Temporary Darkness, Eternal Light

God is portrayed in Scripture as full of light. He has a bright radiance, seen by Moses and Elijah and Isaiah and the apostle John and shown in Christ at the Transfiguration. The apostle John is emphatic: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Psalm 18 speaks of “the brightness of his presence” (v. 12) yet paradoxically also speaks of Him coming down from the heavens with “dark clouds” under His feet (v. 9). We’re told of God that “he made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky” (v. 11). How do dark clouds fit with the brightness of the noonday sun? Somehow it relates to the fallen human condition and the difficulty of seeing the full light of God’s presence in a world still under the Curse.

While I don’t suffer chronic depression, I’ve had a few periods of several months of depression that have awakened me to its reality and the hold it can take. A novelist friend wrote me:

I pleaded with God for healing and understanding. I thought if I could just understand it, I’d somehow solve it.

Never, in all my years of being a Christian, did I cling to God so closely. Never had I talked to Him so honestly. Those weeks, months, and even years of questioning and searching drew me nearer to Him. Walking through my discontent led me to a life so much richer than the one I’d been living. God used my depression and pain for something so much greater than I could envision. I’ve learned that there is purpose in struggle…even when we can’t see it.

When I posted a blog about a time of depression I was experiencing, a few people expressed shock that someone who had written about subjects such as grace and Heaven could ever be depressed! I had to laugh, since far better people than I have experienced far worse depression—Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Owen, and William Cowper, to name a few.

Some depression comes from simply feeling the crushing weight of pain and brokenness in one’s life and the lives of others around the globe. Of course, self-preoccupied woe-is-me depression quickly becomes deeply unhealthy. But sometimes when we feel burdened, we may simply be joining the whole of creation in groaning because of a suffering world. In that case, we’re in good company, for “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

It’s no sin to feel that burden, and sometimes it’s a sin not to. Some of what passes for Christian contentment is, in fact, apathy toward the plight of God’s image-bearers. Our lives should reflect a groaning that gives way to joy, celebrating what God has done for us in Christ and thanking Him that He will rescue us once and for all from evil and suffering.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf since a toddler, wrote, “Although the world is full of suffering it is also full of the overcoming of it.… Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.”

Psalm 18, after speaking of both light and darkness, ends beautifully: “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (v. 28).

The darkness of the soul will not go on unbroken in this life. But even if it did, the bright light of the New Heaven and the New Earth is coming, so close that even now it is almost within reach: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23).

Lord, rescue us from the darkness of sin, and shine upon us the light of forgiveness. But rescue us too from the dark night of the soul that sometimes falls upon even the righteous, who confess their sins and seek your face yet still walk under a gloomy cloud of depression. Reassure us that we are in good company, for many of your great saints have so suffered. Lord, help us trust you until the darkness lifts. But please break through it and be pleased to shine upon us—not just in eternity but even now—the light of joy.

Excerpted from Randy's devotional 90 Days of God's Goodness.

Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries