Some people refer to it as achluophobia, some lygophobia, others myctophobia and others still scotophobia. People like me who aren’t quite sure what those people are talking about just call it fear of the dark. No matter how extensive our vocabulary, we’ve most likely all been paralysed by its grip at some point in our lives; usually when we were much, much younger.
But I’m not sure that the potency of this phobia is simply overpowered by age and wisdom or fades after childhood. There’s always something particularly menacing and fearsome about the darkness. Countless movie and theatre directors have capitalised on that simple fact with great effect and success.
There’s numerous reasons why we might have a natural fear of the dark. In the dark we can’t see and therefore we can’t function properly; when you can’t see your way or see what is around, you start to feel vulnerable, fragile, lost and then creeps in the fear of the unseen and unknown. According to the bible there are spiritual reasons too. The subject of darkness runs from cover to cover through the bible. And when you find reference to darkness in the bible you’ll often find it’s associated with negative things and experiences: difficulty, distress, danger, evil. Many of the prophets’, preachers’ and psalmists’ difficult moments occurred beneath the shroud of night:
I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:6
Why all this talk about darkness?
Well, for one thing, it’s seasonal. The shorter hours of light and longer nights at this time of the year have always been something that Annie has struggled with and taken time to adjust to. But of course, recently, she feels this more acutely; and I’m also beginning to.
When I was a kid I suffered an hysterical fear of the dark but this current fear arises from a fear of the known at night rather than the unknown. As evening draws in, Annie starts to feel the physical pain a lot more and we both know that the moment she attempts to lie down at night, the pain trigger is pulled. Seeing Annie toss and turn and moan in pain last night never gets easier with time and repetition. And smothered by night and tiredness, the situation just sometimes feels so much harder, helpless and hopeless.
weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalm 30:5
But enough about darkness.
Today’s theme was light and it was accompanied with rejoicing. I began this morning by reading a letter sent to us both by a precious sister out on the mission field. In the letter she shared how blessed she had been by studying the theme of light in the scriptures. In that letter she reminded us that darkness is powerless in the presence of light. The darkest night can do nothing to consume or extinguish the flame of a single candle. Light shines in the darkness – no matter how dark it is.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5
Later on in the day, I was talking to a brother who came to visit us with his wife. Via an unrelated discussion, we got onto the same topic and he said (and I paraphrase):
A candlelight in the day goes unnoticed, but in the dark you cannot help but see its brightness.
No, my friend was not Yoda or the the old man from the movie Karate Kid! You see those words and thoughts of his all reflect a wonderful biblical truth which is a great blessing to God’s people when they go through the darkness of persecution, injustice, danger, suffering or some other difficulty.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:20-21
It is hard to say that we fully understand and always experience the pure joy the Apostle James wrote about. At night, it’s hard to see and experience that pure joy through my wife’s pain. But while we are being honest with you, we can testify that we have daily reason to rejoice when we hear through letters, conversations, text messages, cards and emails how God is using something like this in our lives as a signpost to His Son. And as we see God fulfil His promises to use our suffering in such a way, it just draws us nearer and nearer and nearer to Him, the source of all light. And the more we dwell in His light, the more clearly look out and the less fearful we are!
You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. – Psalm 18:28
Let’s learn from gospel history: no matter how dark the day, the beauty of Jesus will always be inextinguishably brighter.
Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. – Acts 2:22-24
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!