Learning to Wait in the Dark
When we find ourselves in a time of waiting, it can feel like we're waiting in the dark, unable to see the path ahead, fumbling around trying to make sense of the surroundings. But what if the darkness is not really darkness at all but the shadow of the Lord? What does it mean to wait in the dark with the Lord? And what can we learn while we're there?
It is often said that when we ask for something the Lord will give us one of three answers: yes, no or wait. For me, ‘wait’ is often the hardest response to accept. It can feel like waiting in the dark, unable to see the path ahead, fumbling around trying to make sense of the surroundings.
But what if the darkness is not really darkness at all but the shadow of the Lord?
Psalm 91 says ‘Whoever rests in the shadow of the Most High God will be kept safe by the Mighty One… He will cover you with His wings. Under the feathers of his wings you will find safety’ (verses 1 & 4, NIRV)
It’s a beautiful image but, as I imagine any penguin chick would testify, it’s not the most bright and airy place. It is safe, though.
So what does it mean to wait in the dark with the Lord? And what can we learn while we’re there?
1. You are not alone
Waiting in the dark can feel extremely lonely, unless there is someone with you. When you are sitting in the shadow of the Lord you are sitting as close as you can get to him. And he loves you, more than you can comprehend. How does it feel now? Exciting? Adventurous? Certainly intimate.
Being alone in the dark with someone we love brings us to a new level of trust. There’s a line in a song by the Arctic Monkeys which says ‘You and me both know that the nights were mainly made for sayin’ things that we can’t say tomorrow day’. There’s something about sitting in the dark with someone that makes us more open and honest. Remember the chats you had at your teenage sleepovers? Sitting in the dark makes us more inclined to share secrets. And listen.
Without visual distraction we can hear more clearly too. Have you ever noticed how much louder things are in the dark? The ticking clock, the creaking pipe work. Our lack of vision heightens our sense of hearing. If you feel like you’re waiting in the dark, perhaps there’s something the Lord really wants you to hear.
2. You are safe
My husband’s testimony is quite a dramatic one which is his to share, not mine, but suffice to say he found himself in a dangerous situation in the woods in the pitch dark. At first the darkness terrified him. It was disorienting, he couldn’t find his way out. Then he realised it could also work in his favour. While he couldn’t see, he also couldn’t be seen. He describes a moment when he realised the darkness was his ‘friend’.
Psalm 91 talks about the safety of God’s shadow. I think sometimes God keeps us in the waiting for our own safety. If we lean into it, instead of pushing against it, we lean into his protection until he knows we are ready for what comes next.
3. You can rest
Do you ever feel like you just need to lie down in a darkened room? To catch your breath before the next thing happens? What a delight it is to find rest and peace in the dark.
God knows that. Even he rested, not because he was exhausted but because he wanted to enjoy what he had made. The time of waiting can become a time to reflect on the good things that have gone before, ahead of the next adventure, and to see all the reasons to give him praise.
Sitting in his shadow also forces us to be still. It’s hard to move around freely in the dark so we have no option but to ‘be still and know that [he is] God’ (Psalm 46:10). And then, when he does call us forward, and we’re still in his shadow, what can we do but grab hold of his hand and let him lead us? He has promised that he won’t let us stumble (Psalm 121:3). And, just like in the blindfolded-with-a-partner game from Sunday school, it requires us to trust that he knows the way.
So, if you find yourself waiting in the dark with the Lord, do not fear. This is your time of preparation, a time to rest in the safety of his shadow, to deepen your relationship so he can make you ready for the good things he has in store for you. Seeds must germinate in the darkness of the soil before they can grow into beautiful trees that bear fruit.
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