Light in Dark Places

Today is December 21, the darkest day of the year. Where I live in Southern Illinois, there will be almost 13.5 hours of darkness tonight. It is even worse for people in some parts of the world, though. Some communities near the North Pole live without the sun for months!

All of us begin our lives in darkness. Although you probably don’t remember it, you didn’t see light until the day you were born. For nine months, you lived in a world of complete darkness before you emerged from the womb into the bright light of the world.

There are few topics as fundamental as day and night. In some ways, the presence or absence of light is the most basic concept imaginable. Light and dark are the cardinal opposites. In the Bible, light is the firstborn of all God’s creation, the primary evidence of God’s power spoken into a world of darkness, separating all that is dead and gloomy from all that is living and bright.

There’s an old saying that it is always darkest before the dawn. By definition, this must be true, for the word dawn means “to become day.” The presence of light is what transforms the darkness of night into the brightness of day. Still, the onset of dawn comes at different times for different people on the planet. As I mentioned earlier, some people north of the Arctic Circle won’t be seeing the sun for several more weeks. On the other hand, the small number of people living in Antarctica right now will be living with nonstop sunshine for over a month. So while it is true that light comes and goes at different times for different people in different places, the one thing we all know is that the reign of darkness is limited, for day always follows night.

This is why it is so fitting that — in the Northern Hemisphere — we celebrate the holiday season during the darkest week of the year. Christmas, which follows by three days the darkest night of the year, is the time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, the true Light who lights every man who comes into the world (John 1:9).

The Apostle John saw this Light with his very own eyes. John with his brother James and associate Peter saw the physical body of Jesus transformed in such as way that “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2 BSB). In the New Testament, these men and others have testified to the rest of us about the reality of who Jesus is, the Day who chases away the night.

When hard times come, it is easy to fall into a trap of hopelessness and despair. There are times when the reality of darkness seems to be the only truth there is. When those times come, it may be helpful to think of a baby inside her mother’s womb. That little girl may see nothing but darkness in her world, but on the outside, her mother knows otherwise. There is a universe of experience about which the baby has not a single clue. She knows nothing of sunrises and rainbows, of waterfalls and shooting stars, of roller coasters and lollipops. Inside her mother’s womb, she may believe the world will never change, that life is just one long, cramped, miserable experience of darkness. But one day, when the light comes, she will be born from the darkness of the womb into the light of life.

We all go through seasons of darkness, doubt, and depression. You may be going through a dark phase in life right now. During dark times, people often try to comfort us by saying things like, “Yes, I know things are rough right now, but just hang in there. It will get better.” They say these things to make us feel better, but if we are brutally honest, these messages don’t help a whole lot, do they? During the times of our most intense pain, the only words of consolation that most people seem to be able to offer are these: “The pain won’t last forever.”

Although these well-intended words don’t bring complete relief from our stress, it is helpful to know that there is a reason people can say them. However, it isn’t that people don’t understand our pain. Rather, people know the pain because they have felt it first-hand. They know loneliness because they have been lonely, and they understand hopelessness because they have felt without hope. The reason they can’t find anything else to say is because there is nothing else to say. The only reason they can say that there are better days ahead is because they, too, have lived through the night. They have passed through the lonely, solitary, depressing, and seemingly unending hours of despair. They have felt alone, tired, depressed, anxious, fearful, and unloved.

One thing that every man, woman, and child has in common is that we have all gone through many months of darkness in the wombs of our mothers, and at some time or another, we have spent long hours of restlessness during dark, sleepless nights. It is a common experience to feel alone and fearful, without the hope of light. At the same time, though, we have all learned to trust in the reliability of the sun. When the daylight comes, everything changes.

The Apostle Peter was writing to new Christians about his experience of seeing Jesus transformed into light on the mountaintop. Like John, he was able to tell others that they had reason to hope because he had seen the light with his own eyes. Still, it is important to remember that there was a time when Peter was just as lost in darkness as everyone else. Like you and me, Peter also had to spend his nine months in the womb. He, James, and John spent years of their lives experiencing the normal frustrations of life like the rest of us do. But there came a pivotal day in world history when a wandering teacher from Nazareth crossed paths with this fisherman from Galilee and said, “Follow me.” In faith, Peter left his fishing nets and followed Jesus up the side of a mountain where he saw the illuminated glory of the Son of God.

However, Jesus did not reveal himself to a random stranger. You see, Peter, James, and John were not just fishermen. They were also disciples of John the Baptist, men who had read the Scriptures and who were looking forward to the coming of Christ. They had not yet seen Christ, but they believed the testimony of men who had promised them that he would come. They were common, ordinary people like you and me who had never experienced God first-hand, but they were different from their peers because they had spent their lives believing what they had read in the Scriptures. They had not yet experienced Christ, but they believed the testimony of those who had.

In his letter, Peter writes to new believers something to this effect (2 Peter 1:16-22):

Look, I saw the body of Jesus transformed into the glory of God, and his face was so bright that it shone like the sun. In fact, the light coming from his body was so intense, that even his clothes appeared to be white. However, I did not always know Jesus this way. There was a time in my life when the only “light” that I had to guide me through the darkest days of my life were the pages of my Bible. I had to go through dark times in my life, too. However, the day finally came when I saw the Son of God in the fullness of his glory, and it changed my life forever. For this reason, I implore you to keep believing what you are reading in your Bibles. The Light of the World will soon appear to you, too!

You may feel that you are going through the darkest day of your life. You may be hearing voices that are telling you to hold on for one more day. Please do.

Pay attention, though, to Peter’s words concerning where the light of God will shine. Yes, Peter saw light coming from Jesus’ body on the mountaintop, but when Peter saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain, the light he saw was still outside of Peter, shining on Peter’s face and into Peter’s eyes. It would not be until later, after Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension, that Peter fully understood where the True Light would rise, in his heart. He writes, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19 NKJV).

If you have received the message of Jesus, there is Light growing inside you. That Light is Christ. You are a Child of God who is waiting to be born. One day, the revelation of the glory of God that grows within you will result in the redemption of all things.

I did not always know of the light of Jesus. Like Peter, I had known the testimony of the prophets, but like Thomas, I had doubted. When I was without hope and lost during the darkest days of my life, I came across the music of George Harrison. There was something truthful about his music that captured my attention. One song Harrison wrote gave me hope that I would get through the darkest times of my life, and that like all things, the darkness I was experiencing would pass:

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this grey

Harrison may not have been an evangelical Christian, but there does seem to be evidence that trusted Jesus before he died. There was a time in my life when I felt that there was no reason to hope, but God sustained me with a bit of hope in Harrison’s testimony. Through his music, he testified to the Truth of God’s Word, with songs that reminded me: “Here comes the sun, and it’s alright.”

This Christmas season, during the darkness of the winter months, don’t focus on the darkness that surrounds you. Rather, look upon the Christ Baby lying in the manger. Recognize that baby as the Light of God, a Child of God that has implanted itself like an embryo within you. Even now it is growing, and at this time of greatest darkness, the Day is starting to dawn.

[Do you feel lost in the darkness during this winter season? There is hope. Click here to set up an appointment with a Christian counselor].

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