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Facing Dark Days

Category Articles
Date October 15, 2002


Many of us perhaps have little idea what it must be like to be in the depths of despair.

by Ian Hamilton

Sometimes Christians fall into the depths of despair. An extreme example would be Jeremiah, God’s faithful prophet. We can hardly imagine the inner anguish that caused him to cry out, "Cursed be the day I was born… why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?" He didn’t end his days in shame, but at a particularly dark time in his life he was sure that he would. Many of us perhaps have little idea what it must be like to be in the depths of despair. It may be that temperamentally we are somewhat immune from such experiences, or are strangers to the spiritual battles that some of God’s choicest servants are called to fight. What cannot be denied, is that even the finest of Christians are exposed by their gracious and kindly Father to the darkest of experiences. Most remarkably, it was the Holy spirit who led our Lord Jesus into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

Why is this? Why does our heavenly Father purpose such dark valleys for some of his dearly loved children? No doubt much could be said, but one thing above all needs to be said: He does so because he loves his children and seeks their present and eternal good. For our Lord Jesus Christ, it was his exposure to the assaults of the evil one that prepared him for the ministry and mission that lay before him. The first Adam failed and fell with all the advantages of God’s garden to sustain him; the last Adam triumphed and prevailed in a desert, with nothing but his naked trust in his Father to sustain him: "Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ will necessarily mean that we enter into the pattern of life that made him the Man he became -"he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." The dark valleys are no less part of our heavenly Father’s gracious purpose for his children, than the shining mountain tops. We would, of course, rather always be on the mountain top, but there are lessons and truths we can only learn in our loving Father’s graciously prepared dark valleys. It is neither callousness nor indifference that causes him to lead us into the dark valleys; it is rather his unshakeable resolve to conform us to the likeness of his Son.

I am more than conscious that this is only too easy to say. Some of you reading this may even now be in the depths and feel out of your depth. Consider, therefore, what our Lord Jesus did in his times of great need (and he had them):

First, he quoted the Word of God to the enemy who tracked him into the desert place. Our Saviour repelled the wicked suggestions and temptations of the devil by the truth of Holy Scripture. He had hidden God’s word in his heart that he might not sin against him. This is what we all must learn to do. Gather up the precious promises of God’s word, not least this, "the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin," and suck the goodness out of them.

Secondly, he cried out to his Father. In the Garden and on the Cross, our Lord Jesus cried out to the One who loved him, to whom he was precious beyond all words. This is what the Psalmist did when he was in the depths, "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord (God of covenant faithfulness)."

Perhaps the hardest thing to do when you are in the depths is to resist the pressure to look in and find something inside you to comfort you: My love for him is not dead; I still trust him; I feel some sorrow for my sin. It is good that these are there, but what if tomorrow you feel they are not there? John Newton was profoundly right when he wrote:

"When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within;
Upwards I look and see him there,
Who put an end to all my sin."

Help and hope are not found within, but without, in the finished work and unchanging love of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ – who is afflicted in all our afflictions.

Be of good cheer, dear fellow believer. The dark valleys will not last forever. One day they will all be swallowed up in the mountain-top glory of God’s nearer presence. Then all our blues will be banished into eternal oblivion. He who promised is faithful.

Ian Hamilton

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