When Darkness Overwhelms

Were you ever afraid of the dark? I was, though as a child I would have denied it. I slept with my door open so that I could see the light from the kitchen. And when we’d visit my grandparents’ house, I’d vociferously object to sleeping in complete darkness, much to my sister’s chagrin. Now I enjoy darkness, or at least I think I do. However, an experience this spring has me wondering if I’ve truly conquered the fear. A severe storm in the late morning knocked over a power pole in our neighborhood and left us without electricity until the wee hours of the next morning. That meant that we had to go into “pioneer mode” (something I wasn’t really prepared to do). It also meant that I learned how much light I was used to seeing in our neighborhood (in a very small town), our house, and even our bedroom. No street lights, no porch lights, no glow from digital clocks. Just darkness. While I wasn’t scared of the dark, I did comment to my husband how eerie the darkness and the quiet were.

Darkness has a quality that we humans instinctively dislike. It represents evil itself. At times, we may try to run to the darkness to hide our sin, but as Adam and Even soon found out, that is folly. We’re promised that the new Jerusalem will have no need for the sun because Jesus, the Light of the World, will provide the light; and “it will never be night there” (Rev. 21:23-25). But what about today? What about the darkness that’s pervading our world right now? Sometimes it threatens to overwhelm us entirely.

The Overwhelming Darkness of the Unknown

Maybe you’re drowning today in the face of the unknown. A job or career change, a new neighborhood, new school for your children, new church, new phase of life, or waiting for a diagnosis, a phone call, or some kind of information—the uncertainty that accompanies each of these situations may threaten to undo us as we fight against our old enemy, the idol of control. We long to know what’s going on because we believe if we only knew what was going to happen, we’d be able to prepare for it and make a plan to face whatever it is that’s coming our way. The unknown, however, puts us in a position of complete dependence. And if you’re anything like me, that’s not a very comfortable position. It’s a type of darkness that can feel overwhelming.

The Overwhelming Darkness of Loss

David famously called darkness of this type “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). Though he was probably talking about his own death, the metaphor transfers well to the loss of a loved one. Of course, death is the ultimate loss, but it’s not the only one. Perhaps someone you love has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and you have lost the person you once knew though their bodies remain full of life. Other diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s, or MS may likewise take you into the darkness of loss. Lost jobs, lost finances, lost children, lost hope—this darkness hurts, bearing down on you like a boa constrictor slowly squeezing the life out of its prey.

Overwhelming Darkness: Failure

Sometimes the darkness calls out to us, wooing us like a forbidden love. Before we come to our senses, we’ve succumbed again to the temptation that has ensnared us so many times before. Perhaps it’s a sin that loves darkness, such as self-harm or pornography. Or, perhaps, like me, you struggle with anger, and while the Spirit helps to keep this weakness in check, you’re still prone to wander to the darkness and hurt those closest to you. Languishing in the darkness of failure can feel like a drowning person flailing for his life but with no idea where the surface is. He fights and kicks, but only sends himself deeper into peril.

Overwhelming Darkness: The World

If none of the darkness I’ve described so far has resonated with you, I think you’ll identify with the darkness of our world system. We live in a society that loves to call good evil and evil good. Finding any type of secular entertainment that doesn’t overtly push an agenda for a cause diametrically opposed to the Word of God has become all but impossible. Even a quick glance at headlines will leave you feeling sick at the war, violence, and downright ugliness in the world. Solomon told us that there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9), but the ubiquity of information and the speed at which it can reach us has made us more aware of crises, tragedies, wars, and violence that, just a few decades ago, may never have reached us. But now, we swim in a morass of ugly lies, and it threatens to swallow us.

Bright Night:

Even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.  (Psa 139:12)

Though David may have been speaking figuratively here, referring to his inability to hide from God, this verse pictures perfectly the hope we have in the darkness around us. As followers of Christ—the Light of the World—we have been made “children of light” (John 12:35-36). We are united to Christ, so we too are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14; John 8:12). We know the Light and need only look to Him, when our feet begin to stumble.

Omniscient Light: He Knows

No matter what darkness we may face, the fact of God’s omniscience should comfort us. Fearing the unknown? Turn to Him who sees tomorrow as we see yesterday. He knows. The darkness is not dark to Him. It’s already illuminated.

Does the darkness of loss surround you like a flood? Not only does the Father know how you feel, he knows what it’s like as well. For three hours one Friday afternoon, He experienced loss and separation unlike anything we could imagine as He turned His back on His Son, with whom He had known perfect unity for all eternity.

If you’re drowning in the darkness of your failures, hide no more. As Jonah found out, all attempts at hiding are futile. The darkness is not dark to God. And yet, though He knows your every sin and failure, He still sacrificed His Son for you. He still sent the Light to redeem you from your darkness. His love continues steadfast, even through the night. Reach for Him; His all-knowing hand still reaches for you.

Resurrected Light: He Lives

I’ve talked a lot about darkness overwhelming or drowning us as if that’s actually possible. Hallelujah, for the believer, it is not. As Christ emerged from the grave, victorious in the crushing of the serpent’s head, He defeated the darkness.

Whatever may await us in the unknown of the future cannot defeat us now. Christ is risen!

Death is always an enemy, and those who perish without Christ succumb to that foe. However, we need not be defeated by the darkness of loss. For those who know Christ, the glory of eternity outshines and outweighs the suffering and loss we experience here.

Our dark failures will one day be fully redeemed as our salvation is fully and eternally realized. Because Christ has risen, I know that I need not be enslaved to may temptations any longer. The serpent’s head is crushed, and I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

We walk in resurrected light, and so let us sing these words in triumph today:


 “The Prince of Darkness, grim,
We tremble not for him.
The body he may kill,
 God’s truth abideth still.
One little Word shall fell him.”1


1 Lyrics from “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.

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