I did not know what was under there, but I knew with a bounding leap into my bed that it wasn’t going to get me.
I’m remembering my childhood days of waking in the night to go to the bathroom, then having to return to my bed alone, in the dark, with all its childish monsters waiting for me under the bed. Snakes? A hand grabbing me and pulling me under? An ogre timing his growl for just the right moment?
Knowing every time that I might just miss the bed and fall to the hard wooden floor, I leapt anyway, my heart pounding with possibilities of evil. When I was a child, I walked in the darkness as a child – afraid, anxious, bewildered, unsure, captivated by harmful things that imagined fiends could do to me.
I’m honest enough to say that in adulthood, sometimes I’m still afraid of the darkness, but not that darkness. I’m afraid of the darkness of the soul - those times when my faith falters and I lose sight of the beliefs that guide my living. An instructor recently asked this question: Do you believe that God always knows what he is doing?
The “children’s church answer,” of course, is a resounding yes. It was the same in this class of adults. I was the sole dissenter, being honest enough to admit that I do have times of darkness when I doubt that God’s plan is the best one.
“Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his.
“Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed by darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian – and yet still be one… God is at the bottom of my faith; and when it disappears for a season from my own view, God may yet be there sustaining its root in the new birth and protecting the seed from destruction,” writes John Piper in his book, “When the Darkness Will Not Lift.”
As a child, darkness threatened the security of my home and bed, of my parents sleeping in the next room. As an adult, darkness threatens my awareness of the promise of God’s security. Yet, if I am to be honest with myself and with God, I must admit that I doubt, that sometimes I don’t think he knows how what he is allowing is affecting my faith. I’ve learned to be that honest with God. Why? Because I know he can handle the questions of my heart, my doubts of his goodness, my frustrations over prayers that linger unanswered, the ebbs and tides of my faith.
Any ideal of a Christian that never questions, never doubts is a false notion of what it means to have faith. God has taught me that he is faithful even when I am not. God has taught me he is patient when I am not. God has taught me his grace is sufficient, even when I cannot grasp it. God has brought new mercies when I feel tired and defeated, even when I cannot acknowledge them.
The spiritual irony of these lessons is that God has taught me in and through the darkness. God, who put the stars in the skies, only allows them to shine in the darkness. There are parts of our faith life that grow only in the darkness, shine only in the darkness, seek solace only in the darkness. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus often said. And I will add “of the dark.”