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Dec 10, 2017

Darkness: Experiencing God on the Night Shift

Darkness: Experiencing God on the Night Shift

Passage: John 1:5

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Light In the Darkness: Christmas 2017

Keywords: creator, darkness, god's presence, grief, light, questions, sin


Life has plenty of dark places and periods. But what is God's relationship to not only us in those times but darkness itself, both physical and figurative? Does God really want to dispel all darkness in this life or has he created darkness for some deep, enriching reasons? This message deals with God's and our relationship to darkness in this life.


Darkness:  Finding God on the Night Shift

December 10, 2017

INTRO:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vvNxhlP1jA

On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 reading in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the Moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited Genesis chapter 1, verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.

            Light and darkness forms the narrative of the first words of the Bible.  The last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, vs. 5, tells us that in the New Heaven and Earth, darkness will be no more.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

            I don’t think God is saying that darkness in the literal, physical sense is a bad thing.  Within the proper rhythm of days and nights, darkness plays a very crucial role for especially human beings.  It’s called our circadian rhythm.  It’s that internal 24-hour clock that makes us alert when we should be awake and drowsy when we should be sleeping.  And it is tied very closely with our exposure to light and darkness. 

The fact that 20% of us are working at night…in artificially lighted conditions…means that a bunch of other “systems” in our body which take their cues from our light/dark cycles, are getting messed with.  That has a tendency to change melatonin levels which in turn seems to impact stress levels and thus our immune systems.  Humans actually need physical darkness. 

In fact, studies show that nightshift workers are at increased risk of a range of health problems, from stress and stomach ulcers to depression, heart disease and cancer. For example, a 2001 study in Seattle, based on interviews with 800 women, found that females who worked the graveyard shift could face a 60% increase in the risk of breast cancer.

[Found at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/mar/15/health.medicineandhealth3]

            It should not surprise us that God is a god of both light and darkness, at least in the physical sense.  Isaiah 45:7— “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” 

            Darkness is not simply the absence of light.  In fact, THE darkest places in the universe actually may have the most concentrated light—black holes.  According to physicists and astronomers, black holes are so dense that they do not allow light to escape. Their gravitational pull is so strong that they can tear apart nearby/passing stars.  But were we able to insert ourselves into a black hole, it is supposed that it would be far brighter in the “black hole” than outside.  Try and wrap your brain around that one! 

What I find particularly fascinating when it comes to physical darkness in our universe is that the vast majority of energy and matter is what scientists call “dark matter” and “dark energy.”  It’s “dark” because we know it has to be there but we have not been able to “see it” because it isn’t like all the other visible or detectable matter in the universe. 

            Scientists have come up with the following composition of the universe: 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, 5% normal matter. (Since when is 5% of anything the “norm” or “normal”???) [https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy] So even our smartest scientists have discovered in the last 25 years that most of what is going on in the expansion of our universe is shrouded in “darkness” that is very difficult to understand.

            I’m not suggesting that this unobserved matter and energy IS God.  God is distinct from His creation. But what I would suggest is that the God who created light and darkness uses darkness just as much as light (and maybe more) to reveal himself to us and to call us to both appreciation of His greatness and wonder at His wisdom, strength, intelligence, creativity and entire nature. 

Q:  As children, how many of us were afraid of the dark at some time?  As adults?  J

Q:  How many of us were afraid of the light as children?  (Probably when we were doing something we weren’t supposed to in the dark! J)

            So speaking of darkness physically, I think it is safe to say that God often uses night and darkness to speak to His servants as well as to a lost world. 

Let’s brainstorm for a few minutes as many different biblical incidents as we can think of where night and darkness was involved with God’s encounters with people.

  1. Creation of the world, Gen. 1-2
  2. Creation of woman: while Adam slept (night?)
  3. Darkness of the Noahic flood: darkness of deep waters, of rain and clouds, of night, of death, etc.
  4. Abraham: how did God use darkness?  “Look at the stars….”  15—God’s covenant with Abram happened at night, “as the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” 
  5. Sodom & Gomorrah—Gen. 19, the depth of their depravity was revealed at night when Lot harbored the 2 angels.
  6. 27—the blindness/darkness of Isaac’s vision allowed Jacob to take/steal/receive what should have been Esau’s blessing.
  7. 28—Jacob’s dream at Bethel of a “stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God…ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord.” 
  8. 29—Laban tricks Jacob into marrying both Leah and Rachel by giving him Leah first, unbeknownst to him because of the darkness in the wedding tent that night. But how was God using that to shape and grow Jacob? 
  9. 32—Jacob wrestles with God all night, alone, until daybreak comes. The result is that he walked with a “hitch in his get-up” for the rest of his life…not to mention the change of heart and blessing he and his offspring received because of that night wrestling. 
  10. Genesis 37—Joseph’s life-changing dream about his brothers bowing to him.
  11. 39-40—God uses Joseph’s time in the “darkness” of prison to make him a diviner of dreams (the Cupbearer and the Baker) >>
  12. Gen 41—Pharaoh’s dreams
  13. Exodus
    1. 10—Plague of darkness for 3 days (9th of 10)
    2. 12—Passover…at night
    3. 14:19ff—“Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.”  This miraculous deliverance of Israel and destruction of the Egyptian army happened at night. (See also Joshua 34:7.) 

Others in O.T.?  Gideon—God-encounters and battles; David—Psalms, caves, wrestling with God for life of son; Jonah 3 days in the belly of the great fish; Daniel’s visions and lion’s den; Jeremiah in the pit;

In N.T.?

Jesus in the Garden, night prayers, storms of Galilee, night of injustice before crucifixion, 3 hrs. of darkness on the cross; Peter in the Garden, sprung from prison by angles at night; Pilate’s wife’s dream; Church’s all-night prayer meetings in Acts; Saul’s blindness on road to Damascus; John’s visions in Revelation while exiled. 


  • How many of us have had some of the best spiritual discussions with our children at night—putting them to bed, around the campfire/camping?
  • Night wrestling with God? Sleeplessness?  Illness?
  • Victims of other people’s evil in the darkness of night?
  • Imposed darkness of Wind Storm (2015) and Icestorm 1996?

At Solomon’s dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, he starts his song of praise with these words:

Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.  (I Kings 8:12; 2 Chron. 6:1)

Here’s THE POINT:  God often uses darkness, both literal and figurative, to deal with/encounter His people. 

  • What kinds of memories do you have of God using nighttime and darkness to draw you closer to Him?

HOW does physical darkness help us connect to God? 

  • Limits sensory distractions.
  • Lowers human interactions.
  • Brings a quietness.
  • Aids in rest/sleep.
  • Brings fears to the surface

What is darkness when it comes to relating to God?

Let me propose a definition:  Darkness is an inability to “see” with our finite humanness what we wish we could understand. 

            Job is perhaps the best illustration of this in the O.T.  It’s a book of the darkness of suffering—death, illness, friendship lost, poverty, etc.  More than any other O.T. book, Job speaks of darkness: 30 times in this 1 book.

  1. The Darkness of empty, unwise, foolish, God-accusing words.

Job 38:1-2:  Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:  “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

            As good, wise and righteous as Job had been, his suffering had led him into questioning the goodness of God.  So after 37 chapters of hearing Job and his friends argue with each other, God finally breaks through and starts to speak.  It’s not an explanation of why God has allowed so much suffering in his life.  It’s not an argument about why good people suffer.  It’s just a list of 77 questions, mostly about just the physical world/creation, none of which Job has an answer for but all of which show the absolute superiority in every realm of God’s power, creativity, intelligence, wisdom, etc. 

APP:  Some questions about life and what God permits in life can lead us into darkness. It’s certainly fine to ask God any question.  But allowing that to turn us into people who think God is evil and we are right will end in darkness and “darkened counsel.”

  1. Darkness of death and the grave. Job 38:17-- Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

All of us who have walked through the shadow of the valley of death with someone know that death is an impenetrable wall, a “darkness” that we cannot by our own sense delve into and fully understand. 

            Back to our definition of darkness:  darkness is an inability to “see” with our finite humanness what we wish we could understand. 

  • What is it about the darkness of death that we wish we could “see” or “discern” or “penetrate” that makes it so hard?
  • What is it about physical pain, disease and illness that we wish we could “see” or “discern” that might make it more bearable?
  • What is it about the darkness of a bad marriage that we wish we could discern?
  • What is it about the darkness of poverty that we wish we could “see” through?
  • How about the darkness of unemployment?
  • The darkness of injustice?
  • Abuse?
  • Discouragement? Depression? 

The bottom line with darkness is that it robs us of insight, information, truth, perception, wisdom or any number of things that might make some aspect of life or God a little more understandable or comprehensible.

            So in those moments…or days…or months when we are experiencing some sort of darkness due to lack of experience-based answers, what is God trying to do with us in the darkness of life?  What can we say God is wanting to grow us in precisely when that growth is most difficult?  (Job, Abraham, Paul, Peter, Jeremiah, Daniel, Joseph, Mary, etc.?)

  • Faith in God
  • Insight into truth
  • Passion for the right
  • Trust/confidence in God
  • Perseverance
  • Forgiveness
  • The nature of Christ!

ILL:  Just last week, I experienced a little taste of how, over the long haul, God desires to meet us IN the darkest hours of our life and show us things we never would grasp, and certainly not to the depth we grasp in darkness, about LIFE in Him.

--Watching Gerry Sittser talk about a couple of things he grasped about God in the darkness of death of 3 family members in the same accident. I’ve never heard him speak openly about it in 25 years of knowing him since that darkness. 

  • Grappling with what his children had lost in the “us” of marriage when the “she” of Mom was taken away.
  • Video watching his 18 month old son being held in his arms grab his wife with the other arm and pull them both together around him. It was a spontaneous act of knowing where he was the happiest, safest, most content. 

See A Grace Disguised—How the Soul Grows Through Grief by Gerald Sittser. 

APP:  What “dark” experiences in life can you point to that God has used to grow and mature you? 

[Speak them out in one-phrase statements so others here who may be going through the similar thing can hear a voice of experience at close range.]

Now, what important truths did God drive home in that darkness?

APP:  We all have dark days and darkness ahead in life.  We usually can’t predict when it will happen or how it will even affect us.  But we can determine in advance that, by the grace of God, we will allow God to work into us what sometimes only the darkness can do.

  1. Perhaps the biggest challenge in the darkened experiences of life is to believe/trust/embrace the often imperceptible reality that GOD IS THERE in the dark!

Daniel 2—After all the “wise men” of Babylon are ordered executed by King Nebuchadnezzar because the secular/pagan ones couldn’t tell him what his dream was, Daniel and his 3 Hebrew friends ask the king for a little time to ask Jehovah for the answer.  It comes that night to Daniel in a vision.  Here is what Daniel says to God in response to this life-saving answer:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.

Do you think God was preparing Daniel for any more “dark spaces/experiences” in his life?  (Lion’s den?  Death in captivity?]

David in Psalm 139:11, 12-- If I say, 

“Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Then he goes on to talk about how God formed every one of us in the “darkness” of our mother’s womb.  While we can penetrate the physical darkness of the womb today, we still cannot understand the multiple millions upon millions of miraculous chemical and biological interactions that take place during those 9 months God is doing His “knitting project” on us.  If we can’t even understand what God does in the darkness of the womb, we probably should trust His word about the dark experiences of life in which He promises He is with us.  Our darkest darkness is as light to God.  He sees what we cannot (and apparently what we do not need to see in order to please God in living by faith). 

I would like to try something that may be a growth challenge for some of you.  Or it may just be a crazy idea on my part.  We’ll see. 

APP:  I’d like to see if we can’t minister one to another today a bit by linking those who may be experiencing some sort of darkness today with those who have been in that darkness before and can testify that God saw them through it AND, in many cases, gave them a deeper experience of Him through it all. 

  1. Someone name a “darkness” they are experiencing currently.

[Write down…

  1. Someone else acknowledge you’ve been in that darkness before…and share very briefly how God met you/spoke to you/ grew you in that darkness.

I would be remiss if I left you with the feeling that all darkness is to be embraced according to Scripture.  There are plenty of passages that speak of darkness as EVIL.  As such, we are certainly to flee from all evil and avoid that kind of darkness. 

  • The Apostle John frequently uses darkness as a virtual synonym for evil in both his Gospel and 1st
    • John 1:5-- The light shines in the darkness, and the darknesshas not overcome it.
    • John 3:19-- And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness

rather than the light because their works were evil.

  • 1st John 1:5,6--This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 
  • 1st John 2:11-- But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Peter echoes the same in I Peter 2:9-- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul uses this same imagery for evil too.  Look at just a couple of his passages:

  • Romans 13:12-- The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-- Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? Here light and righteousness are synonymous just as “lawlessness” and “darkness” 
  • Colossians 1:13“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son….”  Darkness is clearly associated with our life immersed and oriented around sinfulness before Christ, before we were given a new spirit and new heart that longs after God.  The image is of a blind person.  That was our life before knowing Jesus Christ.  But after experiencing a miraculous new birth in Christ, we were given sight. We now experience a whole world of sighted-living.  WHY would we ever want to go back into the darkness? 

What’s interesting even about this old life of darkness we used to live in continually is that WHENEVER God calls us to flee the darkness of sin, even there the presence of darkness/evil in our world holds a blessing for us.  It’s the blessing of growth, of a new life, of righteous decisions instead of sinful ones.  Darkness presents us with a clear choice.  It isn’t “twilight” or “foggy.”  Every choice we make for good or for evil is a choice between light and darkness.  


All of us, until the day God takes us home, will face the darkness of evil and the darkness of difficult experiences.  But both those darknesses are opportunities to grasp the hand of God and march with confidence into an uncertain future. Even if it means having to live through the horrors of war, God will be there IN the darkness.

ILL:  In December 1939, King George VI was England’s reigning monarch.  As was the custom, the king addressed the nation on a BBC radio broadcast on December 24th.  It was his annual Christmas Eve message. 

England had just declared war on Nazi Germany in early September after Germany’s occupation of Poland. It was just 5 months before the French and English defeat at Dunkirk. In those uncertain last days of 1939, the king gave a speech intended to bring peace to calm his people.

As King George concluded his message of encouragement, he read the preamble of a poem that had been brought to his attention by his young daughter, Princess Elizabeth, (now Queen Elizabeth).  Princess Elizabeth was only 13 years old in 1939.  The poem that she brought to her father’s attention was written by British poet Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957).  It’s known under two titles:  “God Knows” and “The Gate of the Year” The first lines are what King George left with his fellow Englishmen facing the darkness of WWII. 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness

and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God,

trod gladly into the night.


[The poem continues though the king did not read the rest:

And He led me towards the hills

and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:

What need our little life

Our human life to know,

If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife

Of things both high and low,

God hideth His intention.

God knows.

His will is best.

The stretch of years

Which wind ahead, so dim

To our imperfect vision,

Are clear to God. Our fears

Are premature; In Him,

All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until

God moves to lift the veil

From our impatient eyes,

When, as the sweeter features

Of Life’s stern face we hail,

Fair beyond all surmise

God’s thought around His creatures

Our mind shall fill.]

Found at https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/gate-of-the-year/