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Long ago a man name Job found himself enveloped in a darkness so deep and enduring, no one held out any hope for the man. No one saw in him any future. He had lost his wealth and all his possessions, his children and then, even his health. On top of it all, he was left with a wife who was somewhat understandably embittered. What was left for Job to do but curse God and welcome his own death?
For Job and for many, thick darkness surrounds God's purposes, obscuring every inch of just exactly what it is God is doing. As with the ancient Israelites, fear can easily arise from out of our pain and uncertainty. "Who can know the Most High?" we may wonder.
From inside the world of men, such darkness can only be seen as senseless— either that, or some form of retribution, a matter of divine justice, or karma, if you will. Yet so seldom is it either. There will always be those among us ready to take up a collection, and shape the proceeds into a golden calf. In this way our praise can be given to something static, something we can secure with our own hands and ultimately something completely powerless to terrify.
“The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” —Exodus 20:21
At a safe distance from Mt. Sinai, God’s purposes remained obscured, hidden by thick darkness. Job, on the other hand, found himself suddenly plunged into his. Job’s friends drew near, but were eventually forced to distance themselves from him. They could not and would not understand God’s purpose in this horror except through one who had suffered and emerged once again, and Job would emerge, with a knowledge and relationship as indestructible and true as the Eternal Life, Himself.
We often pity the man who enters into the darkness, but in the end, he or she emerges forever richer... yes, richer and more thoroughly steadfast than the many who stand far off. Like Moses and Job, people of faith have always been chosen for a purpose deeper and more narrow than what the bravest of natural men could ever suffer.
In 1 John 1:5, the Apostle John tells us that “God is light” and that “in him there is no darkness at all.” This is not to say that there isn’t darkness obscuring God's purposes, but rather that the darkness we experience is not God, Himself. We must be careful to point this out, even as we declare that He is so often found here, amidst thick, personal darkness. God chooses these times and conditions to specifically reveal himself and his faithfulness to us, and he does so on an experiential level, taking things slightly deeper than Bible reading alone.
Though clearly revealed today, God’s plan was once thoroughly concealed from the Lord’s inner circle (men like Peter, James and John). The method couldn't be perceived even when the Lord spoke to them bluntly concerning “his madness." And when this madness was understood in its hearing, Peter's objection became a sort of darkness all its own, further obscuring God’s eternal purpose. Despite clear prophecies regarding the Son of Man, the Lord's true aim went undetected.
You may remember that thick darkness covered the land, obscuring the heavenly light at the very hour our Lord was crucified. And yet it was in that darkness that the greatest of victories was won! Out of darkness’ short rein, the light of the Eternal Life (the hope of the Gospel we carry)... it did burst forth and shine!
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. —Genesis 15:12
David, too, suffered great thirst, as well as great destress, and even through times of deep melancholy. Yet it was precisely in these times that David found a way to declare both his knowledge of and trust in the Most High God. For David and for each one of us, our ability to persevere (to endure and overcome) are tempered from within dark times of uncertainty and suffering. David was a man who could pray to his ‘Abba’ with the familiarity and confidence that can only be found in knowing an All-Knowing-Father, One who had never once failed to bring him through dark times.
David would declare this knowledge in song. The tune, now lost to us, no longer accompanies the lyrics he once penned: “If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is as light with you; the night is as bright as the day for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)
No, nothing in all of creation is hidden from God's sight (Hebrews 11:13). Conversely, He knows how to properly conceal and reveal just what he is accomplishing, including the timing of the revelation. Even in difficulty and dread, God makes all things work for good to those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). He knows the beginning from the end... even when the purpose behind what we are now enduring seems all but obscured.
🌵 Doug is Navigator staff assigned to military ministry in the Desert Southwest. He lives with his wife Beth Ann in Tucson, Arizona.
For additional reading, we recommend, "You Can Trust God," a 24-page booklet by Navigator author, Jerry Bridges. Jerry helps to explain three essential biblical truths about God that we must know if we are to trust Him in times of trial. It also points out how three crucial elements helped hymn writer John Newton trust God during the days of his wife's passing..