Trusting God in the Darkness
Spiritual understanding is not man’s strong suit. We are constrained by our circumstances and limited by our humanity. A believer’s faith should provide comfort and assurance in times of anxiety and confusion, but it often doesn’t. We eagerly claim the promise of Romans 8:28 to help explain God’s actions and remind us that our heavenly Father is consciously manipulating events to improve our lives and turn bad into good. Still, deep down in the nether regions of our soul, the uncertainty remains. Like it or not, unbelievers are not the only ones who question the plan and purpose of God in their lives.
Job certainly understood what it meant to deal with the darkness of this world. He expressed his uncertainty about God’s strategy for his life when he said, “He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths” (Job 19:8).
Scripture never seeks to answer our questions the way we want them answered because God is not accountable to us for what He chooses to do. It does, however, provide reasons why the questions are there along with specific principles which, if embraced, will aid our understanding.
There are four reasons why the questions are so challenging:
- God’s will is not always obvious – “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee…“ (Gen. 12:1). We like to believe that God will always reveal His will to a submissive believer, but that didn’t happen for Abram. Nowhere in scripture is there a promise that God will make His plan obvious to any believer. What we do know is that God will: teach us His way (Psa. 32:8), direct our paths (Pro. 3:6), and order our steps (Psa. 37:23).
- God’s help is not always immediate – “And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them…” (Gen. 42:9) It had been more than 20 years since Joseph had last seen his brethren. They had sold him into slavery because he dared to share the message of his dreams predicting that he would someday rule over them. In that time he had endured their rejection and persecution; labored as a slave in the household of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard; and endured two years in prison as a result of the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife, yet he never lost confidence that God would one day fulfill those dreams. Now, 20 years later, Joseph stood before them as Prime Minister of Egypt, and his brothers were, indeed, bowing at his feet.
- God’s justice is not always visible – “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Due. 32:4). God is just! Suggesting otherwise makes the death of Christ meaningless. But there are times when it seems that God must miss what’s going on because the bad guys prosper and the good guys get hammered. We must remember that we cannot see all that God is doing, and our understanding of what we do see is very limited.
- God’s response is not always positive – We do not know how long Paul had been dealing with his thorn in the flesh when he asked the Lord to remove it. In the apostle’s opinion the thorn was a spiritual hindrance. God, however, refused to remove the thorn, insisting that Paul would benefit from its presence. Paul’s positive response to the Lord’s negative answer to his prayer remains one of the greatest lessons in scripture concerning the importance of complete trust in the face of uncertainty. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
And three truths that will help us deal successfully with the uncertainty:
- God’s grace is sufficient – It’s very hard to imagine life as a believer without God’s grace. It provides redemption for every believing individual, along with patience and strength to sustain them when facing unbearable challenges. Those challenges, however great, drive us to the Savior and teach us the power of God’s grace. It is only through the exercise of God’s grace that we learn to live “soberly, righteous, and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)
- God’s peace is available – Anxiety is not only an unnecessary nuisance for a believer, it is a sin. When we focus on the issues that cause our uncertainty rather than the God who is in control of all our circumstances, we displease our God and forfeit the peace and joy He has promised to deliver. (Philippians 4:6-7)
- God’s presence is constant – How difficult is it to remember – and believe – God’s promise that He will “never leave” nor “forsake” one of His children (Heb. 13:5)? How hard is it to understand that the God who made that promise is the maker of heaven and earth (Psa.121:2)? Though we can’t see Him, He’s there, and He has promised to meet our every need, prepare the way before us, and give us the power to do whatever His will requires.
The challenges are great, and the darkness can be oppressive. Yet the wise believer will continue his faithful service, trusting God and doing His will, even though he cannot see. His attitude and works will reflect the presence of God in his life, and he will be able to say as did Joseph, “God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen. 41:52).