What shade of darkness is surrounding your life today? Maybe there are some severe realities from your past that have caused you to struggle to believe God's goodness for your future. Maybe you don't carry around any dark secrets or weighty tragedies from the past, but still feel like you're walking under a black cloud of mild despair and nagging doubt.
What's interesting about doubt and despair is that they cause our focus to center on the very thing that God wants us to stop focusing on: ourselves. He knows that ever since Adam and Eve shifted the desire they originally had for God over to themselves, we inherited something we'd struggle with our entire lives. Us. It's this self-consuming focus on us that ultimately casts a dark shadow of doubt over our hearts and minds. And the world tells us this is a good thing. How many times a day do we hear these lines?
I need to do what's right for me.
I deserve some more me time.
I need to focus on myself.
I need to learn to love myself.
When we as believers struggle to believe, it's not that we've misplaced hope; it's that we've misplaced God, who is our hope. We've traded the desire and affection we're supposed to have for God with a desire and affection for self. It's a repeat episode of Adam and Eve. We find ourselves unclothed, afraid, and ashamed, living in doubt of God's promises and in denial of his goodness. But God finds us and restores our hope in himself alone. When we find ourselves under cover of darkness, God doesn't just hand us flashlights so we can see our way around without tripping over everything. No, he consumes the darkness with his light! He illuminates those areas in our lives so that we aren't hidden under darkness any longer but "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). He wouldn't be our great God if he did anything less.
For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness. (2 Sam. 22:29)
Look around and see what lamps are lighting your life. We constantly have the dim lights of careers, relationships, hobbies, kids, and homes threatening to replace the all-consuming, all-illuminating light of Christ in our lives. These dim lights ultimately burn out because they were never meant to be our ultimate source of light. In these times, our prayer needs to be like David's, when he was hiding for his life in a cave from King Saul:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Ps. 57:1-3)
Like he did for David, God will fulfill his own purpose in us. He will transfer our selfish gaze back to his selfless ways. He will provide us with joyful reassurance in our darkest times of doubt and wondering. He will show us mercy in the dark solitude of our storms and become the great refuge for our sorrowful souls when we repent of our self-sufficiency and return to the shadow of his wings. We will once again feel the strength and security of his steadfast love and be reminded of his never-ending faithfulness. He will lighten the depths of our darkness with the lamp of his transcendent love, and we will see ever more clearly the goodness of his grace and the greatness of his glory.
We will once again have hope in Christ, our only hope.
Editors' Note: This excerpt is adapted from Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin's new book, Finding God in the Dark: Faith, Disappointment, and the Struggle to Believe (Bethany House, 2013).