• December 2003

    • My Dear Friends,

      There are times in the life of faith when all the lights seem to go out. Perhaps, as yet, you have never known this experience. Perhaps you have only ever known the sweetness of the Lord’s gracious love bathing your soul and reassuring your heart that he is yours and you are his. If this is so, then be deeply thankful. For many Christians, however, the life of faith is punctuated with times of darkness, when the sense of God’s presence is covered by the acute sense of its absence.

      There are no doubt many reasons why the Lord allows his precious children to “walk in the valley of the shadow of death”, bereft of the sense of his loving presence. Paul gives us one reason in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” You will know that the Bible gives to such sorely pressed believers a wealth of encouragement. God’s word assures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love; that he will never leave us or forsake us; that our times are in his hands, that all things work together for the good of those who love God. All this is wonderfully true and deeply reassuring.

      There is, however, a more basic truth to grasp and build your life upon when all the lights go out. Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke these words to his people at a particularly dark period in their life: “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isa.50:10). Those words, “who has no light,” are awesome and fearsome. No light! Not a glimmer, not a pin-prick, just unremitting darkness. Does it seem incredible to you that such could be the experience of an authentic Christian? We would be tempted to say to a professing believer whose life was bathed in darkness, “Are you sure you have really repented and trusted alone in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour? Has God’s Spirit really come to dwell within you?” And yet, here we find God’s own people, who “fear the Lord” and “obey the word of his servant”, being encouraged, by their Lord, in their overwhelming and all-consuming darkness, to “trust in the name of the Lord.”

      These words of Isaiah are surely the Old Testament equivalent of Paul’s “we live by faith and not by sight.” Faith is not only what unites us to Christ, it is the grace that keeps us walking in the way of Christ. It is almost impossible, in fact it is impossible, to know in any way what it must be like to have no light. The sense of the absence of God’s presence can be demoralising and devastating. And yet, the Lord’s counsel to his light-less children is this, “Trust me!” In particular, “Trust who I am (the name of the Lord)”. This is the ultimate issue, it seems to me in the life of faith; when faced with a choice, will we believe the testimony of our circumstances, or will we believe the character of the God who is love and who loves his children with a love that “spared not his only Son but gave him up for us all?”

      The life of faith, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, is subject, for many reasons, to difficulties, discouragements, oppositions, hardships, disappointments and much worse. It is also subject to “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” In all of faith’s highs and lows, the Lord calls us to trust him. Even behind a “frowning providence, he hides a smiling face.” In our Saviour’s darkest moment, when the darkness of the sun sacramentalised the darkness covering his soul, even then he cried, “My God, my God...?” He had no light, but in his darkness (which of course was redemptively unique darkness), he trusted in God. If any who read this know in any way what it is like to have no light, “trust in the name of the Lord.” The rest of you - be thankful that as yet you have been spared that experience, and keep trusting the Lord, resting the whole weight of your life upon the grace and love of his unchanging character.

      Yours as ever in the bonds of God’s love,

      Ian Hamilton