God continually tests our faith to see if we trust Him. He continually asks us: Will you hope in Me when the unthinkable happens in your life? Will you, like Moses, hold up the Word of God when the enemy advances, or will you drop the Word and let the enemy come in like a flood?
Psalm 81 tells us that if we call on the Lord (if we trust Him and if we hope in Him) when we are in trouble He will answer us in the secret place of thunder. Do we believe Him? Will we trust Him in our difficult times?
As we mentioned in last month’s newsletter, this secret place of thunder can be compared to the Valley of Baca or the Valley of Tears in the Old Testament. The Valley of Baca was known for its difficult terrain, its barrenness and its black shadows. Psalm 84 tells us that the faithful pilgrims who made it through the darkness of this valley, were able to turn the whole frightening experience around and make it into a “well of blessing.” Scripture says that as a result, they went from “strength (in the Lord) to more strength (in the Lord).”
In this new series of articles on the subject of “hope,” we will explore the basic question in all of our minds: How do we, in our most difficult times, “Lay hold of the hope that is before us”? (Hebrews 6:18)
Darkness from Above
The Valley of Baca and the Place of Thunder are among the many places in the Bible that speak about darkness. Darkness means an absence of light. In various contexts, darkness can mean something sinister, but there is also a darkness (an absence of light) that God allows. Listen to Isaiah 50:10: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the Name if the Lord and stay upon his God.” Notice that the person being spoken of here not only “fears the Lord” but also “obeys His voice.” Consequently, this Scripture is talking about a believer who is faithful and obedient. And yet, it says this saint still walks in darkness and has no light.
And, it’s so true. Many of the trials that God allows into our lives come with an absence of light, i.e., they are absolutely confusing, bewildering and perplexing. Scripture sometimes calls them “the fire of testing.” Psalm 66, for example, speaks about this and says that this is the time that God proves us and tests us as silver. If we understand what He is doing and how we are to endure the darkness and the fire, then we will come out as “gold” in the end. So, yes, God often allows darkness, afflictions and difficulties, but only with the purpose of renewing our strength and turning our difficult times into “wells of blessing.”
The Presence of God in the Darkness
It’s interesting because many, many Scriptures throughout the Bible associate God’s presence with darkness and “a thick cloud.” Consider Exodus 19:9, where God says to Moses: “Lo, I come to thee in a thick cloud.” And Exodus 34:5: “And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him.” And Exodus 40:38: “…for the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day and the fire was on it by night.” Even in the New Testament, John 12:29 says: “they heard the thunder in the cloud,” speaking of God’s voice, and they were fearful. (Luke 9:34)
These Scriptures seem to suggest that God’s presence is simply obscured in darkness, so we must not think of “darkness” in itself as being something bad or fearful or scary. (Exodus 20:21; 2 Chronicles 6:1; Psalm 97:2) It’s simply one of the ways that God manifests Himself.
Even in Solomon’s Temple, the Scriptures say that the Holy Place was so filled with the cloud of God’s presence that the priests were unable to minister. (1 Kings 8:10–11)
Consequently, it’s important to understand that many of the times we are walking “closest to the Lord,” we will experience His presence in the form of a cloud or darkness.
Just as the saints in the Valley of Baca and the Valley of the Shadow of Death experienced darkness, shadows and the cloud of His presence on their way to worshiping, we will often experience the same. But even in our darkness, He is always there. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.
I do not believe, however, that God causes these night seasons or our valleys of Baca experiences; He just allows them and then uses them for His purposes. It’s in the middle of these times that He asks us, “Do you trust Me?”
Trusting Him in the Dark Times
If you read the book of Job, you’ll see that Job talks a lot about trusting God in the darkness, blackness and the shadow of death. For example Job 19:8–10, he speaks to God by saying: “You [speaking about the Lord] have fenced up my way and set darkness in my path. You have stripped me of my glory. I am gone. You have removed my hope like a tree.” (It’s interesting to me that Job associates darkness here with the loss of hope.)
Just like many of us have made previous commitments to trust our lives to the Lord (in fact, we’ve probably done this many, many times before), but because everything continued to go “haywire” in our situations, we finally gave up and lost hope. God in His Love for us, however, returns later and once again asks: “Will you trust Me in the darkness this time? Will you hope in Me now? Will you once again rely upon Me?” This happens over and over and over again, until we finally get the message and learn to trust and hope in a Father whom we don’t always see, whom we don’t always understand and whom we don’t always know what He is doing. (Isaiah 55:8–9)
One thing I have personally learned over the last few months is that, for me it’s easier to “trust God” going through difficult, emotional day to day circumstances than it is to trust Him going through constant physical pain. Pain wears you down and can become unbearable at times. When it first begins, you choose to trust the Lord; but when it doesn’t go away, you often give up and let go. And, if you don’t know His Word by heart and haven’t memorized His promises, it becomes very difficult to hold on.
What I have learned is that it’s vitally important not only to be in the Word every day, but also to memorize God’s promises so that if you are “taken out,” as I was, you can still, by faith, hold on. You can still, by faith, trust Him in the dark and you can still, by faith, see His handprint. Yes, it’s physically dark, but spiritually it’s light.
The Most Important Scripture
Last night as I was preparing for bed, the Lord brought to my mind the Scriptural answer as to “how” we can see the Lord in the midst of our dark seasons. Proverbs 3:5–6 tells us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Notice that if we trust in the Lord and if we acknowledge Him, then He will direct our paths.
Now this doesn’t mean we emotionally “feel like” trusting Him or that we “mentally adhere” to saying “I trust You,” but that we simply “choose by faith to trust Him.” That faith-trust choice then leads to “acknowledging” Him in all our ways. The word “acknowledge” in this Scripture means to “see Him right in the middle of our situation.” Like Moses did in Hebrews 11:27, he saw and acknowledged the Lord right in the middle of the darkness.
The way this works is that: if we are a cleansed vessel, and if we have chosen to unconditionally trust in God’s faithfulness (acknowledge Him), it then frees God to perform His will in our situation, allowing us to see His Hand of Love and giving us the strength we need to endure the trial.
A Personal Example
On one of my lowest days recently, I received a “love gift” from someone I have never met. It was a book on Zechariah called “The Prophet of Hope.” This book was written in 1916, almost a hundred years ago. What the sender didn’t realize is that the very night before I received his gift, God had directed me to the book of Zechariah and the story of hope that it entails.
When I read the inscription the sender had written in the book, I wept because I knew the whole experience had God’s fingerprints all over it. I had never read Zechariah in that context before, nor did I realize that Zechariah was called ‘the prophet of hope.”
Was it a coincidence? Or, was it a real experience of seeing God’s Handprint at that very critical time in my life. To me, it was God’s way of saying “I love you. I am with you. You can make it through.” That little experience “allowed me to see God’s faithfulness” in the midst of my most difficult trial.
So, remember, “to acknowledge Him” simply means to see Him in the little things. And this is what will give us the endurance to persevere on. Again, if we trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He will direct our paths. However, it also works the other way around: If we cease to trust Him, and we don’t acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He will be unable to direct our paths.
What this is saying is that we can never stop hoping in the Lord no matter what our circumstances are, no matter how we feel and no matter if we understand what He is doing or not. Even if we don’t see His hand, we must continually choose by faith to trust in His promises and acknowledge Him in all our ways, because He will come through…
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6
This article was taken in part from Nancy’s book, Hope Against Hope.