by Michelle Bauman, Director of Y4Life
It’s dark as I write this article, and it will likely be darker still when you read it. The coming of winter means the absence of light, and winter is definitely coming. In southern Indiana, we’ve felt a chill that’s often reserved for weeks, if not months, from now. Winter is at our doorstep; the days are getting shorter and colder as we lean away from the sun.
Despite my love of daylight, I readily admit that darkness and the close of day resonate with good gifts—gifts like the comforts of home and family, freshly bathed children snuggling in for a story, evening devotions and bedtime prayers. Darkness is a gift that gives us the opportunity to rest and reset, a gift that prepares us for a new day and the work to come.
Yet, darkness reminds us of other realities too, of moments that are much less comforting. Perhaps it brings to mind nights spent in fervent prayer over a sick child or elderly loved one. Perhaps it harkens back to restless hours filled with worries and fears, loneliness and nightmares that kept us from the peace we had hoped for.
Darkness often carries with it a negative connotation. This was true in biblical times, and it is still true today. From the idioms and allusions we use in daily conversation to the eerie music playing in the background of movie scenes filmed at night, we know darkness has the potential to bring disorder, destruction, and even death.
And if we’ve read our Bible, we know that dark days and dark nights are coming.
“‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars,’ Jesus declares. ‘See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake’” (Matthew 24:6-9).
Jesus speaks of dark times to be certain, end times. And we are living in them. Yet, God’s Word to us brings comfort and life:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Even more reassuring? Romans 8:39 reminds us that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But what about our own lives? Like the transition into winter, we have dark seasons in our lives too—seasons full of sickness and suffering, periods of difficulty, loss, and grief. Sometimes those seasons befall us through no fault of our own; they are simply the result of sin and suffering in the world. And sometimes these seasons come because we, like the earth itself, are leaning away from the Son.
The Psalmist in Psalm 41 is clearly experiencing a dark season of sickness and suffering. Gravely ill, the Psalmist records the reactions of others:
“My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die, and his name perish?’ … All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, ‘A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies’” (41:5,7-8).
To make dark matters even worse, it seems his close friend has also betrayed him. (41:9) Yet, despite these dark times, God’s Word speaks life and truth. The Psalmist declares his hope as he clings to the light of Christ.
“In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive” (41:1b-2a).
How can he declare this truth so boldly? Because he knows that even in darkness, we are blessed For Life.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are at work to turn us toward the darkness, but we were made for light and life. God’s Word and Sacraments cast darkness aside in our lives; they draw us closer to Him and make us strong unto salvation. May we, like the Psalmist, cling to the promises of Christ. May we recognize that we are blessed For Life even when we are surrounded by darkness, and may we in our darkest seasons, through the work of the Holy Spirit, lean toward the Son for light and for hope.
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen” (Psalm 41:13).