I am afraid of the dark. Quite literally. When I was little we had chickens that were in a coop through the woods. I had to shut the chickens in at night and going through the woods to the coop in the dark I was terrified. Witches, men-in-masks, and all manner of ghouls seemed to chase me. Flash forward to high school. My bedroom was in our finished basement, and being that far from the rest of the house made me double-check every door each night and cower in my bed for so long, trembling, convinced someone was coming to get me. Flash forward again to this year and I was camping on my way to Texas for a craft show and accidentally heard a horrifying story of a killer who preyed on young campers. I spent the whole trip fighting down massive terror and sleeping with a knife and pepper spray next to me, convinced I was next.
Why on earth do I live this way? Why do I feel that at night all the hidden fears of my day come out and haunt me? Why, as soon as it is dark, do I remember how unsafe I feel? The reality is, evil exists. This world has been broken by sin and darkness has crept into it. It is tempting to tell you that as a believer, I am somehow protected from experiencing that, but it’s just not true. We all face the reality that real evil does exist in this world and there is no escaping the realities of a fallen world.. Living with that reality can absolutely cripple many of us with fear.
So what do we do? How do we live with the fear? There is no band-aid we can slap on, and we can’t just grin and bear it. We need to turn and see that here, in the darkness, walking with their hand in ours, is God. Dear hearts, we are not alone. God whispers tenderly to our hearts- “I love you; I’ve got this; I’m with you.” He can say “I’ve got this” because our Savior, who bore the weight of all the evil in the world when he was nailed to a tree, can sympathize with us. He has born it all so that in him we can have hope of a world redeemed. And while we wait, he protects. Spiritually, we are kept in Christ Jesus. While we experience the effects of a fallen world, evil cannot pluck us from his hand (1 John 5; John 10:28). He has accomplished our eternal security. Our souls are safe.
“Give His people the knowledge of salvation, through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
But what does that mean? It means that darkness doesn’t have the final say. Evil cannot control who we are and what we do. Suffering may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. It means that while we are in this world we will experience darkness, but that all of it is temporary. Christ already won the victory over sin and death and He is building his kingdom, even now. Evil doesn’t win. And this means that here, now, while we are passing through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. He is preparing a table for us even now when we feel surrounded by enemies, and His mercy to us overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives and someday, we will live in God’s house, safe with him forever. Hear the words of my favorite Christmas song as a blessing to you:
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.
Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
The wrong will fail, the right will prevail, peace will be established, good will will come to us. May the hope and peace of God shine light to you who are in darkness.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
- When is the last time you experienced that quickening of the heart in the "darkness?" When do you find yourself most aware of the reality of evil?
- How are the presence of Christ ("I'm with you."), the eternal security of your soul ("I love you."), and the fact that evil doesn't win ("I've got this.") a comfort in the particular situations where you find yourself most afraid?
- How can you practically apply and embrace these truths in the moments when you find yourself in "the valley of the shadow of death?" How about when your children are afraid or have bad dreams?
- Read Ephesians 6:10-18. What tools has God given the believer to fight off "evil?" Which stands out most to you?
Elizabeth Swing is one of God's beloveds living in Greensboro, NC. She is the wife to Charlie, mom to Whit, and aunt to so many wonderful nieces and nephews. She loves using her creativity and sewing skills to reflect God's beauty and love and is currently doing that by running Emergolde, an organic soft children's toy line. Her website is www.emergolde.com and if you have questions or want to talk about her devotional she would find it a joy to speak to you. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.