Why do fears that are small in the daytime terrorize us in the midnight hours? Why do we call trials “dark times” and depressing thoughts “dark thoughts”? Why do prisoners say that the worst part of solitary confinement is the darkness?
In contrast to a beautiful shade of black, darkness is the absence of light, and the Bible likens it to our hearts apart from Christ (Eph. 4:18). Without the rescuing work of the gospel, the darkness chills and deadens our souls, pressing its cold emptiness into the recesses of our lives. Isaiah 8:22 says of the godless: “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” Darkness and devastation within and without. We need not fear overdramatizing our situation apart from God; sin’s gravity can only be understated.
We Christians deal with its residue in our hearts, still made of earth dust. The sinful nature craves control and demands to be served, indulging the flesh, gobbling up the world, defending itself, and manufacturing judgments. It debates the conscience and mocks the faith we profess. “You’ll never change,” it whispers. Though declawed by Christ, it still bites and growls and threatens us with darkness that at times can feel crushing.
But onto sin’s backdrop of despair, Scripture emblazons words we can scarcely believe.
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).
When this shining light named Jesus was still in his mother’s womb, his uncle Zechariah prophesied similarly:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).
This truth is so exquisite we can barely take it in. Into the farthest abyss of our darkness, into the deepest grave of our deadness, he came.
A glimmer. A ray. A sunrise brighter and better than any we ever imagined emerges from the cold night, imperceptibly at first, offering only a suggestion of morning, then growing, a cheering mix of golds and pinks that no darkness can abide. The light of Christ has dawned.
This is the reality of what our Savior ushered in, a light so searingly beautiful our eyes need help seeing it and our hearts need help believing it. God sent his Holy Spirit to give us that help, opening our souls wider and wider to take in ever more of the love of his Son.
Jesus has come, glory clothed in flesh. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). And it never will.