When you read the words “your Darkest Hours”, what thoughts roll through your mind? You’ve had some dark hours, haven’t you? So have I, both before walking with God, and since my journey with Him began. Your darkest hours might have even been in the daytime, with the sun bearing down on you as you stood next to an open grave. Your darkest hours may have been lit by the harsh fluorescent lights of an emergency room, or even the artificial lighting controlled by armed guards of a prison cell block. Dark hours are certainly not restricted to times when the moon is visible! But yet, no matter what time of day you have experienced this darkness, chances are it will haunt you at four in the morning. This is, hands down, the absolute worst time of day! All is still, and most often no one else will be awake with you. It is just you and your physical exhaustion, combined with the tragic events that caused you to be awake at four in the morning. Yes, I believe the darkest of the darkest hours occur at four in the morning! Have you been there, believing the sun may not rise, ever again? It will, my friend, I promise. And while you’re waiting in the darkest hours, you can still let God’s light shine! On you. Right there, with tears streaming down your face!
This article will be a two part venture. In this part, we will look at our own darkest hours. Until we understand how God can light our own darkness, we will be ineffective in shining His Light on others when they are in a similar situation. On our next visit, we will address how we can best extend our hand and heart to others when they are looking out through a veil of tears. But as always, we must grasp a concept before we share it. If you’ve been following “Rise and Shine!” for a while, you know that I always begin by talking about repentance and secure connections to God, our source of light, through prayer and study. Unfortunately, darkness almost always crashes in on us when we’ve been skipping along happily, not thinking about how quickly life can take a drastic turn. When we don’t have a secure connection to God’s light, we are more vulnerable than ever to be consumed by darkness. If you’re not currently experiencing your darkest hours, great! You have time to think about it, and can start with the first step below. If you’re right in the middle of the darkest hour today, take courage! You, too, can Rise and Shine. Just start your reading at the second step below:
- Prepare for Dark Hours (They surely will come.): If we are planning a camping trip, or even furnishing a new apartment, we will certainly think of the sun setting while we are yet awake, and make provision for lighting! The same applies when we are walking with God, knowing that darkness will fall over our lives from time to time. We learn in the 119th Psalm that God’s Torah is a lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path. That’s where we can begin to prepare. In regular Scripture studies, we can take note of the kinds of darkness that will fall over our lives. How did the people in Scripture respond? How did God move then to pull them from their various “pits”? Since we know there is nothing new under the sun from the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, we can know our darkness is not unique or new to God, and that He will come through with light on our behalf, IF we abide in Him (Psalm 91). When we are prepared for darkness, it becomes more like dusk than the dead of night!
- Examine the Roots of the Darkness: We can ask ourselves “Is this really the worst case scenario?” In many instances, darkness can make it feel like things couldn’t be worse, but almost always, they certainly could! If we still feel a heartbeat when we place our hand on our chest, we have not reached the worst case scenario, and another day will dawn for us. A lost job can open the door for an opportunity to work in a field where our passions are, and a place where we can experience God’s provision first hand. An addiction that has taken over our lives, leaving a trail of destruction in its path, can be an opportunity to experience God’s deliverance. A lost home can be an opportunity to reevaluate our financial priorities and start over, living within our limits. A spouse who is divorcing us can open a door to us discovering ourselves. We are never better off with someone who doesn’t want us! Serious illness is certainly dark, but even it can be a place where we learn about trusting God, and experience Him as Healer!
- Understand Healthy Grief: Perhaps there is no darker darkness than grieving the death of a loved one! There is a healthy way to grieve, though, and an unhealthy way. If you have ever met a person who has not learned to live without the loved one who died years ago, you’ll notice that they seem to be dead in a way, too, even though their heart is beating. Without doubt, we are to grieve. There will be seasons of it, says the Book of Ecclesiastes (Chapter 3). But we must learn to grieve in healthy ways. Allowing our lives to essentially be over when a loved one dies leaves us in danger of having made that person an idol. Of placing them above God, something the Second Commandment warns us against. We must come to understand we were blessed to have loved that person for the time God allowed, and not cursed to have attended their funeral. Jewish people grieve hard, but also know that it is for a season, and that God expects them to move forward at the appropriate time. This is wisdom. In Deuteronomy 34, we see that the mourning over Moses’ death came to an end after 30 days. There is a time to mourn, and a time to bring the mourning to end. Of course our number of days of mourning may differ, but we must understand that they must come to an end. God instructed us to choose life. (Deuteronomy 30)
- Understand and Address PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a darkness that lingers (sometimes for a lifetime), and most often viciously attacks when we least expect it. If you have a past that left you with no shadows, give thanks to God, and skip this step. The rest of us must look PTSD in the face, it is most likely going to be a reoccuring issue until the day God delivers us from it, should that be His will. Until that day, if we are educated in the ways to cope with this kind of darkness, we can shorten its duration and lessen the damaging effects of PTSD. God is our first defence, as with any adversary we encounter, but we’d be wise to do a little “leg work” of our own concerning PTSD. In this day of information, ignorance of how it typically works is a thing of the past. We can learn to identify PTSD; its roots, triggers and effects. The more knowledge we have of what’s happening to us (and why) the more ability we have to shine some light, even when we are caught in the unbreathable grip of a PTSD “attack”. Read up, watch some teachings, find a therapist or support group. PTSD is nothing to be ashamed of! We were fearfully and wonderfully created! PTSD is, in my opinion, less of a “disorder” and more of a consequence that comes after the worst possible kinds of trauma. We weren’t created to be horribly abused or to have the worst evils that humanity can choose to commit imposed on us. Those kinds of things leave a mark on our mind and spirit. Men of knowledge named this mark “PTSD”.
- Call on The Name of God: Does it seem out of place that I put this step at the end, instead of the at the beginning? We know that God should be our first recourse, but during our darkest hours, our natural inclinations are often reversed, out of order, mixed up. It’s like we instinctively know that this darkness is the opposite of the Divine Light in each of us. Sometimes the darkness leaves us mad at God, shaking our fists at the sky, and jutting out our stubborn chin. In our angst, we may not want to even open the Scriptures for their healing salve, or we may open them only to find that they suddenly seem to be written in a foreign language. Darkness falls like a veil over our eyes, hearts and minds. Darkness can immobilize us, cripple us, knock us to our knees. It can take our breath away, convince us that we will never again see light. It is during these times that we can cry out to Him, even if only sounds emerge at first. He hears us. He is El Roi, the God who sees us, even in the dark. We read in the Psalms (among other places in Scriptures) that we are to call upon His Name, and He will hear us and deliver us. That’s easy to believe when we are walking in light. But in darkness, we can experience it, and not just believe it! Even if all you can utter is His His Name (however you pronounce it) DO IT! As many times as you need to. We can trust Him to take hold of the situation from there!
Whew, I have to be honest and tell you that this was tough one for me to write. On more than one occasion, I have had to walk away from this keyboard and seek counsel with my Creator. You see, I know about darkness, even since I’ve known Him. I have been curled into the fetal position, murmuring His Name over and over, because nothing else would come out of my mouth. I’ve been on the riverbank, ready to chuck my Bible in with the fishes. I’ve been ready to give up on Him. But never once has He given up on me! You and I are not exempt from seasons of darkness, even on this Narrow Path. Until we reach the age of the Messianic Reign, we will attend funerals, and have many “rugs” yanked out from under our feet. The good news is that God can and will bring His Light into our darkness. We need only to be willing to receive it. He has never forced Himself on anyone. He is our comfort. He is our strength. He alone is our salvation. When darkness falls over our lives, we are in the perfect position to see God’s Light at its brightest!
I’ll “see” you the next time we meet, when we will discuss how we are able to bring God’s light into the lives of others who are experiencing their own darkest hours. Until then, Rise and Shine!