Walking through our house one night, with the lights off, I suddenly became disoriented.
My arms extended out in front of me, fingers searching for a door frame or a light switch, I looked like a bewildered Frankenstein monster cruising through the dining room.
I had made that trip - from the bathroom to the bedroom and vice versa - more times than I could count but for some reason the depth of darkness made it impossible to navigate. I began to wonder if I had been turned around, maybe headed in the wrong direction. I suppose if I had wandered long enough without making contact with a hard surface, I would have wondered whether or not I was still in the house.
As irrational as that sounds, when you don't find something solid in the darkness it is all too easy to assume the worst.
Thinking on this as I drove to the office today, and the old hymn "The Solid Rock" came to mind. One line in particular:
When darkness seems to hide His face...
I encounter in myself and in others the tendency to lose God in the darkness. The darkness of health & financial issues, the darkness of a loss of that "electric spiritual sensation" that comes from our first encounters with prayer & Scripture, the darkness of relational dysfunction and destruction - all of it can lead to our experience of the hiding of God's face.
We lose Him in the darkness and we assume, not that the light is inadequate to see Him, but that He is gone.
Behavioral psychologists talk about the learning process that infants go through to establish something called "object permanence." When you show a toddler a rubber ball, then hide it behind your back, the child is devastated. Why? The reason is that they have no sense of object permanence - for all they know the ball has evaporated and vanished and no longer exists.
When we are faced with darkness in our lives, our sense of object permanence - in relation to God - is knocked off kilter. We get saturated in darkness and start to believe that our flittering fingers will never again grasp the firm, solid face of hope and grace and salvation.
David wondered, in the darkness of his conflict with enemies, how long this darkness would last?
Jesus wondered, pierced on a Roman execution device, how long God would turn away from this suffering?
So what do we do? We grope in the darkness. We put our hands out in front, we walk and we stumble and we stubbornly remember that God is present and good and true even when the light is insufficient to see Him. Even when we suffer. Even when we are confused, misdirected, and even feel lost.
We stumble through darkness knowing that the dark may "hide" His face, but it cannot "overcome" it.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (1 John 1:2-4)