“God does His deepest work in our darkest hours.” — A. W. Tozer
We’ve been studying the book of Acts in our Bible class on Sunday, most recently covering the later chapters where Paul, now a prisoner, appears before Felix and then Festus and Agrippa. The observation was made that had Paul not been in chains he would have never had the opportunity to speak to any of these men about Jesus Christ. And because he had appealed to Caesar related to his arrest, Paul fulfilled his desire to preach the gospel in Rome, in some cases to those he would never have the opportunity to reach otherwise. God was able to take what looked like a setback to accomplish one of His greatest victories.
This past week has been a tough one for several of our church members. One lost her house and most of her possessions to a fire. Others have been dealing with ongoing illness that won’t go away or flared up again. Several are caring for parents, spouses, or other family members in less than optimal situations. Sometimes life gets dark and you just want to run away and hide. But these are also opportunities for us to experience some of God’s greatest blessings.
That’s life in a nutshell. We live in a world that’s overcome with darkness. A world that is darkness, ruled by one who is hell-bent on destroying hope. One that tells us we are our own god, in control of our own lives and deserving of all the pleasures life has to offer. And then in a moment of terrible cruelty, he pulls the rug out from under us and shatters the illusion in order to destroy any hope we might have from our self-deception.
Christians are also susceptible because we live in this world. Being a Christian doesn’t get us a Golden Ticket that guarantees life will be easy. If anything it may bring us more difficulties because the world will hate us (Luke 21:17). The difference is we maintain our hope because it’s not based on us and our capabilities. It stands on the promises of God, not the lies of Satan.
God sometimes allows us to experience dark times but for entirely different reasons. He wants our full attention and devotion, but we sometimes get distracted by our “stuff” or our circumstances. Sometimes we may need a little push to help our faith grow. And sometimes we need a wake-up call. Whatever gets thrown at us from whichever direction, God can take that and use it to build us up, make us stronger.
Consider the above quote by A.W. Tozer. Why is it true, if it’s true at all? Two reasons come to mind: a light shines brightest in the dark, and hope is strongest when it presents itself in places where we would not expect it.
The Bible tells us “God is light and in him is no darkness” (I John 1:5). If you light a candle in broad daylight you hardly notice its light, if at all. However, a candle lit in a pitch dark room will provide light to every corner of that room. It’s the same with us; God’s light always shines for us but when our lives are all sunshine we don’t notice it. When our life suddenly turns dark God’s light shines the brightest and we see it more clearly. God’s light will always overcome the darkness if we choose to let it.
When we find ourselves in a “hopeless” situation and someone gives us a solution to our dilemma, the feeling of hope is stronger than just a vague desire that things will work out. What we call ‘hope’ is sometimes nothing more than wishful thinking: “I hope I get something nice for Christmas”. It’s based on our own desires. But the hope that God provides is based on rock-solid promises and God’s ability to provide what we need in any given situation.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” –Hebrews 13:5
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” — I Thessalonians 3:3
“Through him [Jesus Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” — Romans 5:2-5
I want to encourage all of my brothers and sisters in Christ not to become discouraged or lose hope if you’re experiencing dark days. God will sustain us if we lean on his strength. This hope is available to any who are willing to turn from this world, repent, and give themselves wholly to Jesus Christ. He is the Light that sustains us when we find ourselves in darkness.