This is Day 4 of 40 days of the allegorical devotional fiction, The Woman in the Wilderness.
Lightning in the Darkness
Her heart pounded against her chest as panic began to overwhelm her. The sun was about to set over the horizon. Darkness would soon spill over the narrow valley, its end still nowhere in sight. With all the strength she could muster, she sped up her already frenzied pace. Nothing. The valley was long, dark and winding, and she was trapped within its walls.
It wasn’t until twilight that she surrendered to the inevitable. She had to spend a night in the darkness of that valley. Somewhere in the center of the raging chaos going on inside her soul, His peace brought calm, but with it still was an urge to give in to fear, for she was but human, anxious over what horrors her first night in the wilderness could possibly bring.
She trembled as night began to cover what she now thought was more tunnel, than valley. She sat against the wall provided by the mountain’s solid rock, pulling her knees to her chest. She was beginning to succumb to the terror of the night’s pitch black darkness, because with it came a fear of the unseen. She wasn’t alone, but she would rather be, for her imagination, which was too wild for its own good, created horrific creatures that were ready and willing to harm her in one way or another.
In that state of terror, the silence magnified the slightest of sounds. The desert breeze, which was a welcome reprieve during the heat of day, now chilled her right to the marrow of her bones.
She tried desperately to make her soul return to His peace, to calm in chaos, but the attempt seemed futile. When she reached the point where peace seemed impossible, and she was about to give up and completely surrender to her fear, quite dreading what that implied, she heard what she needed to hear – His inaudible whisper, reminding her of truths that she had to learn to cling to.
Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil for I am with you.
A tear fell down her cheek as the reality of just how much she needed Him sank in to her heart. She uttered, with heartfelt desperation, one of Asaph’s cries:
O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how Your enemies are astir, how Your foes rear their heads.
In answer to her prayer, a thunderous sound filled the heavens and one strike of lightning lit the dark night sky, illuminating for but a glimpse the shadows that were plaguing her. The lightning hit the ground with so much force, she instinctively screamed with fright. This fright, however, was quickly replaced by awe, because from where the lightning bolt hit, a pillar of fire rose from the ground to the open heavens.
The darkness radiated with brilliant light.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4a (NIV)
O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
Psalm 83:1-2 (NIV)
With darkness comes fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unseen.
Many saints were said to have experienced the “dark night of the soul” – that hopelessness, that anguish that comes with the dread that the future holds no light. It’s a sense of Him being far from us, abandoning us. Silent and unyielding. Distant and aloof.
We experience these moments, and we despair, but He is at work even during these times. These are moments when He is cultivating something deep within us. These are moments of discipline and direction – the rod and the staff – and we can find comfort that though we may not sense Him, He is at work, making us holy as He is holy.
These times are never easy. We are vulnerable to the enemy’s taunts, and it’s so easy to succumb, to believe the lies, but instead, we cry out to Him, because the fact remains: He is God, and He is good, and no matter what happens, we have set our hearts on pilgrimage.
And so through darkness, through valleys, through fire, we walk on.
Have you experienced the dark night of the soul? What disciplines, what guideposts, what faith have been instilled in you because of those seasons? Find comfort in that. It may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.