Dark Places

The problem with dark places is that you can’t see.

You don’t know what is happening, you don’t know where it will end.

You don’t know if it will end. You don’t know what is on the other side.

Dark places are terrifying because monsters are real and monsters are terrifying.

Dark places strip us of our confidence. Dark places expose us as blind and weak. We are afraid to step forward. We can’t go back. We can’t bear the moment.

The pain is too much and we are tired. So, so tired.

The dark places creep into your soul and leave you wounded and limping.

So, so much loss. So, so much pain. So, so much.

There was a time when you had your best friend and you had a drink with him and didn’t know it was the last time.

There was a time when you told a joke and your child laughed and rolled her eyes and you didn’t know it would be the last time.

There was a time when you walked through a store without pain and didn’t know that would be the last time.

Your joints hurt; your bones hurt. You heart hurts. And you are so, so tired.

We learned in church that dark places don’t happen if you do everything right. But they were wrong.

We learned in church that if you loved God enough and raised your kids right and followed the marriage rules and had enough sex with your spouse, everything would be “happy, happy, happy all the day.”

But then kids run. Health collapses. Friends hate you. and you find yourself in yet again another dark place.

And you are so, so tired. You don’t know if she’ll call again.

You don’t know if you will hear back from the doctor or if they can even do anything.

You can’t go back; and you can’t go forward. All you can do is huddle in the dark and cry out, “Lord, how long!?”

Abba, Father.

But what if I told you that in that dark place is where you find your savior? What if I told you that God is the God of dark places. He knows what is there.

He also knows that it won’t ever take you from his love.

He also knows how long the dark will last.

And he knows what is on the other side.

It WILL eventually break forth, heaven will open, the light will shine down. The rainbow will glitter and the meadow will glisten and the lion will be there lying down with the lamb just waiting for you to run your fingers through its mane.

But you won’t do it, because you have another thing on your mind, in these green pastures.

The bridegroom is there. And the only way to see the bridegroom is through the dark places. He is also walking with you, even if you don’t see him or feel him.

Because he longs for you like you long for him.

I don’t know why the dark places are necessary. I don’t know where there are so many of them. I don’t know why the wicked seem to prosper and those who long for the revelation of the sons of God are so plagued with so much pain.

The answers about gold being refined and laundry being clean don’t really help much in a long night of fear and pain and weeping…but it is true anyway.

In your tears, God is there. He is keeping them.

In your blindness, he sees. He knows what is in the dark.

And he knows what is on the other side.

Patience, dear ones. Your Saviour is coming.

Please wait. Please rest.

16 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Patience

16 responses to “Dark Places

  1. Z

    Pastor Sam,
    The first half of your post left me in tears. I’ve been in that dark place too. Many many times. Too many. And for too long. You discerned that feeling and those thoughts and questions so perfectly and they hit home.
    Why do my brutal abusers-my former “family”-seem to prosper and have none of the hardships or worries of the rest of us? Those of us who are real followers of Christ? Not frauds like them.
    But like the Psalmist of Psalm 73 Asaph got it so right!
    The second half of your post made my heart leap! Yes!! We know our Savior is there through the dark times. For me, that’s where I really truly found the REAL JESUS, after decades of abuse and false teachings about a false Jesus by the wolves in sheep’s clothing and abuse enablers in my clan of counterfeit christians. Cheap Grace. No need to truly be born again. No need to have a heart change or behavior change for them. No encounter with Jesus ever needed. No. Keep sinning freely. That’s what repeating the Sinner’s Prayer means! A get out of hell free card!
    And they’re still at it!! Some in their 90s!
    BUT. I sought the Lord in His sanctuary (my bed of pain and tears) and I discerned their end (destruction) and my end (the Lord Himself will take me up into eternal glory!). And the dark times made more sense to me. I still have questions like you. Why so many? Why so long? Why so dark? Is there no other way but for these bitter hard, hard cups to have passed my lips? And caused me such agony mentally and physically. Still. But not my will but Yours, Lord.😇
    COME QUICKLY, LORD JESUS!

  2. JT

    Your empathy made me weep. Your words are beautiful. Sometimes there seems to be no justice in this life. No one cares. But you’ve reminded me … Jesus cares. I’m not alone. Thank you.

    • Anu Riley

      Just wanted to second your comment! Well said and Pastor, thank you so much. I have to re-read it again to really let it sit in.

  3. Bunkababy

    How long have I been here? The moments of no darkness seem few and far between. The other day I skimmed through a bunch of podcasts of a very very young pastor. This kid was on a reality TV show as a spouse. So as I sifted through the sermons this overbearing feeling of inadequacy/shame , futility and distress came over me.

    I clicked it off kinda disgusted. Dismayed because no matter how good he sounded I didn’t want who he was preaching. Something was missing. There was no life force.

    I realized reading your post Sam, that no matter how painful it has been, (lately I feel my muscles can’t keep my joints from feeling lax) I’m popping like popcorn. Anyhoo, I would rather be here knowing something, knowing God is with me in my dark moments. Barely hanging in. Than where that guy was. What he was preaching seemed impossible, like chains.

    It made me feel like my mother made me feel. That’s a bad place. So I would rather be here than there, knowing God is with me .

    And everything you described is so true for me also. Something about his sermons make me want to runaway.

    Some stuff happened and my wounds were ripped open this week. And then I had this comforting voice say “I care”. And it was enough.

    • I was re-reading this and don’t know if I replied. But you are right. There is something very wrong with preaching that leaves you feeling shamed and worthless. The gospel lifts you up and gives you hope and strength in Jesus for another day.
      Thanks for your note.

  4. Freshgrace

    ‘Some stuff happened and my wounds were ripped open this week. And then I had this comforting voice say “I care”. And it was enough.’

    ^That

    Thank you Sam

  5. janetlynnem

    I shed tears today. I do most days. Life is painful, and not what at all I imagined it would be when I became a Christian in my 20’s. I relate to so many of the dark places you described, Sam. Constant physical and emotional pain, the sadness of estrangement, the guilt and shame of following hard after Patriarchy for years instead of ignoring the broken cistern and fleeing to the sparkling well that is Jesus. I carry sadness with me every day, but when the darkness is overwhelming, my Saviour is near. I cry out, and I know He hears. He will make it right.

  6. Jocelyne

    Nothing ever comforts me more than to know that soon, very very soon, all this darkness will be gone. We will be in His presence, where there is fullness of Joy! And our pain will be like….. forgotten. Your descriptions of darkness are so accurate, we can tell you’ve been there, done that… felt that… and it’s comforting to hear you remind us that this too will pass. Isn’t it in the darkness that we are changed more and more into His image? Is that not the reason for much of the darkness we are allowed to suffer? Nothing is wasted. Everything is redeemable, even when we can’t imagine how. Your post was magnificent.

  7. Anu Riley

    I read the first part describing those dark places, and that’s as far as I could go at the time. But from the comments, I had a pretty good idea what the second part was going to sound like: describing Who is there with us in those dark places, before I actually got to read it for myself.

    One of the things that makes suffering or struggling in whatever dark places we are in, is that we might be too afraid or ashamed to talk about it. What it is like. What it feels like. Will we be looked down upon, or are we already doing that to ourselves?

    I confess that I had a lot of doubts about the truth of His presence as described, no matter how dark those dark places are. Part of me said: Really? (in a childlike, hopeful way). The other part of me said: Really? (in a jaded, burned out way)

    I don’t doubt (yes pun intended) this tug of war will be ongoing, for how long I don’t know. I really don’t know what to think, when there are so many things I don’t want to think about in general. You just don’t know what to expect when so many things you never expected have happened all around you.

    Speaking of that, I love a popular song by “Coldplay,” but ESPECIALLY the live version. The song starts off and builds up to a part that I can only describe as “sheer awesomeness.”

    We all know it’s coming, we are loving the song no matter what, but we are in joyous anticipation of waiting for that particular part. We know when it will be, we know the words, and we are ready for it. It’s only a matter of time.

    WHEN (not if) that time comes, I can only describe the reaction of the crowd as “squeals of sheer delight.” It’s NOT merely cheering, or clapping. It’s not just excitement, or elation. I may not be audibly squealing with them (I wasn’t there), but for a moment, I feel like I am there.

    That awesome part comes two more times in the song. The second part is pretty exciting for sure, the squeals are still coming! The third time, the song levels off a bit and the crowd is singing with the band.

    If anyone asked me, how do you know that part of the song is coming? I would incredulously question them back: do you know how many times I’ve heard this song? It never changes. I always know it is coming.

    But I am not always in the same frame of mind when I am listening to it. Some days my heart leaps at that part. Other days my heart isn’t quite so moved. Most days I am just so glad that music like that exists to cushion the heaviness and hardness of human existence.

    But no matter what, I ALWAYS know that part is coming. That never changes. That live recording, the crowd’s connection to both the song, the singer AND people like me, is wonderfully captured.

    There are days those dark places can make you feel nearly dead inside. On those days, if I listen to that song, I STILL know that part is coming. Maybe I don’t feel up to singing, maybe I don’t even feel anything at all, but if anyone were to ask me, I’d say I know it’s coming no matter what.

    I am NOT a singer but I can sing along with a real deal singer, and with a real deal crowd that knows all the words AND loves the song.

    For one moment, those dark places don’t feel as dark. OR, at least they aren’t getting any darker!

    • Jocelyne

      Well now, you leave me wondering…. what is the name of that song? (If it’s appropriate to ask. here.)

      It’s so true… we are afraid even to ask for help, or share what we are going through. Sad state of affairs when you can’t ask your own body of believers for support. I thank God I have a church that will listen and support.

      I wonder…. do you mean to say that that part of the song that ALWAYS comes as expected…. that that would be like knowing Jesus will always come through for us? I’m trying to understand, even as I envisioned your description of always knowing that “part” was coming….

      • Anu Riley

        Hi, sorry I didn’t know there was a reply (I didn’t check the box). Totally fine to ask for the song’s name, bear in mind everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to music; when it comes to secular music I could unintentionally start off a whole new back and forth: “Hymn for the Weekend.”

        To answer your last part, yes! That was the main point I was going after, I shared the story “as is” so as not to seem preachy. Depending on what an individual is going through, being or even feeling “commanded” to expect Him to come through is not very comforting. Imagine putting a gun to someone’s head in the name of trying to encourage them.

        We often hear that He is worth waiting on, worth expecting from and that is true. Anticipation is sometimes treated as even better than the actual arrival of whatever is being expected, or waited for. My personal take is that the reason those “squeals of delight” are so well, delightful, is because they know the song so well, they could rightly anticipate it coming. All that build up to the actual arrival just made the arrival that much more delightful.

        Much like my two sided reaction to the second part of Pastor’s post to anticipate His faithfulness (joyous and jaded), no matter what I am going through, when I listen to that song, it never fails to be stay faithful to how it is always been sung. If someone tried to challenge that certainty, I’d remind them of how often I’ve listened to it. It has never failed to be sung exactly the way I remember it. Keep in mind, it’s a recorded song so I get to hear it “live” over an over again.

        With Christ, one of my darkest difficulties, when I am plagued with doubt and disbelief, is that unlike the song, I don’t know the “when” and I don’t even know “how” the “song” will unfold. I don’t know what it will sound like; I don’t even know what the words will be. It is not a “passive” waiting; I try to listen and learn as the lyrics unfold. The song I listen to was written and recorded and released to the public in its “finished” form.

        For some or many, maybe the “dark” places they deal with revolve around the unknown, the uncertainty. Professing Christians tend to be way too dismissive of what this is like. And there should be no shame in crying and/or crying out when you are scared. He is just as faithful to comfort us in our present fears such as they are (even if they aren’t specific, or shift around), as well as promising faithfulness for the future, such as it will be.

        Whenever a person tries to describe what their personal experience is like, it is like trying to describe something from the inside out. Individual physical human anatomy is already about as complicating and confusing as it gets, so trying to do the same for an individual human soul is pretty daunting! I hope I did a semi-decent job.

  8. briannalambert1

    Sam, I can’t tell you how much I love this post. I have come back to it repeatedly ever since you wrote it. Each time it brings tears to my eyes and is a salve for the darkness that made me seek it out again. Thank you for your raw and honest lamentation. We need more of this.

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