3 Reasons Why I Am Thankful in the DarknessAug 03, 2021
Sitting across a table from someone I think committed a terrible crime can be a wee bit stressful, but it’s part of a job that I love. The repeated exposure to really dark stuff takes a toll, but lately I’ve come to really appreciate and even thank God in the midst of it. Let me share with you the three reasons why
Exposure to the darkness made me draw closer to Him, helped me truly cherish the power of His Word, and grew my love for others.
It’s easy to bask in the glow of a close relationship with God when everything is going well. We are praying, He is answering the way we want Him to, and all seems right with the world. His light seems to permeate everything around us. But just like a tall tree blocks out the light of the noonday sun for everything beneath it, the evil acts that people commit seem to plunge everyone involved into a dark forest of despair.
Please understand that I’m not thanking God for the darkness, but for being with me while I’m in it. We are broken people living in a broken world, so it’s not shocking to work cases where a death that looks like a homicide gets called a suicide, or where families seem bent on terrorizing their neighbors to the point of violence. Watching my clients suffer isn’t easy.
"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in time of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT)
What comfort there is in these words of King David. The ninth Psalm has an overall message of victory over evil, and these verses in particular encourage us to take comfort and strength from the fact that when times are bad, God is there. He never abandons anyone who is looking for Him.
Ahhhh, let’s pause there for a moment. He never abandons anyone who is looking for Him. This tells me that hiding from the darkness isn’t the answer. The best way to help people is by meeting them where they are, and if that’s in the darkness then that’s where we need to go. We won’t be there alone if we continue to seek God. He will be our refuge, and our “stronghold in times of trouble.”
I'm sure most of us have, at one time or another, been on a boat. Some boats may have been big and some may have been small, but I hope they all had one important thing in common. I hope they all had life preservers. Of course, the goal is to stay ON the boat, but stuff happens. If you suddenly find yourself flailing about in the water, having a life preserver with you is a very good thing.
God’s Word is our life preserver when we are flailing about in the darkness. Because stuff happens. We don’t have to be searching for it on purpose - sometimes darkness just finds us. The darkness will lie to you. It will tell you that things are hopeless. It will stoke your fear into an out-of-control forest fire.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 (NIV)
Remember the story of Jesus walking on the water? Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand, and He told the disciples to go ahead of him in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He spent time alone in prayer. Because of a storm, the disciples were quite a way off shore when Jesus came to them, walking across the water. At first, they didn’t recognize him and were afraid. He reassured them that it was only Him, and Peter said that if it was truly Jesus to ask him to walk on the water with Him. “Come...” said Jesus.
Peter did, but when he stopped focusing on Jesus and instead focused on the storm around him, he started to sink. He cried out to Jesus, and the Savior reached out and rescued Peter. We can’t walk with Jesus the way Peter did, but we can rely on the Word, which became flesh in the form of Jesus. When the storms in our lives are threatening to overwhelm us, the Word has the power to rescue us.
When I’m surrounded by darkness, the Word gives me a strength I don’t have on my own. I may never have the chance to walk on water, but I can study what happened when Peter did. He was in the midst of a literal storm, and had to be exhausted and frightened. But all Jesus had to say was “Come…” and Peter did. Jesus is saying the same thing to us today. Like Peter, all we have to do is take those first steps into our storm toward Him to be rescued.
But then Peter focused more on the storm than he did on Jesus, and walking on the water turned into sinking into the sea! So when your storm is screaming for your attention, answer it by reading your bible. It has the power to pull you to safety.
Joining grieving families in the darkness has increased my ability to empathize as a way to show love. If sympathy is me understanding how you feel, empathy is me actually feeling how you feel (to the extent that I can). Isn’t that what God does with us?
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
Jesus was fully God and fully man, so he understands not only our temptations, but our feelings as well. Remember the story of Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus from the eleventh chapter of the book of John? Jesus came to their home and spent enough time getting to know them that when Lazarus became ill, the sisters sent word to him that the one that Jesus loved was sick.
He knew that they were, of course, very worried about their brother. And yet He waited before he went to them. He knew the miracle that He would perform for the glory of God, but they didn’t. When he arrived and was taken to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus wept. Why would he do that if He was getting ready to raise the dead? I believe it was to show us that he understands our feelings, because Jesus is described as being “deeply moved”.
Spending time with these families, getting to know them and learning about what they are going through is a privilege. I don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but I can empathize with their frustrations with our imperfect justice system and the cruel nature of the trolls who enjoy and try to deepen their pain (as hard as it is to believe, I’ve seen this in nearly every case I’ve worked).
Trying to follow Jesus’ examples of how to love has stretched me in ways I didn’t expect. I’m an introvert at heart, but when I try to walk with people the way Jesus did, He gives me the resources I need to be able to love hurting people. If He calls you to work in the darkness, He’ll give you what you need, too.
The darkness will never fully be banished while the world is still broken. But when we pause to thank God in the midst of it, we draw closer to Him, cherish the power of His Word more, and love others more. And isn’t that the echo of the heartbeat of Jesus?
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