Something that not everyone is ready to hear, nor capable of experiencing happens in the darkest moments of life experience and seems to have the harshest reality on the surface. One of the harshest realities that most people have no concept about is the daily experience behind the razor wire inside a level 7 prison where inmates will spend the rest of their life or a large part of life. It is a time for many men and women in life that is the darkest experience of their life because of choices they made to commit crime. During my time on staff as a prison chaplain, I observed people were hardened because of darkness or their lives transformed in the midst of darkness. The differences in their decisions were a response to the darkness they faced and the harsh conditions of life. Darkness comes in many forms and fashions for all people, but how do we as people view God and ourselves in that night of darkness and despair?
Richard Foster describes the dark of the night this way. “The dark of the night is one of the ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation on the soul”. The point that is of interest recalls the important fact that while we writhe and stumble, resisting the darkness, God has brought us to this dark night for a purpose that He has designed. A great paradox exists within the stillness of the dark night and the inner peace and solitude revealing that the greatest need of life often is not a product of walking in the light. Transformation often comes in the moments of the “dark night of the soul” when we are able to receive God’s transforming love in the place of darkness and solitude.
There are times when it is possible to walk in the light and experience great darkness. What a thought provoking idea that ruptures popular ideals and the hedonistic theology advocating a Christian life without adversity – where there is always an escape from the darkness of life.
Read and listen to the words of Isaiah who says, “Who among you …fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God. But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon lie down in great torment”. (50:10-11 NLT)
There are times when life is engulfed by darkness, we are in the empty void of night, and we did nothing to get there. When life experience fills with darkness, it is a time that it is hard to see past the night and it is not visible to others or us that there is any ray of light on the horizon. (Foster).
As a prisoner, incarcerated and wearing the visible appearance of darkness it may look like you have committed crimes worthy of this darkness. When you are in the valley of darkness and growing a life of inner peace, others will not understand that you can be very spiritual and out of sorts at the same time –in God’s will and in darkness. A boundary to embrace is silence, solitude, and separation from people and things that distract from the purpose of God. When you come to the place where you let God be your justifier–rest your case with Him, you will avoid the temptation of warming your hands at the enemy’s fire or living in your own light.
The warning that Isaiah gives is to those who live in the glow of their own light and the warmth of their own fire. The dark night of the soul, presents God’s purpose, God’s plan, and our opportunity for redemption from human effort to live in our own radiance to learn to walk by faith in darkness with confidence relying on God who is there to light the way.