In Darkness

by - October 19, 2009

In darkness, I am seen.

The most profound moments of my life happen in bed (If I could end the sentence there, it would just be too funny) ... while I can't sleep and am left alone with my thoughts. Since high school, I have struggled with insomnia and what I believe to be depression, and night time has always served as a space for wrestling with life. There were two moments in the first year of college that I distinctly recall as some of the darkest moments of my life, spiritually and emotionally.

My first semester of school was particularly hard. I was eight hours from home, pining away for a summer crush that rejected me, had not found a solid church community (had managed to wander into a cult or two while looking), and was very lonely. Looking back and knowing the struggles I'd later work through, I want to grab my 18 year old face (pimpled from stress, anxiety and too much root beer and fudge nut brownies) and just say, "Waaaaaaaah."

But at the time, my pain was very real to me. I remember my breaking point, lying on my loft bed wanting to pray and only being able to let out little sobs and moans. At that moment, the words from Romans 8:26-27 came alive to me.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
The spirit of God himself searched my heart, saw the pain and sent up prayers for me as I was unable to express anything more than tears. God saw me. In my darkness, I was known.

The next time I would find myself this overwhelmed was the summer after the first year of college. That spring my only grandfather had passed away, and though I believed in Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, I was going through a time of serious doubts where I had no hope in life after death. I doubted the very existence of a heaven where God and people would one day live. Around June, I was working at Camp Vesper Point and still deeply grieving the loss of my grandfather.

One night in particular, I was lying on the bottom bunk with my eyes wide open in the dark, unable to rest my mind from the sadness and fear of death. As girls slept peacefully around me, my soul felt tormented and alone. All I wanted was sleep and to not think. I have to say that I am incredibly thankful for a church that encouraged children commit scripture to memory because at my times of greatest need, the words of God have always flooded into my heart. This night I reflected on Psalm 121.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

It hit me in that in my moment of unrest, God wasn't sleeping either. He was awake with me. He saw me in my darkness.

While the Christian faith is about something far larger than the individual, God is a very personal God. Sometimes in struggles of faith and doubt, I feel lost at church - like everyone gets something that I am missing. I see passion but feel dispassion. It makes me want to recede into myself and draw away from community. I begin to think God is for them, but not me - in my doubts I am disqualified from His presence. But in my darkness, God's words speak to my heart on a personal level. He reminds me that I am His child that he sees, fights for, lies awake with at night, loves, and restores.

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  1. It's posts like this Paige, that make me wish we were still in the same community group! I love your insight and the scriptures you highlighted. As I am trying to dig deeper into God's word, it's always amazing to see how personal He is to each of us, yet loving the whole world. Humbling. I loved how you realized God was awake too. I think He told you :-)

  2. Thanks :). I miss being in a community group with you too!

  3. you must be overhearing the voices in my head. no, really. i couldn't have said it so eloquently but i wanted you to know you are not alone in the doubt & fear.

    this year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. i desperately want to believe in God but find my unbelief to be a wedge in preventing me from seeking God & seeking community.

    so, the past two weeks spurred me on to do two things: volunteer at V21 & obtain a personal bible study on belief in God. it's a beth moore study that i think will help me focus on my unbelief & fear. if you are so inclined to join me in it (even in an online discussion), i'm game.

    mostly, i wanted you to know you are not alone in the fear. i'm so glad you know God is there & you are in my thoughts & prayers.

    thanks for your honesty & transparency on this issue.

  4. Sharon, it's crazy how often we seem to be on the same page spiritually though our lives may look quite different. What's the name of the study? I've never done any of her studies, but maybe it's time.

  5. i've only done one of her studies many, many years ago. i remembered enjoying that study & knew i needed something similar to sort of interest me & motivate me. i figured i'd wander into the lifeway (even though it's not one of my favorite stores) & just see what beth moore had to offer.

    i found a study that really hit home with me:

    it's called believing God & it's a focus on faith & belief in God. i can't seem to find something with an image of the back of the book which really summed it up as a focus on studying the hebrews 11 passage of the hall of faith & people in it. the first lesson is just understanding why we do or do not believe God.

    i'm just on day two but i'm excited about it & that means a lot. for the record, i just got the workbook & i'm getting the "fill in the blanks" answers from my mom from the viewer sessions her bible study group did with this. i didn't see the need to get the videos for me.

    it looks like she also has a hard copy of the book that focuses on this which you may fine helpful.

    if a workbook is your thing, then perhaps it will help motivate you. for me, it's been an accountability for me to consider scripture, what it means, why it's important, & really just explore why i'm feeling like i am about my belief & lack thereof.

    it couldn't hurt to take a bit to browse at a bookstore or online to see if something resonates with you. i've just always turned to the hebrews 11 passage when in turmoil ... it's one thing that has kept me going in very difficult circumstances before now & something i ralized was a hingepoint for me to reconnect.

  6. Why is it that all of the neatest people I know have struggled with depression? And why is it that so many of them are Christians, yet when I go to church it feels so taboo to talk about not being OK, and especially taboo to talk about doubts and fears about faith?

  7. K, I don't know, but it seems to me that if God isn't threatened by our fears and doubts, then the church shouldn't be either.

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