Sunday, 30 November 2014

When you are in the dark

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. Isaiah 50:10

We as a family went for a walk once in a large country park. There was a reservoir with paths circling it and it was tempting to see if we could get right round, even though it was four or five miles and some of the walk was heavily wooded. 

Everything was fine until we noticed that the afternoon was wearing on and it was getting quite dark. Our boys were still very young, and the prospect of ending up lost and in darkness became a frighteningly real one. Well, here we are today, so you can see that we made it all right. But it was a little nerve-wracking for a time.

The prophet Isaiah speaks about the person who "walks in the dark", who "has no light". Remember that in his day there was no such thing as artificial light, beyond candles and oil-lamps: no electricity. So the experience of being "in the dark" was one he will have known about far better than us. 

But of course he doesn't mean it in a literal sense; he is speaking about people who are living their lives in spiritual and emotional darkness, people who are in danger of losing their way in life. And he has only one word of advice for them: trust in God. It sounds so simple, but it can be very hard.

You might say, But of course this doesn't apply to us today. We have in Jesus the "light of the world". But if you read the passage as a whole it is clear that the prophet here is not talking about people who don't believe in God - he is addressing himself to his fellow-Israelites, fellow-believers, people who have received at least something of the light of God. It seems he is talking about people who, even though they belong to God, are in fact going through an experience of darkness.

And the same can be true of us. Yes, we do indeed have in Jesus the light of the world. But there are times when his light seems to be obscured for us. The fault may be ours: perhaps we have got out of touch with him through wilfulness, disobedience, sin. 

But that isn't necessarily the case. There are times when we feel ourselves "in the dark" in a particular situation for no reason that we can think of, even though we know in principle that Christ the light is with us. We find ourselves asking, How do I see my way through this particular dilemma? How can I make sense of what is happening in my life right now? All right, I do believe in Jesus - but I don't seem to be receiving the guidance and help I need at the moment. I am, in effect, "in the dark".

Isaiah's answer all those centuries ago remains true for us at times like that: "trust in the name of the Lord and rely on your God". Yes, I know it sounds all very general and rather vague. But there are times when faith simply has to trust in the face of the unknown. 

Indeed, isn't that very often what faith is - believing precisely when we cannot see? Isn't that exactly what Paul means when he says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we "walk by faith, not by sight"? Isn't that what the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews means when he says that "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (11:1)? The fact is that if we weren't "in the dark" sometimes then we would have no need of faith. Faith is the key.

As we move towards 2015 do you find yourself rather "in the dark"? I know it's not an easy situation to be in - believe me, I've been there myself on many occasions. But I can only urge you to ponder Isaiah's simple words - perhaps pray them, so to speak, into your own soul. The day will come when the light will shine again and the darkness will be a thing of the past.

Lord, I feel at the moment that I am stumbling in the darkness. As I struggle to put my trust in you, please keep me from falling and bring me out again into the light. Amen.

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