Episode 1. When Life is Dark
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Doesn’t matter who we are, we all travel through dark and fearful places in life – and at those times, it can be so hard to remember that God is in the Light business. Join Berni Dymet, on …
It doesn’t matter who you are, we all travel through dark and fearful places at some point in life – and during those times, it can be so darned hard to remember that God, God is in the Light business.
The Darkest Nights
I am always so excited to be starting a new series of messages and that’s what we are doing this week on the programme – and it is a series that I have called “Dark Night, Bright Light.” Dark and darkness – I wonder what those words mean to you? There are all sorts of connotations when we apply them to our lives.
I remember when I was a young boy – even probably well into my teenage years – I was really afraid of the dark. I remember after dinner in the dining room, it was a long corridor – well it seemed a long corridor – especially in the dark. It was only about, I don’t know, only eight or nine meters from the dining room to my bedroom. But I have to tell you, when it was dark, it was a long way for me to go. And I was afraid to walk from the light dining room into that dark corridor to my dark bedroom.
Now in the house where we lived, we were blessed because there was a light switch for the lights at either end of the corridor so I could walk out of the dining room, turn on the light and the corridor was in light and then I could go to my bedroom – and I always used that switch. Now, we lived in a safe part of town and the house was secure and there was no logical or rational reason for me to be afraid of the dark – I just was – and it was a deep fear and I think a lot of kids go through that.
It seems that darkness and fear, well, they often go together in life – young or old. Now the truth be known we need both – we need light and dark in this world. I love it when the sun goes down and it’s time to go to sleep and again when the sun comes up in the morning and it’s time to get up and get on with living life. That’s a pattern we live by – it’s a pattern of life.
But imagine if it were only ever dark, how awful that would be. In some countries of course, far north and far south, they have many months of darkness. Now take a look at our own lives. If we look back on those dark times – those periods in life that we would rather forget – whether it was a broken relationship or sickness or the death of a loved one or some real financial difficulties or maybe you have been through a war and has seen people killed or been in prison. Perhaps you have seen everything that you have worked so hard for over so many years just go down the drain. Someone has hurt you incredibly deeply or someone you trusted – perhaps you have been through a time of depression or real loneliness or you are working so hard that you don’t feel as though you have a life – that list just goes on and on and on.
Life has its dark times, doesn’t it? Maybe you are going through one right now or maybe, who knows, there is one just around the next corner or next year or the year after and that’s why we are kicking off this series “Dark Night, Bright Light” because light is the opposite of darkness and when we are travelling through those dark times, light is the very thing that we need. The problem is it can be so hard to find; so hard to believe in or hope for and over these coming weeks, we are going to be spending some time with King David in Psalm 34.
But before we go there, let’s have a little foretaste about darkness and light. If you have got a Bible, I want you grab it; I want you to open it up at page 1 – Genesis chapter 1 and verse 1 – the beginning. Here’s what it say:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness He called that ‘night’. And there was evening and there was morning – that was the first day.”
I might hear you say, “Well, Berni, I know that passage and that’s all well and good. You’re talking about physical light here, that’s fine but what about God shining His light into the darkness in my life?” We are going to talk about that shortly but the point that I’m making is this: creation tells us something about the Creator.
You and I create different things because we are different. God, the very first thing He creates – the very first thing – is light. That tells us something about God but what a light! We tend to just think of the sun there; one of just an estimated trillion, trillion stars. God is seriously into light and that tells us something about who He is.
Let’s take a look at just another couple of verses in the Bible. There are so many of them that talk about God and light – Ezekiel chapter 10, verse 4:
Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple and the court was full of the radiance and the glory of God.
Words from Isaiah chapter 60, verse 19:
The sun will no more be your light by day nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you for the Lord will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory.
And perhaps my favourite of all, where Paul seems to bring it all together in Second Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 6:
For it is the very same God who said “Let light shine out of the darkness, that made His light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The Bible is full of references about God being our light and our radiance. Can you see why I have called this series “Dark Night, Bright Light”? Over these coming weeks I believed we are going to be transformed by God’s Word about darkness and light. If you have just been through a “darkness” or you are going through one right now or you are going to go through one in the future, the Word of God is going to shine a light into that dark place – “Dark Night, Bright Light.”
The Wisdom of Hindsight
As I said earlier in the programme we are going to spend some time in Psalm 34, this week and over the next three weeks. It’s an interesting Psalm because it comes out of King David’s life. It’s a Psalm of praise for deliverance from trouble. So it is a Psalm written, if you like, with the benefit of hindsight. David has learned something – something about God in a dark time.
Now we are not sure what that time was. The introduction to the Psalm says, “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech so that he drove him out and he went away.” Now we don’t have any other information about that. Abimelech was a judge; he was a leader of Israel; he was Gideon’s son. Anyhow the fact of the matter is, even though we don’t know the precise historical details it doesn’t matter. David had to engage in some deception, it tells us; if was a fearful and scary time and he needed to escape.
Now let’s have a look at the first part of this Psalm. If you have got a Bible, open it at Psalm 34 – we are going to look at just the first eight verses today. This is what it says:
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord and He answered me – He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look at Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him
It’s a beautiful Psalm! You see, it’s David looking back on a difficult time. And he starts out be praising God – “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips,” because of God’s faithfulness. And there’s a purpose in him praising; a specific purpose. Look at verse 2.
My soul will boast in the Lord, let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
See, the purpose of this Psalm is to let the rest of us know when we are afflicted that God is faithful in those darks times so that we can hear that and rejoice.
See, this Psalm was written for you and for me. Isn’t God good? And David says, “You know why I am writing this Psalm? It’s for you, you who are afflicted; you who are travelling through a dark and fearful time.” You know why? Come and look at verse 3 again with me. David says:
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.
In other words so that you and I can rejoice together even though we might be travelling through dark times. We are getting the benefit of what David discovered in his dark and fearful time.
And what he discovered, well, it is as profound as it is simple. Look at verse 4; this is what he says; this is the heart of this first passage for me. David says:
I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.
You know what happens in the darkness? In the darkness we become afraid and that fear immobilises us – fear stops us dead in our tracks. We just kind of sit there and we ache and fear eats away at our hearts like a quick spreading cancer and in that fear – remember, David was as he had been many times before, in fear of his life; real fear – David had more than his share of dark times – he had real fear.
Let me say it this way – he was in deadly fear and in the midst of his deadly fear he did the thing that he had learned to do over all of those times in his life when he had been in danger – when he was on the run from King Saul who was trying to kill him for all those years – he did the one thing he knew to do – Psalm 34, verse 4:
I sought the Lord and He answered me.
David sought God – he’d cry out to God for help.
The one thing that we can forget to do when we are frozen by fear is just to cry out to God – just to pour our hearts out to Him. And what a surprise, “God answered him and delivered him from all his fears.” I don’t know about you but I can relate to that. In life and in ministry I come against giants of opposition all the time and I can tell you, some days they scare me – seriously.
And we have a choice – we can just kind of sit there and tremble in fear and be completely immobilised or we can spend some time with God, crying out to Him in prayer and reading His Word and listening to Him – and He always delivers me from all my fears. David goes on to say this – verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 34:
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame. This poor man called and the Lord heard him and He saved him out of all his troubles.
There it is – the light word “radiance”. The Hebrew word that sits behind our English translation means literally ‘to beam or to burn with light’. It’s an “over the top” kind of word – it’s not a glow or a flicker or just a shine, but to beam and to burn with light and that’s exactly what happens when we look to God; when we put our trust in Him in the middle of our darkness.
See, in those dark times we are downcast; ashamed if you like, but David states this simple truth “This poor man called and the Lord heard him and saved out of all his troubles; He delivered him from all his fears.” This is such a humble and beautiful picture, isn’t it? David, probably the greatest King that Israel ever had, saw himself just as a poor man who cried out to God in his darkness.
Don’t you love it how the Bible is packed full of this real life stuff – this stuff that’s right down where we are? The Word of God meant for us here and now; right where the rubber hits the road – the light and the radiance of God in our darkness and fear – and all this out of a simple step that David took; so simple and yet when we are afraid, so difficult. “I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”
Taste and See
God is very much in the “light” business, isn’t He – taking our fear and replacing it with His radiance? Perhaps that’s why David writes in Psalm 18, verse 28:
It is You O Lord who lights my lamp; the Lord my God lights up my darkness.
And again in Psalm 139, verses 11 and 12:
If I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light will become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to You. The night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to You.
You get the impression that David is a seasoned traveller through darkness and he has learned some stuff that God would have us learn, each in our own way. Now let’s head back to Psalm 34, verses 7 and 8, just to finish off our look at what David learned. Let’s have a read:
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Now there are two things here we need to get into; the first is the bit about the angel of the Lord. Let’s have a look at verse 7 again:
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.
Angels have a kind of funny symbology these days in our society – fluffy little creatures with wings – but you do just a short study of the angels that God describes in the Bible and you discover they are a fearsome lot. Often God uses them as a messenger and the first thing the angel says is, “Don’t be afraid”. They deliver a specific message to God’s people to protect them from trouble and often they appear as fearsome beings to protect God’s people.
Look at Second Chronicles chapter 32, verse 20:
King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, son of Amos cried out in prayer to heaven about this and the Lord sent an angel who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and the officers of the camp of the Assyrian King. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace and when he went to the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with his own sword.
Get it? The angel is serious protection. Presidents or Prime Ministers or Kings or Queens all have their security contingents right around them when they travel. Well those security contingents have got nothing on an angel of the Lord. And you might say to me, “Berni, do you seriously believe in angels?” Absolutely! We can’t see them but when we fear God; when we reverence Him – we will talk more about that idea next week – when we belong to Him, He sends His angel to encamp around us; to surround us; literally, to lay siege around us to protect us.
How does David know that? Because he has been there; he has experienced it over and over again and that’s exactly what he says in the next verse.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Now, this verse is so often quoted out of context “Taste and see” – suck it and see! When you are in the darkness; when you are afraid, David is saying, “Try this thing that I am talking about ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’, you will be blessed when you take refuge in Him.”
It’s like an invitation to you and me today from God. Come on, try it – I can hear the Spirit of God saying through His Word – “Come on, try it because when you take refuge in Me”. God is saying, “you will truly be blessed”. I don’t know about you but God has seriously spoken to me today and encouraged me through His Word; He is in the light business and it’s something that David discovered through long, hard experiences in darkness and fear.
And he comes out the other side of that singing God’s praises specifically for you and for me to hear.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name. I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called out and the Lord heard him and He saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good for blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Isn’t that an awesome Psalm? People sometimes say to me, “Berni, why do you talk about this stuff? You know, is this Christianity thing for losers?” You don’t have to be a loser to go through dark times – we all go through dark times – we all travel through difficult times. You know, a friend or a relative that is close to us dies young of cancer and we are left reeling and we think “God why has that happened?” We get retrenched; we lose someone else we love; we … – all sorts of things happen to us and at those times it feels like God has deserted us.
Listen to David again:
I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.
In that darkness there is no light so bright as the light of God and His heart is to take a face that has been covered with tears and put His radiance on that face. God is a wonderful God.
I want to encourage you to join me over the next three weeks as we further explore the Word of God and what God has to say about His light amidst our darkness.
That’s what this series “Dark Night, Bright Light” is all about.