June 23, 2014

Transformation Tips

There is much joy and laughter in life. Life also has its share of tragedies, dark moments in which the collateral damage can be as devastating as tragedy itself. A loved one is lost in a plane crash, leaving behind relatives who never quite recover. A terminal illness claims the life of a family member, and the remaining loved ones find their continued existence excruciating. After a painful divorce the estranged partner finds the fallout all but unbearable.

These dark moments are the stuff we seek to avoid. Our faith is supposed to strengthen us, and indeed, this is when Christians have an opportunity to see if their faith has substance. In the midst of these dark trials our belief in God, in the Bible, in His promises is put to the test.

Help for Dark Moments

Just what do these promises mean, and how much do they help us in these dark moments? The following references promise a lot, but do they deliver when the pressure is turned up?

Promises such as “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand” (Eph. 6:11), “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30), and “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6) are intended to bring comfort. But how do they translate into relief?

Then there is this magnificently inclusive promise penned by Ellen White that should help anyone in any dark moment: “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. . . . There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest” (Steps to Christ, p. 100).

What is the definitive answer to dealing with dark moments? There is none. There are no bromides, no simple 12-step programs that guarantee success. However, fresh, enlightened thinking indicates we can work through our dark times. We can learn and grow from them. They can help sanctify us. Fine gold is refined in the crucible. Still, we seem to spend more time seeking to avoid dark moments than we do in trying to learn from them. Biblical wisdom indicates that dark moments have much to teach us.

Walking in the Dark

Theologian and author Barbara Brown Taylor wrote an engaging book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. I read all 190 pages in one sitting. The book made me realize that we do almost anything to avoid the dark physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet Taylor experiments with the dark by exploring caves, simulating blindness, and delving into Bible passages that highlight how God exploits and creates spiritual breakthroughs in the dark.

Her objective? To explore what can be gained by learning to walk in the dark. Readers may not resonate with all of Taylor’s reasoning, but they will find her case compelling: With God, the dark things of life don’t have to be our enemy.

Taylor writes: “Despite all of my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life, plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, nonetheless I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so there is only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”