Finding Joy in the Midst of Darkness


Written Version

We are in the period that Isaiah prophesied would be a time of “deep darkness.” But that verse was written in the midst of other verses that proclaim, “Arise, shine, or your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3, NKJV)

But for our light to shine brightly with the Lord’s glory upon us, we cannot allow ourselves to sink into the darkness. Even though the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the world, even though racial discord is fracturing the social fabric, even though government is using the excuse of the virus to lay the foundation of the secular humanist one-world government to come, even though evil anti-Christ spirits of oppression are attacking all Christians, we can still live within the bubble of the Lord’s glory in the midst of all the darkness.

Never forget that the Lord inhabits our praises, as Psalm 22:3 tells us. This principle is known to many Christians, but most often they don’t fully appreciate the context. Jesus quoted the first verse of this psalm while dying on the cross for our sins: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (22:1, KJV)

Jesus was in the greatest darkness of all, separated from Father God while bearing all the sins of the world. Like many of us in the present day darkness, the Psalmist King David cries out in the second verse, “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” Just as many are now crying out in the darkness for the Lord to come, but He seems silent, leaving us feeling even more alone within the oppression.

But then David recalls how to rise out of and above the darkness to the light and glory of the Lord God Almighty: “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (22:3) Nothing connects us more to God and to His glory than offering Him praise and honor. That’s why David also wrote that, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) We can’t just talk at God, we have to go to God in order to bask in His joy and glory.

Psalm 100, verse 4 further tells us to, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” All too often, we cry out about our desperate needs and then wonder why we don’t hear or sense that God is listening. Even in the midst of the darkness, everyone has something past and/or present that we can thank Him for – and that’s the way to open up the communications channel to Him.

It’s not that He doesn’t want to answer our cries for help, but rather that He wants to teach us that we need to keep our eyes and our minds focused on the things above, not the darkness of the world. Colossians 3:2-3, tells us to, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Furthermore, Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The Lord wants us to develop these habits of praise and focus so that we don’t cling to the darkness, but instead rise above it to where He is, to where the joy is. Many Christians know that the ‘joy of the Lord is your strength,’, (Nehemiah 8:10b), but they think that they somehow have to manufacture this joy themselves. But God’s Word clearly says that this joy is “of the Lord,” that is, it comes from Him.

There’s nothing we can do to earn it or fabricate it on our own. We can only receive it from the Lord, and in order to do that we must be in communication with Him, and be spiritually in His Presence. And, to do that, we must let go of the oppression, reach toward Heaven in thanksgiving and praise and have the glory of the Lord arise over us as Isaiah prophesied.

Philippians 4:4 says it another way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Notice that there are no exceptions to this command. Always means always. And rejoice means to be joyful. Even when there doesn’t seem to be anything praiseworthy or lovely in our lives at the moment, as a Child of God, our eternal salvation and an everlasting life of joy in Heaven awaits every believer! That alone should be enough to shine away the darkness from oppressing us.

We can indeed live within our own joyful bubble of existence no matter what is going on around us, or even within us in our sickly, weak bodies. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2Corinthians 4:17) Eternity is forever, an infinitely longer period of time than our brief sojourn on earth.

As we know, James 1:2-4 tells us to rejoice when trouble comes: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The Apostle Paul takes it one step further in Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Notice that Paul says we also can have peace in the midst of the darkness, not just joy and glory. And it is unlikely that many of us have suffered as much as he did, as he recounts in his own words: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2Corinthians 11:24-27)

Paul also says he learned how to be content no matter what his circumstances: “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” (Philippians 4:11-12) Unlike happiness, which is dependent on circumstances, contentment is a lasting condition that provides a foundation for experiencing joy more often and more fully.

Jesus says if we abide in Him, in His love, then our joy will be full: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

All of this – joy, peace, contentment – is available to us at all times if we learn how to habitually seek God’s presence instead of just reacting to the darkness around us. It is focusing on the unseen, rather than the seen, as prescribed in 2Corinthians 4:18: “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Jesus also tells us that our eye, that is what we focus on, determines how we feel: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Will we look at things through our natural eye and allow this to control our soul? Our mind, emotion and will? If so, we will constantly flood ourselves with the darkness of this world. Or will we look at things through our spiritual eye at the things above, at the eternal joy that awaits us? If so, we will be filled with the light of Christ which will shine away the darkness within and around us and fill us with His joy, His peace, His contentment.

Don’t allow the darkness of today, and the deep darkness to come, to overwhelm and oppress you. No matter how bad things might be for you here in this fallen world, you can have peace, love, joy and contentment any time, anywhere, but only if you choose to abide in Christ and seek God’s face. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Corinthians 4:6)

So, walk as children of God, just as Ephesians 5:8 prescribes: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

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