Turning on the Light
Charles Naylor, 1941
The dense black clouds rolled up from the west, obscuring the sky, shutting out the light and making it so dark that I could no longer see to work. My wife walked over to the center of the room and turned the switch on the lamp, and instantly the room was flooded with light.
We know in our home that there is a way to produce light any time we wish to do so. We know just what to do to produce that light. When we do that thing, we expect the light—but the light does not shine until it is turned on. It requires something on our part in order to bring about its shining. If we did not do that thing—then we could not have the light no matter how much current there was in the wire, nor how good a lamp might be in the socket.
Now, spiritual life and experience are very much like temporal life and experience. The same principles hold good in both.
Will a Christian ever get in darkness? Will not his pathway always be illuminated by the light of Heaven?
For some time past, a man has been trying to convince me that a Christian should never go into darkness, that we should always be in the light. Well, that would be fine were it true, but when we read the Bible we find that people did not always have such an experience. We know that Job was a righteous man, but he passed through a time of terrible darkness. He suffered many things he could not understand—he had many experiences he thought he ought not to have had. The Psalmist cries out of darkness, and sometimes almost out of despair. The New Testament speaks of being in heaviness through manifold trials, and of being tried by strange things.
But why should a Christian have seasons of darkness? For the same reason that my light was shut off by the clouds so that I could not work. That is, circumstances combine in such a way as to produce the darkness. It was no fault of mine that I could not see. I had not sinned against the Lord when he sent the clouds.
Yet sometimes I do pull down the shade and shut out the light. In the same way, Christians sometimes do things that shut out the light, but many times the light is shut out by circumstances that arise through no fault of the one experiencing the darkness.
But does not the Bible say that "he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life"? To be sure it says that, and it speaks truly. We are not in darkness in the sense of being without God's light upon our souls. We know his truth, and his Spirit illuminates our souls. The sun shines upon this planet all the time; it is only obscured in an eclipse, and then only a small portion of the surface of the world is affected. But it happens that we are not always on the side of the earth on which it is shining. We are in darkness almost half of the time—and yet the sun is shining continually. The trouble is, that the earth gets between us and the sun by turning around with its other side to the sun. Circumstances have a way of turning us around sometimes—so that the light of God, be it ever so bright, cannot for the time fall upon us. We are left in the shadow of those circumstances which come in our lives—and we cannot help it.
But how can one be in God's light, and in darkness, at the same time? Just the same way that a man can be in the darkness and in the light when he takes a lantern and goes forth on a dark night. When we get on the shadowy side of a circumstance, instead of despairing—we should light our lantern or turn on our electric light.
Before we notice how to do this, let us look a little further at the way people who are good Christians sometimes get into darkness.
In the first place, darkness comes from unexpected circumstances or from circumstances over which we have no control.
Sorrow comes to us unbidden.
Death invades the family circle.
Losses come in business.
We may be blamed for things for which we are not guilty.
Trials may come which we do not understand.
Our joy may take wings, and heaviness may settle down upon us.
We may come to a place where prayer is difficult or impossible—and when we try to pray our words mock us.
Do I hear someone exclaim, "A Christian never gets into such a situation!" Well, maybe you never have, but I have. I have had the experience more than once. I have known many others to have such experiences.
Under such circumstances, many people become discouraged. That is not the proper thing to do. When darkness comes—then turn on the light.
Job had seen dark places before, but none of them had ever been so dark as the one in which he found himself in his special time of trial. He said, "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness" (Job 29:2-3). Now he was in darkness in which God's light did not seem to shine—yet still he was a righteous man. God himself said so.
Here is a promise to those who are walking in darkness, "Unto the upright—there arises light in the darkness" (Psalm 112:4). This shows that even the upright get into places where they need light, and here is a promise in which to trust when we are in such a place. Sometimes we are like Job said of himself, "When I looked for good—then evil came unto me. And when I waited for light—there came darkness" (Job 30:26).
We do not always get out of darkness at once. Sometimes we pray—and no answer seems to come. God wants us to continue to endure. He desires us to hold fast our faith in him. No matter even if our darkness has been caused by some fault of our own—hold fast to our confidence in God, and turn on the light. You may have to grope in the darkness for a while before you find where to turn on the light and how to do it. Nevertheless, if you persevere—you will find the way, and the light will come. You have already within you the light of life that God gives to all who are saved. God will keep that shining no matter how dark external circumstances may be.
In the darkest hour we may turn to God's lamp, for the Psalmist has said, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." So, in your trouble turn to the Word of God. Read its promises. Behold in it the mercies of God—his faithfulness and his loyalty to his own. Take his Word for your light and for the basis of your hope. No matter how dark things may look, God's Word is true to you just as it was to Job, to Abraham, to David, and to millions of others. We turn on light from Heaven by believing in God, trusting in his loving-kindness with confidence. The Psalmist said, "They looked unto him, and were radiant" (Psalm 34:5). They were radiant; that is, the light shone round about them and it shone from within themselves. When the light of joy comes into the soul—then how quickly the things around us, no matter what their nature, are illuminated!