Some people will insist that a Christian should never go through a dark time in his life. The idea is that “joy unspeakable” should empower a perpetual smile even in the middle of imminent doom.
What’s more, it’s the people in the Church who most often criticize the discouraged and depressed, treating them like whatever is bothering them could not be bad enough to challenge their faith, that is, if their faith was genuine.
It doesn’t help, either, when the rest of the world’s problems are weighed in the balance with ours. It’s like, “There are people being burned alive for their faith and you’re having a spiritual identity crisis?” It’s no different than saying, “If you think YOUR pain is bad, you should feel MINE.”
There’s songs and sermons galore about persevering through the storms of life and coming out stronger on the other side. There’s even much talk about joy in the midst of sorrow, about peace in the midst of spiritual attack. But what I don’t think I’ve ever heard is a recognition of the value or benefits of the “dark” times we may experience.
When I say I’m in “a dark place,” what does that mean? For different people it can mean different things, of course, but what do you typically think about? What do you associate with dark places?
I’ll tell you what I’ve seen in the dark places: anger, regret, sorrow, resentment, bitterness, resignation, self-doubt, self-hate, weariness, loneliness, helplessness, worthlessness, and a “deaf heaven” and “bootless cries” (to borrow from Shakespeare). It’s probably not necessary to tell you of the thoughts that accompany such darkness.
So how could there be any benefit to such darkness, such despair? How could there be any value to such moments? Well, I’ve wondered that, myself. Yet is our God not sovereign? If truly redeemed, am I ever out of His hand?
There exist rare and refined elements which offer solutions to problems yet to be discovered. In other words, there are things that, until they were discovered, we didn’t even know we had a need for them. Sometimes these things are discovered in the remains of previous failures.
I have come to believe that the strongest faith is produced in the dark, when all appears lost, when all efforts have failed, and when there’s nothing solid left on which to stand. Faith is then the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
The strongest faith can only be found, not in just weakness, but when there’s no strength at all.
When I’ve messed up so much and so many times that I’ve not even a single seed to plant in a dry field with no rain in sight, faith is the evidence of the crop to come.
The benefit of darkness is the failure of myself and the hope of Him who will not let me go.