As a kid, I suffered from the quintessential childhood fear: I was scared of the dark. I could be in a room that I knew like the back of my hand, and if the lights turned off, my fear turned on. It didn’t help that my older brother would come into my room at night and tell me—in a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed about four dirty dishrags—all about the monsters that would come to get me if I took one shuddering step out of bed. And it probably didn’t help when my older sister told me that the long, cobweb-filled crawlspace in my closet was the gateway to hell. But what are older siblings for, right?
Darkness is scary because of one self-evident fact: you can’t see. Once the lights are on, everything turns back to normal. The horror film soundtrack that was blasting in your ears just moments before turns off. You put down the baseball bat you were going to use to take out the axe murderer you were sure was right behind your door. Your heart rate slows so you’re no longer hyperventilating. You can see again, and the world is good and kind once more.
Darkness is scary because of one self-evident fact: you can’t see.
I remember when the lights turned on for me spiritually. I’d been sitting in darkness for a while. At seventeen, I was angry at God for what I thought He had done. Somehow, either through some well-meaning soul’s careless language or my own warped mindset, or a combination of both, I had gotten the idea in my head that God gives us trials and therefore He must have caused my family to fall apart and my parent’s marriage to go up in flames. I incorrectly believed that if there was a difficulty in my life, the good Lord must have willed that it be there. Trials bring us closer to God, I was told, so I should be thankful. But all I wanted was distance from Him.
Then, through a series of events and conversations, I picked up a book that changed the trajectory of my relationship with God. As I read passages like the following, I felt something new begin to grow inside me, something warm and hopeful, something like trust:
“While the triune God pursued the plan for our salvation fully intending to succeed, and fully confident that their love would prevail, it is an unavoidable fact that the sacrifice of self involved in that plan would have to be genuine and not staged. Jesus really did become a member of the human race, forever to retain that nature as His own. He really did undergo severe temptation with the actual possibility of failure and eternal loss. He really did enter the dark psychological realm of our sin and guilt with the torturous sense of eternal separation from the Father. His character really was tested to the utmost to see if God does truly love others, even His enemies, above Himself. God staked the stability of the universe on the raw energy of His love apart from any other power. Under no circumstance would He resort to force or manipulation to hold Himself up. Love alone would prove itself of sufficient strength to conquer sin, or not.”1
As I read, I felt like an emotional switch was turned on inside me. Where there had been anger and bitterness before, now there was a new and willing desire to respond to God’s love, and it was birthed from a realization that Someone would lay it all on the line for me—no, would lay Himself on the line for me, risk everything, and yet still let me choose what I wanted to do. Someone would empty not just His pockets, but His kingdom and heart, and yet leave it all in my hands to decide what to do with—because He wanted me to truly love Him. I sat on my bed, looked out the window, and thought, “That’s Someone I can trust.”
The cross was the light switch. No longer was I groping about in ignorant darkness. Now I could see. And over time it’s become clearer and clearer. What seemed to be the darkest point of human history has shined the brightest light into my soul, showing me that God never intended evil to happen and He has a plan to wipe it out. Instead of causing my suffering, He actually takes it on Himself. Knowing this changes everything.
Where there had been anger and bitterness before, now there was a new and willing desire to respond to God’s love…
It’s been years now since that moment when the lights began to turn on for me. But I always remember it, and it stands as a landmark in my Christian experience. I can never un-see what I saw. I can not un-know what I now know. I can not un-have that experience.
To those who feel bitterness, anger, apathy, or fear toward God, try setting those things down for just a moment, friend. I know they’re heavy. Close your eyes to Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube for just a minute, and let your mind be opened to the light of who God is and watch the shadows disappear into nothingness. The spotlight shines the brightest on Calvary.
I promise you, in a world of pushing and shoving and control, God is refreshingly gentle and gentlemanly. Look at the cross and you’ll see it. Let the lights turn on and maybe—with the flip of a switch—you’ll find yourself saying with Paul, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV).
- Ty Gibson, An Endless Falling in Love: What Eternal Life Means to You Now, Pacific Press, Nampa, Idaho, 2014, pg. 44