As a kid I had yellow, footy pajamas that were faded to the color of a manila folder, but whoever handed them down to me did a good thing. Oh, to have another pair, size M.
It was always a little tough getting the bottoms on after getting out of the bathtub, but when I was visiting my granddad in Poteau, Oklahoma, I could count on his help. Not that he was so intent on helping me get my pajamas on, it's just that we couldn't sit down to our before-bed cornbread and milk until I was dressed for bed.
While Granddad, my brother, and I sat at the Formica-topped table and ate our bedtime snack, Mom was getting the bed ready. Mason slept like a West Texas windmill, and the only hope of a decent night's sleep was to roll a quilt up lengthways and put it down the middle of the bed under the covers. I can still feel that quilt against my back as I snuggled against it. Mom would tuck the covers under the mattress, turn out the light, and close the door.
Granddad Hoyle lived on ten acres at the foot of "Granddaddy's Mountain"-- you know, the one the bear went over to see what he could see. When the lights were turned out at Granddad's, I'm here to tell you it got dark! How dark was it? So dark that I couldn't see my brother, eighteen inches away, or even my hand in front of my face. But through the darkness, on the other side of the door, I could hear Dad and Granddad talking.
In the summer time, when I'd ride the bus to Poteau by myself, the dark room was even darker ... or so it seemed. Mason wasn't beside me, the quilt wasn't rolled up at my back, the covers weren't tucked in as tight, and I couldn't hear my Granddad talking. But I knew he was there, just on the other side of the darkness-- he'd told me so, and he'd never left me before.
Although the darkness tempted me to bail out of bed, Granddad's steel-blue eyes had conveyed to me that in bed, in the dark, was the best place for me to be until morning. And besides, what evil could befall me? Just moments earlier, sitting out in the side yard, Granddad told stories of scaring off catamounts (mountain lions), catching foxes in the hen house, and killing rattlesnakes under the carport. All was well. The only difference between the daylight of tomorrow and the darkness enveloping the bedroom was that I couldn't see. But that didn't alter the fact that I was secure.
As you know so well, darkness isn't limited to the front bedroom at Granddaddy's house. Life is full of dark times: when questions multiply like rabbits and answers are few and far between, emotions kick the pegs of their limitations and anguish occupies the front row in your mind's theater. Such stress passes its affect to the body, and sleepless nights collaborate with oppressive days, gauntness replaces the sparkle that was in your eye, frustration oozes out from under fraying edges.
To add to this dark plot, it often seems as though God in these very times has gone on an extended trip to the outer sectors of the universe and is unavailable for comment. At a time when life is driving us deeper into the darkness and our inclination is to cry out to the Lord more fervently, surely He should be more available.
Darkness seems to breed deeper darkness and vulnerability to Satan's schemes is heightened significantly. The old adage, "When it rains, it pours," certainly seems to apply. And so you hunker down to wait out God's extended trip, try to resist the temptation to run, and wish for a sense of security in the darkness.
Perhaps the deepest, darkest book of the Bible is Job. Over thirty times Job mentions or references darkness. That's over 40% of the Old Testament references to darkness, all contained in one man's book. And you say, "I identify! You ought to read my journal. If I could bring myself to write a book, it would rival Job's." Like Job, while sitting in the midst of insidious, black, all-pervasive darkness, you too are calling out for a God that seemingly doesn't answer.
But is the reputation of darkness all that it's cracked up to be? Is darkness really that deep? Is it honestly the absence of light, especially the light of Christ? Are our only options to hunker down and wait for morning or cut and run in any direction hoping to stumble upon a flicker of light somewhere in the dark?
What would you say if I told you that the opposite was in fact the truth about darkness? Have you ever noticed Isaiah 45:3? “And I will give you the treasures of darkness, And hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”
Did you catch the part about "treasures of darkness"? Or what about wealth that is hidden in secret places? And most importantly, did you see that the Lord is in the darkness, the hidden and secret places? Oh, how often the enemy accuses our Father of being "out to lunch" when we are in a "spot" and can't see our hand in front of our face. But, such is not the case! Darkness holds fortunes of faith that the daylight can't reveal. Hidden and secret places harbor riches that aren't available to those clinging to the crowd and walking the common course. And for all of Satan's ranting and raving, take special notice of the fact that God is in the dark place, calling you by name, identifying Himself so that you won't be afraid.
I've never liked being called "son." Around our house, being called "son" was the rough equivalent to being called by both my first and middle names; that only occurred when I was in trouble. However, there was one exception: Granddad. When I was visiting Grandmom and him, at bedtime he'd turn out the light, stand in the doorway, look back at me tucked securely into bed, and say, "Good night son. Sleep good. We've got a big day tomorrow." And then he'd close the door. With hope for tomorrow and the voice of someone I trusted explicitly still echoing in my ears, I was enveloped in the dark.
If Satan is successful with his temptations, we'll view the darkness as a sign of God's disfavor, even abandonment, and think of the dark as an unpleasant and sinister place that is to be viewed with suspicion. Instead of seeing ourselves securely tucked within the covers of God's care, we'll buy the enemy's lie and go groping along the walls searching desperately and indignantly for a way of escape, oftentimes at any cost. Such behavior is unnecessary and is not indicative of people who are confident of their Father's care.
David knew all about the darkness. In fact, many of the Psalms were penned during dark periods in his life. Always on the move, hiding in caves, living in the wilderness, and running for his life, in Psalm 18:11 David talks about Who he found in those dark places. "He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies."
How dense is the fog? How deep are the waters? How dark is it? The Lord inhabits those places. You may not be able to see and may be having difficulty keeping your head above the rising waters, but your Father is in those places. He hides there waiting for you, not to scare you, but to share with you His treasures. Relax. Step in under the canopy even though it is dark and thick. He is there and has made the deep, and the fog, His shelter. He invites you to join Him.
Let me encourage you not to rush for answers. Take time to talk with your Father in the sanctity of His canopy of darkness. Tell Him what's on your mind, what your dilemmas are, and verbalize the questions you are struggling with. He may give you immediate input, but He may be silent. Not because He is mad, but because He might not have anything to say. Sometimes the best thing is to listen and reassure you by being close. As a case in point, don't forget that Jesus asked for an answer, when He prayed in the Garden, and didn't get one; otherwise, He wouldn't have asked three times. But God was there, and Jesus knew it; He kept talking, and His Father kept listening.
I mentioned Job a few paragraphs back. This man, so well acquainted with darkness, writes in his book, "He [God] reveals mysteries from the darkness, and brings the deep darkness into light" (12:22). The thought comes to me that if I'm looking for answers to the deep questions I'm facing, most likely they will come from the darkness. And, the deeper the darkness the more I must focus on the fact that the Lord brings even the deep dark into light. In other words, I won't be in the dark forever. God will give me the treasures of the darkness and they will be in such a form that I'll be able to see them one day, in the light.
And speaking of light, Matthew says, "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops" (10:27). You won't be in the dark forever, and when you emerge, do as David did. Broadcast it to all that will listen: "The Lord met me in my dark time." Endorse His work in your life. Emblazon your testimony with the fact of God's sufficiency and the light of Christ in your life.
Calm down and relax. Embrace the darkness and listen for the Lord. He is there, and will use the darkness to invest treasures in your life that are inconceivable to you right now. And when the light dawns, you will indeed have something to shout about from the housetops.
"Wake up boy; we've got a big day. Did you sleep good? Did you get cold?" It never crossed Granddad's mind to ask if it was too dark. It wasn't. He was there, and had been all night.