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Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a class that has been very helpful in my Christian growth. It is called Parakaleo. I’m not surprised. It is something I was expecting. I have been surprised at some of the ways it has helped.

Of course, I can’t totally answer the question posed in the title. Well, not precisely. I can say this: Darkness will play a role in your growth in faith. I often assumed that darkness was a negative thing. That isn’t true. If pressed into a corner, I guess I should have realized there was a place for those dark times. But I didn’t understand the power of darkness in our growth.

An example of this would be Job. He went through an extremely dark time where he lost possessions and most of his family. In the middle of all of it, his friends, who came to comfort him, ended up turning against him as did his wife. He also lost his health. It wasn’t like he was quietly in the dark. He was in the dark and covered with abscesses! I can’t even imagine that kind of misery! But out of this deeply miserable and dark period of his life, came an understanding of who GOD is. The pictures GOD painted of who He was often compare well with many of the Psalms. They are truly vivid.

What if you were promised that you could come away from a dark time like that with a new awareness of who GOD is and a relationship with Him that would be closer than you ever imagined? Obviously we don’t get a choice about it and when these times will come to us. But understanding the work they do in our souls, can help bring us comfort.

It is helpful to see all the ways GOD works in our lives. He is as creative in His dealings with us as His Creation shows us He is.

This past week, we had a pause from our class. But we had the chance to meet one-on-one with our small group leader to sort out questions wo de have. One of my questions was pretty complicated but was linked to one of the tools. It led to a very helpful discussion that I am still processing.

Suffice to say, that I’m realizing how helpful those times of darkness are for my growth. I’ve been through a few in the past 5 years as well as my lifetime. My natural tendency is to fix what I can and move on. I hate being in the dark…both literally and figuratively. I loathe being unable to see past my nose. I detest not knowing where I am going or how to make sense of what is happening in my life or relationships. I totally do not like being uncomfortable, especially when it relates to the what’s and why’s of any suffering I am going through. I want to understand it, sort it out, categorize it, and put it away in its neat and tidy box. I have no desire to simply sit in the dark and think about it. It is miserable work and I often have to look at myself in ways I don’t want to.

It is interesting, in retrospect, to see how GOD uses darkness in our lives to build us and strengthen our relationship with Him.

But evidently, there are times GOD uses those times of darkness in our lives for His good purposes. When I am befuddled enough, thoroughly confused, and unable to make sense of what is happening, I eventually DO have to turn to Jesus to open my eyes to what is happening. Sometimes, I have been praying and nothing I do is working out the way I want it to, and I do mean nothing! But out of those dark, hard times, GOD brings help. He doesn’t always bring a complete answer all at once. Sometimes it is only a glimmer at a time.

Sometimes, I see my sin and failure. Sometimes, I recognize my human limitations and have to trust GOD to provide what I can’t. Sometimes, He shows me who He is in a new way. Sometimes, He intervenes in my situation in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

Dark times can be a treasure to embrace once we understand why they are important. They teach us to lean into Jesus in ways we never did before we truly needed Him. In the end, we will be grateful for them. The important thing is that we not rush off to fill our anxious hearts with activity instead of sitting in the darkness and uncertainty for a bit. Is it easy? No. For some us it is more difficult than for others.

For this activist, it’s the hardest thing ever! I want to do something, anything, to get to the light and out of the pain! I want to escape to laughter and joking. But sometimes, He will not allow it. He mercifully says, “No, you must be still here in the dark and in the pain, I am with you, I haven’t left. Just be still..”

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139:7-12 ESV