Seeing in the Dark
Dr. RB McFee
105 “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”
This morning I was reading in the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, about taking the time to be with Christ, to slow down and be mindful of His Presence. One of the closing scriptures was this one from Psalms. It reminded me of the various times Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the world. And it reminded me of the dark.
Sometimes the dark can be a fun place to be in – playing hide and seek with friends, or reading mysteries to younger cousins, or watching decorations best seen at night. Like who would do fireworks during the day?
But for some the darkness can be a scary place. The dark can promote greater danger, as any inner city dweller, or someone who has walked the back roads of certain regions in the world can attest.
As children we often had a nightlight to push back on the darkness. There is a sense of the unknown when the light is off.
The same is true when we are in unfamiliar territory, walking at night. The shadows seem to taunt us. And yet to a photographer, shadows are the character found in an image. The movie Casablanca was filmed in black and white for that very reason. It wasn’t because color wasn’t available, but the director knew there was a range of emotions that only film noire could evoke, that would be missed by color photography. Having been to that exotic city, the director was correct. As sunlight and emerging darkness play off the white walls and buildings, the interplay between the two evoke a sense of the expectant, the eerie, and the exciting.
Astronomers seek regions with the least amount of light pollution. Seeing the stars from a remote, dark place gives an entirely new meaning to ‘heavenly.’ Having been to an island observatory, I can attest to the beauty of God’s twinkling stars seen from an unlit area.
Many years ago as a student pilot I remember the first time my instructor and I were going to do a night flight. He had me wait for about a half hour in a small office illuminated much like a photographers dark room would be, so that my eyes would acclimate to the darkness, and I would be able to distinguish the lights of different cities and towns more clearly.
All this is to say we outgrow our fear of physical darkness, even taking comfort in it, as a source of greater scientific or other experiential learning.
But the dark – physically, and spiritually still can be a confusing, disorienting place, especially with flickering lights, instead of a bright beacon.
Then there is the emotional and spiritual darkness we all face at one time or another in our lives. The reasons and causes may differ, but the dark destination remains the same. We are lost. We bang into life without fully seeing where we are going. We feel like a boat caught in a moonless night on storm tossed seas, and not a lighthouse in sight. Perhaps that is how some of the Disciples felt that fateful night spoken about in Matthew 14.
And like the Disciples, we too can have a walking on water spiritual Flashlight come to guide us safely home – Jesus. He came through the wind and the waves, appearing to His Disciples two thousand years ago, and is ready to do the same for us even now.
Thinking on my own life, I wonder, how many times has Jesus – our just in time Savior – appeared out of the mist, like a beam of Light, to help us see what we were missing? Did I notice? Did I ask for it, or was He just paying attention to me more than I was to Him?
The answers, the clarity are usually right where we left them – in the Hands of God, in the Voice of the Holy Spirit, in the Love - Light of Christ.
Perhaps these dark moments are gentle reminders from Above that we need to stop fumbling in the darkness, and reconnect with our Guide.
Like lost hikers, or children who get separated from their parents, or sheep who wander from the flock, we need to stand still.
“Be still, and know that I am God”
We need to be still and listen to God’s voice through the Holy Spirit. He is in us. If we stop focusing on the problem, and focus on the Problem Solver, we will begin to see a way, a path forward….first back into the arms of our Lord, and then onto the path of righteousness, and a better journey.
Will it be easy? Maybe. Maybe not. Will it be easier? Yes. Because you have a Heavenly Flashlight, a Lamp guiding you.
Often our darkness comes when or after we have been basking too long in the sunlight, and in the brightness have strayed from relationship with our Creator. We foolishly link our successful navigation through life with our own light, forgetting if we enjoy blessings, it is from an inner Light from Above powering us.
Then, too, we forget with every dawn there is a dusk, a nightfall. And while Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), we are not as consistent, as steady with Him, as He is with us.
Sometimes we have been lost far longer than we realize as we slowly adjust our sight; people have great adaptable skills. But then bam one moment it is total blackness and we cannot navigate any more in our own skills. Would it not have been far better to stay in close touch with God, and always have His Light with us, even when some dark clouds partially cover the sun or moon of our lives?
Thankfully Jesus is a patient Shepherd.
Does Jesus’ Lamp for us mean the cause of the darkness goes away? Or that our problems vanish into the darkness? Only God can answer that. But isn’t it better to have God in our lives, helping us gain greater clarity than to try and go it alone, stumbling in the dark?
Spiritually it is the Word of God, and our connectedness with His indwelling Presence – the Holy Spirit – that guides us in times of human darkness, as well as days of joy and light.
But to gain that guidance we have to play our part. Prayer, humility, seeking His Word, reading the Scriptures, taking time to talk with and think about God in our daily activities; these are the batteries that charge Christ’s Lamp in our life.
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless who walk in the Torah of Adonai.”
Psalm 119: 1
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter among these beloved hymns, and is full of wisdom, starting with the very first verse.
As Rabbis Glenn Blank and Jeffrey Seif explain in their book Shalom in Psalms, “the way we walk (in the Word of Adonai) can make the difference between purity and straying into sin. By “guarding it according to Your Word” (“walking in the Torah of Adonai”) we can live according to Biblical values and virtues.”
They go on to say that “there is a special connection between the Word of God and the Way to life in the Spirit. Yeshua said in John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ Later His Disciples called themselves followers of ‘the Way.’”
As an important aside, the word “Torah” means instruction. Rabbis Blank and Seif offer this question as insight – “is not all of scripture, and not just the books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy), a form of Torah – instruction, “a lamp unto our feet?”
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
John 10: 2 - 4
Psalm 119 ends by reminding us we are lost sheep. Interesting considering throughout the scriptures God and Jesus are referred to as Shepherds – finding and rescuing their charges.
It reminds me of the connection between God, earthly shepherds, and the birth of our saving Shepherd – Jesus. How appropriate it was for the angel of God as mentioned in Luke, to appear before shepherds watching their flock by night illuminated by the Glory of God which was shining brightly for these men working on the dark hillsides of Bethlehem. God was their guiding Beacon. And since Christ’s entry into our lives, we now carry an illuminating Light to guide our way as well.
There will always be darkness.
When it is in the earthly form it can afford us enjoy a time of peace, slumber, even joy and contentment, especially during those moments we look up at the stars, praising God for creating us and a beautiful universe to admire.
But in a spiritual form, darkness can be a time of fear, hardship, challenges, and loss. That said, if we stay close to our Eternal Guide – in regular prayer, and intentionally try to be in His Presence, making sure to maintain our relationship with our Savior, and consistently listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured Light will again fill our lives, and even if the storm still rages, we are not alone, and there is a bright Beacon of hope guiding us home, and Home….
12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”
John 8:12 KJV