“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Peace in the face of fear. Peace in place of anxiety. Peace with God and men. God’s promises of peace weave their way through the Bible like a silver thread in a tapestry. Today, as we continue to focus on peace this Advent week, we are going to look at the peace God offers in times of darkness. You may wonder what darkness and Christmas have to do with one another, but multiple studies have shown that often Christmas triggers depressive episodes. Only the promise of God’s peace can sustain us in these times.
The Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, wrote a poem that has become synonymous with seasons of darkness, called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” This phrase is used often to describe those times of intense internal struggle and emptiness. Even Mother Teresa experienced this. As one who struggles often with depression, I have come to find the peace that I need in the Word of God. The people featured in the Bible were real people who experienced the highs and lows of real life. They also experienced God’s peace in seasons of darkness.
David was one given to these highs and lows, Psalm 13 is one of those that shows us the depth of David’s despair – “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? (v. 2) – and the height of his faith in God – “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my hearts rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” (v. 5-6). What happened between the despair in verse 2 and the trust in verse 5? David chose to turn his thoughts to God. We can see the same shift in Psalm 77, written by Asaph, one of the Temple priests. The people of Judah had been taken into Babylonian captivity, and the Temple and much of the city destroyed. The situation seemed hopeless, and this is reflected in his Psalm. In verses 1-9, Asaph lamented God’s apparent rejection of His people. In verse 2 he says “my soul refused to be comforted.” Ever been there? I know I have.
But look at verse 10. Asaph turns his mind and heart on a pivot, like a door on its hinges. “Then I thought, to this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the Lord…I will meditate on all Your words” (vs. 10, 11, 12). Just as we talked about in a previous devotional, Asaph chose to change the focus of his heart and mind, and to remember and meditate instead on the character and deeds of God. And when he opened that door, hope and peace flooded in. We see the same change of mind in Lamentations 3, verse 1 starts out: “I am the man who has seen affliction,” and continues for 20 verses saying “my soul is downcast within me” (v. 20). And then verse 21 begins with that hinge word: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope,” (emphasis added) and Jeremiah’s whole focus and attitude is transformed.
In my own dark night of the soul, I began to focus on the character of God by studying the Names of God. By intentionally directing my thoughts daily to God, I not only survived the darkness, but I came to know the person and character of my faithful, compassionate, loving, trustworthy, mighty, sovereign, healing, peace-giving God at a depth I would not have experienced otherwise. It is a practice is still follow eight years later.
Almost everyone, in some fashion has times of emotional struggle. If you don’t, you should count yourself very blessed. The only sure way to find peace in the darkness is to turn to God, to wrap His Words around you like a comforter and trust in His love, faithfulness and peace of to carry you through. Let the peace of God bring light into the darkness as you look to the newborn Prince of Peace.
Yahweh Shalom, the Lord my Peace, there are no words to thank you enough for carrying me through those times of struggle and pain. Thank you for bringing Your light to shine in the darkness. Amen.