Darkness Certain – Fear Optional

Vgu1RUfKT3WN1ZYxSWaR_14672519443_13d8873062_kI love the Brooklyn Tab song I’m Not Afraid that we sang on Sunday:

“I’m not afraid of the darkness
Whom shall I fear if God be for me
What shall we say to these things
What shall we say to these things
I’m not afraid anymore
I’m not afraid anymore”

This song always challenges me because I tend to be very fearful and it doesn’t take much to terrify me. I know God’s promises and I believe them. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), to supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), to draw near to us (James 4:8) and to give us peace (John 14:27) – just to name a few. However, I also know that those promises do not mean that bad things will not happen. Jesus also promised that we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33) and boy do we! Dark times come into our lives regularly. And it’s the not knowing how the dark times will go that makes me fear them so. As long as I have light, I don’t feel afraid. But when that light is taken away, fear easily overtakes me.

Sunday as we were singing, I thought of those suffering in the darkness of intense persecution in the Middle East right now. I thought of those in Iraq and Syria who love Jesus, and are being forced to flee or be killed. I thought of American Pastor Saeed Abedini in an Iranian prison being treated so unfairly. I thought of Meriam Ibrahim who, though she is now safe in the US, went through a terrible ordeal in Sudan because of her faith. I also thought of a story I recently heard from a worker for “Voice of the Martyrs”: While on a trip to Iraq dispersing aid to refugees and hearing their stories, he learned of a mother whose 3 year old was taken away at an ISIS checkpoint to be given to their commander as a “gift” and how she literally lost her mind over it. I thought of the fear and the anguish many brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing simply because they love Jesus. The darkness is so real, so frightening and so overwhelming!

“What can separate you from the love of God?
Nothing shall separate me from the love of God
shall persecution separate you from the love of God?
No, nothing shall separate me from the love of God”

I am hopeful that those who are suffering immensely at the hands of very evil men can say those words with confidence. What those men, women and children are suffering cannot separate them from God and his love. He is right there with them, hurting with them, speaking to them in their anguish. And he uses the love, prayers and gifts of others to sustain them and give them hope.

While those people were foremost on my mind as we sang Sunday, as I write this, I am reminded of other “darkness” that I know people find themselves engulfed in. There is the darkness of death, sickness, abandonment, drugs, abuse, and infidelity. The list could go on and on. Sometimes the darkness is of our own choosing and sometimes not. Either way, it is easy to lose sight of who we are and who God is. The darkness can overtake us and fill us with hopelessness.

In my darkest moments, I have felt separated from the love of God. I think that stems from the fact that I often forget who I am and who God is. God doesn’t owe me an easy pain-free life. He didn’t put me on this earth for my own pleasure. In fact, the Bible tells us that we were created for HIS pleasure. He willed our existence and made a plan that brings him glory and if we follow that plan we find great joy (Rev. 4:11, Ps. 139:16, Ps. 16:11). Of course that joy doesn’t mean easy times, it simply means the peace we have knowing God is who he says he is and that someday, he will make it all right. If we choose to trust God in the darkest moments of life – even when that seems impossible to do – I believe there will be great blessing. It is my prayer that that is the case for those suffering for their faith or suffering in other places of darkness. I pray that we will find the courage to maintain our faith that God is still there even when we do not “feel” him. Faith that He is working all things out for good (Romans 8:28). That He is a good, loving Papa God in spite of what circumstances seem to say. How is that possible? I would say it is only possible in one of two ways:

1) Those suffering in the dark are given a great measure of faith and grace from God that sustains them.
It’s that “peace that passes understanding”. Or

2) Someone else sends light to them by coming alongside and giving encouragement. Letting them know they
are praying for them. Someone willing to give of their time and resources to give encouragement – to
say “Don’t give up! You’re not alone!”

Now I believe God always offers us #1. But I think sometimes we are so broken, we simply cannot see it. Satan is so good at distracting us and overwhelming us in our despair. So #2 is where I want to focus. Because I think if more Christians would do it, #1 would be seen and felt more regularly! Sometimes it takes “God with skin on” to open our eyes to what our heavenly father is wanting us to see.

I do not think it will be long until Jesus returns to this earth. As we see events unfolding around the world, our hearts should be stirred to action. It would not be good for us to be found sleeping when our master returns (Mark 13:36). The midnight hour is approaching. It is dark. The darkness is everywhere and it can certainly be frightening. However, “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

I’m not afraid of the darkness
Whom shall I fear if God be for me
What shall we say to these things
What shall we say to these things
I’m not afraid anymore
I’m not afraid anymore

I don’t have to be afraid of what I see and hear coming from other world areas. I don’t have to be afraid of what might happen to my family. Instead, those things can spur me on to pray more fervently and to be more diligent in what I do. It must NOT keep me from doing what I can to shine a light. I was reading a magazine put out by Compassion International about their work in various world areas helping people in extreme poverty and the hopelessness they find themselves in. I have learned that I am one who gets easily overwhelmed. I can see a situation that seems hopeless and I don’t even want to try. As I read I thought, “What makes these people see hope in all of this mess, this darkness? How can they keep going when there are no guarantees?”   Whatever it is that God has given them, I am grateful. When I read their stories, it encourages me to not lose heart. To pray more. To get involved more. To see what I can do to make a difference. Josh Wilson puts it this way in his song “Pushing Back the Dark”:

One million reasons why, you shouldn’t even try.
After all you’re just one heart, a single candle in the dark.
And there are shadows here, feeding on your fears,
That you don’t have what it takes – who are you to make a change?
But oh, oh, don’t underestimate the God you follow.
Whatever you do, just don’t look back.
Oh somebody needs the light you have.
Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart.
Keep on pushing back the dark

That is what we are called as Christians to do – keep pushing back the dark. We will not overtake it on our own. We will not overtake it in a day or even in our lifetime. But God has promised a crown of life to those of us who persevere (James 1:12). Let’s be faithful in prayer. Let’s be obedient to all that God has for us. We don’t have to be afraid. He has promised that NOTHING can separate us from him.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the
future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:38 & 39).

We don’t have to be afraid!

~Tara Hensel