Hope in Dark Places

There are always uncertainties ahead, but there is always one certainty—God’s will is good. –Vernon Paterson, businessman

For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart is appalled within me.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land.

Psalms 143:3-6 (NASB)

The Psalms—many of which were penned in the midst of a wilderness season—are full of raw emotion that the authors had no fear of expressing. In the end, however, the picture of their intense struggles was always viewed through the greater backdrop of God’s never-ending goodness—our primary source of hope in this sometimes barren world. Many a Psalm begins with pain and agony but ends with rejoicing. The darkness isn’t so dark when our thoughts are fixed on God’s goodness.

Floating in the Dark

I have a story or two about navigating in the dark. On one particular occasion, I wanted to canoe the Conemaugh River—a rather popular float for those from the Pittsburgh area. I did a little research before the trek but not nearly enough. You can probably guess that a few challenges resulted. Thankfully, Debi is a good sport—most of the time!

The plan was simple: after an outfitter dropped us off below the dam, I’d fish and Debi would read a cheesy Amish novel as we drifted the canoe a couple of miles downriver to our car. The weather was fabulous, and a few other canoes only added to the serene feel of the experience. Unfortunately, the shadows were lengthening, and I had severely underestimated the distance we needed to travel. Two or three miles from start to finish? Try six or seven!

The scenery around the river was both beautiful and peaceful, but as the day drew to a close, I felt the need to get moving down the river. I put away my rod and Debi her book, casually noting that we were now alone on the water. Grabbing the paddles, we leisurely worked our way downstream, taking time to soak in the beauty of nature. The river was indeed a gem.

As time passed, a sense of foreboding began to grow in my heart. With the murky darkness enveloping our surroundings, we soon forgot about the setting and began to paddle more intently toward our destination. Suddenly, the journey ceased to be fun. We could barely see, and our no-longer-youthful arms tired quickly.

Every bend in the river promised hope but somehow left us wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. (Actually, it was more like: “Robert, what have you gotten us into? Next time I’ll stay at home and you can bring one of your friends!”) Utilizing my outstanding grasp of the obvious, I realized that spending several more hours lost on a river in total darkness would not be good for my marriage. Fearful thoughts tried to overrun my mind, and I began to doubt whether we could even recognize the boat launch through the thick darkness.

In the end, we did find the launch and were able to pull the boat out of the water without a problem. I even felt as though it had been a fun adventure, although I am not exactly sure that my semi-patient wife agreed. Perhaps, that’s because she still refuses to take another canoe float with her husband!

God’s Character is our North Star

There are times in our spiritual lives when we feel as though we are traveling in the dark, as if the promises of God don’t apply to us—or even worse—appear to be totally senseless. It’s during these confusing circumstances that we must focus on the character of God, specifically His goodness. God’s goodness is like the North Star—a faithfully fixed point of light in dark, unknown territory.

Regardless of what we can see or understand, God is absolutely faithful and always worthy of our complete confidence. Yes, we prefer to understand our current circumstances, but we don’t need to understand everything in order to lay hold of a tangible sense of hope.

Expressions of Hope

Further still, verbally proclaiming God’s goodness as an expression of our faith in the midst of dark times is a powerful way to both honor God and lift our spirits. Praise, worship, and confession of His word can have an almost magical effect on the human heart. What was once dark becomes light, despair yields to hopefulness, and barren dryness gives birth to a spring of life.

Do you feel as though you are navigating dark and confusing territory? Rivet your focus on God’s goodness! No, go a step further; sing or simply declare out loud His goodness. You will soon see amazingly bright beams of hope, even in darkest of places!

This post is drawn from Chapter Twenty-One of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.