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God is Present in Darkness by Eric Zahnd

Second Baptist Church’s Lenten tradition of extinguishing a candle during each worship service as we move toward the darkness of the crucifixion seems especially relevant in our world at this moment.

We have experienced much darkness on a national and global scale recently. Raging wildfires. Massive hurricanes. Horrific mass shootings. Bitter political discord. Nuclear threats relating to North Korea. Terror attacks across the globe. And the list could go on.

Several in our midst are also experiencing dark times in their personal lives. Illness. Death of a loved one. Divorce. Loss of a job. Sexual abuse. Domestic violence. False accusations. And the list could go on.

The symbolic darkness we create by extinguishing candles during Lent is a representation of the true darkness that led to Christ’s crucifixion and the darkness experienced by each of us during times of turmoil.

Despite the encroaching darkness of Good Friday, two reasons for hope endure through Lent and in our lives.

First, regardless of how dark things become in the world that surrounds us and in our own lives, God is there. God is present with us when the darkness seems ready to overtake us.

Solomon recognized precisely this, praying to God who dwelled in “thick darkness.”  1 Kings 8:12. And David, of course, knew that the Lord was his shepherd, such that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4.

Of course, darkness makes it harder to find God. For many of us, it’s easy to believe God is at work during times of lightness and joy. But it’s harder to sense God’s presence when life is dark and full of chaos.

But God is there nevertheless, ready to protect and comfort us. But we must continue to trust in God during those dark times.

Second, we can be confident that darkness is temporary. God promises us that the light will overtake the darkness in the end.

We know that the darkness of Good Friday ends with the bright light of Christ’s resurrection. And God’s promise to us is that the dark times in our lives will also end.

Jesus emphasizes that the light of God’s love will overtake the darkness. Recalling Isaiah 9:1-2, Jesus proclaims, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Matthew 4:16.

Likewise, as he explores Jesus’ divinity, John emphasizes that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5.

Of course, the dark periods of our lives may last longer than the three days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Sometimes, when we are deep in their midst, the darkness seems like it may never end.

While we may not know the duration, we can remain steadfast knowing that darkness will never ultimately overcome God’s light.

Given the number of national and international tragedies in the past year and the personal challenges recently encountered by several in our congregation, Second’s practice of helping us worship even during looming darkness is particularly poignant this Lenten season.

So let’s join together in worship during Lent, confident in the hope that comes with God’s promises to us. We can indeed experience God’s presence during the dark times of our lives, assured that God’s light and love will ultimately overcome.

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