“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3 NLT)
Sitting in the quiet of the chapel in the school where I worked, I read these words for the first time, and I felt hope ignite within me. Although they had been written long ago, it felt like God was speaking them directly to me, and it made me wonder:
Could there really be treasures hidden in the darkness – even in the darkness I faced?
Did God really see my struggles and call me by name?
For the last few years I had suffered spells of what I described as “the darkness.” It would come suddenly, with no warning, and when it did it felt like a light had been switched off inside me. Suddenly the world seemed black and hopeless, like there was a shadow over everything, like I wasn’t fully present. When the darkness came, it felt like it would last forever, but it never did.
After a couple of days, I would gradually be able to climb back towards the light and I would be okay… until the next time.
It was becoming more frequent though; that was what was bothering me, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
On the few occasions I had tried to tell someone, their reactions had been less than helpful. They had no idea what to do with it and didn’t want to listen. I was left feeling that they just wanted to pass the problem onto someone else, that it was too much, that I was too much.
I hadn’t even told them about what I suspected was the real reason behind it. That was something I had never given voice to, not even to God.
As I read these words from Isaiah, they encouraged me to begin seeking the treasures in the darkness and, as I looked, I discovered that they were there to be found.
I learned that God was with me in the darkness – that he did not condemn me or see me as weak, but that he knew and he cared.
I learned to pray my way through the darkness, to pray for strength for the moment. When I looked at the day ahead, it seemed overwhelming but I learned that if I kept praying and took one step at a time, God would help me through.
I learned to prepare myself for the darkness – to fill my mind with truth while I was in the light, to write it down and hold to it, to remind myself that, no matter how bad I felt, the light had always come back on before and it would again.
I learned not to be afraid of the darkness – that God was still the same, whatever the circumstances and however I felt.
I learned to trust God more, and I finally learned that it was safe to open up.
I learned that, even though the darkness is strong, the light is always stronger, and eventually God gave me the strength to bring it all into the light – the abuse I had experienced as a child which I had never spoken of, which had held me captive in fear and anxiety for far too long. (You can read more about that here.)
When you’re used to hiding in the darkness, the light is dazzling and it is painful. Speaking out was a massive step, but it was only the beginning of a long journey of gradually allowing the light to touch the broken places and bring healing. Slowly the darkness lost its grip and I was able to live free from the fear that it would descend at any moment.
Now I live in the light. Occasionally there are days when the darkness returns, but it is less extreme and now it is only once or twice a year, when at its worst it was once a fortnight.
These times prompt me to look back and give thanks. While the darkness was unpleasant, there were amazing treasures to be discovered, and my relationship with God is much stronger than it would have been without that time.
Now I write to give others hope that, whatever the darkness they face, God is stronger, and to obey the other verse of Scripture God spoke to me at that time:
“What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear.” (Matthew 10:27 NLT)