The New Dark (Part 1)

Jul 30, 2019

But you are God’s chosen treasure…He called you out of darkness to experience His marvelous light, and now He claims you as His very own. He did this so that you would broadcast His glorious wonders throughout the world. [1 Peter 2:9]

This house on a hill sits on a quiet lot. It’s set slightly away from the other houses in the neighborhood which adds to the atmosphere’s tranquility. Right after we purchased the house, before construction began, I would go to the empty space to write, think, and be. I would dream about the house’s possibilities, pray for the people who we would share our new home with in the coming years, and genuinely enjoy the quiet space that had yet to be filled. Those afternoons felt like a rare treasure.

However, you could not convince me, under any circumstance, to go to the same empty house by myself after the sun had set. There was no power connected to the house at that time, so at night the whole property was pitch-dark. The darkness seemed to remove my sense of the house’s security. In the dark, my imagination shifted from dreaming about the house’s future possibilities to devising all the potential dangers. I could no longer see, therefore, I could no longer trust.

Recently, I realized I treat my inner world the same way. When life is good, alone time is a prize. In times of clarity, if I’m thinking, I’m dreaming. But when life is dark and painful, when I’m hurt, or anxious, or sad, being alone with my thoughts feels like punishment. When I’m lacking clarity, if I’m thinking, I’m worrying.

Some of us outgrew our fear of the dark long ago, but as adults there is a new dark we wish to avoid — our inner world in uncertain times.

Many of us carry our coping mechanism for this darkness in our pocket and we grab for that screen the split second we find ourselves alone with our thoughts — in line at the store, standing in the elevator, or in a room full of people we don’t know. We turn on Netflix or the news when we get home from work. We play podcasts during our commute. We fill our calendars to the brim. We read other people’s thoughts in their blogs and social media posts. We do and do and do, so we don’t have to think.

At least, that’s how I used to cope. Until I found myself in the middle of nowhere in particular living on a lake with just my husband and my dog. I no longer had a full social or work calendar to keep me from my thoughts. There wasn’t many places to go in the small town we were temporarily residing. My husband is one of the most peaceful people you’ll ever meet so he was more than happy to use the rare stillness to think, dream, pray, and build something new. But me? I scrolled, I browsed, I read, I watched, I cooked, and I cleaned. When every distraction ran dry, I was left alone with my thoughts.

I’ve written before about this transformational season we’re currently in. At times it’s been gloriously stretching and exciting, but other times I get reminded of just how much change is happening in our lives and I find myself saying out loud, “I just don’t want to think about it right now.” But I have to think about it, and also, I need to talk about it. I need to take the time to process it. I need to sift through the emotions of this season. If I’m anxious, I need to ask why. If I’m afraid, I need to find the root of the fear. Because pretending you’re not in the dark doesn’t change the fact that you’re in the dark.

In the dark, you don’t need a distraction, you need illumination.

When I find myself in the midst of the unknown, I need light so I can find my way out safely. Otherwise, I’ll just keep knocking myself against walls and tripping over things. Without light in our lives, we’ll only cause ourselves more pain while making very little progress.

Last year, I experienced a series of unexplained health issues, and after some poking and prodding and testing, my doctor told me the root of it all was chronic stress. My first response was, “But I don’t feel stressed.” She replied, “You may have stopped feeling it long ago, but it didn’t stop causing damage inside of you.”

I didn’t want to admit my body was broken. Admitting I was in pain felt like I was surrendering to it. There was a belief hidden deep inside of me, down in the dark, that convinced me acknowledging my pain was the same as accepting it to be my forever fate.

However, I have found the opposite to be true. When I finally faced the facts of my circumstances, just how bad it actually was, I could properly apply the truth of God’s promises to them.

When we shine light on the darkness, we take away its power over us. But how can we shine a light on a darkness we won’t even admit is there?

Often, I do things to armor up against the darkness that actually conceals me from the light of healing.

I say, “I’m fine.”

I say, “It doesn’t matter.”

I hold the tears in.

I misdefine strength as stoicism.

I don’t let people know when they have hurt me because I assume confrontation is somehow dishonoring.

I put on all this armor to protect myself from the darkness, but all I’ve really done is welded shut the pain inside of me so it has no opportunity to be released and every opportunity to destroy me from the inside out.

Let me dispel some fear right here by reminding you that we’re all going to face darkness in our lives — painful, hurtful, frustrating times — but we don’t ever have to succumb to it. It’s just a season, but it’s never your full story.

Whatever you are feeling right now (or trying so desperately not to feel), Jesus has felt too. Even though He experienced all of our darkness, He was never conquered by it, and He shares that victory with you.

Life came into being because of Him, for His life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom— the Light that darkness could not diminish! [John 1:4-5]

Slowly but surely, I’ve started taking off my armor piece by piece. This process is not just about becoming less afraid of the dark, it’s about becoming totally free from it.

In my next post, I’m going to share 6 steps (3 mindset shifts and 3 practical action steps) I’ve put into practice that have helped me overcome the dark.

While I’m not an expert, I do consider myself a fellow warrior with you on this freedom journey. I’m sharing what I know because I don’t want anyone to miss out on freedom.

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