were.
Death – death of a friend, a child, a parent, or even a marriage or relationship that, at one time, seemed so vibrant and whole.
Disease – something life-long, something hindering your normal life, something that takes your life or the life of a loved one.
Loneliness – in marriage, in friendships, at church, in your neighborhood.
Abuse – stuck in a relationship where you feel like you are powerlessly controlled
Life Changes – an accident that alters a once healthy body into something unrecognizable. A move that changes your comfort zone and leaves you feeling desperate and more alone than you thought possible. Job loss or financial instability.
The list of dark days is endless.
I know what it’s like to live in dark days where the days turn to months and the months turn to years. Where there is confusion on every side, a sense of being smothered alive, a restless uncertainty where you wonder if an end point will ever come.
It’s true, there’s no escaping it. Bad things happen to good people. Things happen in this life that wreck our hearts. We can easily feel abandoned, alone, and even mad at God, who is supposedly a loving Creator, and we have trouble adding these things together.
Often Christians try to put a “happy face” on these bad things.
“Just trust God.”
“God always has a plan.”
“God will never abandon you.”
“Remember that Jesus loves you.”
“Pray about it.”
These sayings are all true, but when you’re living in the middle of dark days, they can hurt more than they can help. Sometimes, it feels like all we can do is simply hold on and often, it feels like even our grip to hold on, is coming loose.
I don’t know what your dark days are and there are countless difficulties that others have walked through that I pray I never experience, but I have had my own darknesses that enshrouded me for seemingly endless periods of time. They are real. They can’t be explained away with trite sayings. Christian one-liners don’t make it better.
But there is hope!
What I have learned is that, on the other side of those days, or moments, or years, is the unchanging truth that God really doesn’t abandon. I’ve learned to practice “seeing in the dark.”
My childhood was difficult and oppressive in many ways, (which you can read more about here) and in that time, I couldn’t see anything good. But now, decades later, and with the insight of a deeper knowledge of God’s character and how richly He loves me, I’ve been able to “see in the dark.” I’ve seen His hands holding me when I couldn’t hold myself. I’ve seen His undeserved grace show up at times when I certainly didn’t deserve it. I struggled with a lot of issues as a child, but God allowed me not to suffer with anorexia, like many of my friends had. I never struggled with cutting, as some of my friends did. I was a painfully awkward child and teenager who never knew how to socially fit in, but God gave me incredible friends. Looking back, a young person like myself, should have been shunned by everyone, but I wasn’t. God gave me friendships that nourished my soul.
There were dark days – and years – in my marriage where it seemed like divorce was inevitable. But, looking back, I can see in the dark how despite the heavy, ominous clouds around me, I was saved from suicide, God gave me godly friendships to encourage me, my husband stayed, my children loved me. Through every stage, I’ve learned more and more that God can be trusted and He is good. But these phrases can’t be thrown around; they must be learned individually, on a heart level, between you and God.
How do you learn it? How do you walk through the dark without diving into its’ depths never to emerge again?
First, we desperately need community. Find a friend or two who are willing to walk *with* you. Not someone who can simply look at the outside and blithely say, “I’m so sorry that’s happening to you – just remember, it could be worse!” These are well-meaning phrases that painfully miss the mark. Find true friends who will get into your pit with you, hold your hand, pray for you and with you, and walk by your side until the clouds clear.
Second, let your eyes adjust to the dark. We can learn to see in the dark, but it takes practice. It takes an intentional shift in our thinking and our perspective. No one can do this for us; we have to choose it on our own. Take a look back on your life and see how God has refused to abandon you in the past. Look for His hand and you will find it. If you’re new to Christianity, or just beginning to explore Jesus, be bold and look at someone else’s life that has walked with Jesus for a while. Jesus transforms, His love redeems, He never forsakes – it’s completely against His nature. It’s impossible for Him to abandon the works of His hands.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
You will not forsake the work of your hands.
Learning to see in the dark, gives us a clearer perspective on the past, and builds a stronger foundation for the future. There are no guarantees when it comes to tomorrow. I can’t abide thinking about the loss of a child, or my husband, or of someone I love having a severe handicap, but what I am learning, because I’ve chosen to see in the dark, is that God’s character and His love for me are not dependent on my circumstances.
No matter what, my God is good, and in the end, He wins.
And I win because I am His.
As Christians, we have a hope, an *eternal* hope, in Jesus Christ. When the worst happens, when it doesn’t get better, we still have hope. It’s true, the circumstance may not turn out the way we would like, but it doesn’t change that we are desperately loved, purposefully redeemed, and eternally given hope.
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”
I used to think that verse was for old people who were about to die, so they wouldn’t be afraid. But it’s for us! It’s for when we walk through the dark days. We don’t need to cling to fear because we are not alone.
The God of the Universe is with us.
What dark days have you walked through and what lessons have you learned from God as you look back on them? Maybe you’re walking in dark days right now and need to seek out true community while learning to put on your night vision goggles. I pray that whatever darkness you are going through, that you will turn to the One who is light, who offers hope, and who holds our hand in the dark, even if we don’t realize it at the time.
One of my favorite songs that so beautifully portrays the unchanging truth about who God is in our storms, is Your Hands by JJ Heller.
You can listen in here.