The Word from heaven will come to us with dazzling light to shine upon those who live in darkness, near death’s dark shadow. And He will illuminate the path that leads to the way of peace. [Luke 1:79]
Last week, I shared about my journey through what I call “The New Dark.”
For too long, I armored up against dark things in life by doing my best to not confront them at all. (In case you’re wondering, it did not work.)
I didn’t want to face the dark because I was afraid of being overcome by it.
But I believe much differently now, and I have experienced the difference.
Ultimately, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re never going to be overcome by the dark things in this world because there’s Someone in you Who is far greater than this world.
Jesus is greater because He overcame the world. And here’s where it gets oh-so-good-it-must-be-true-because-no-one-could-make-this-stuff-up — Jesus conquered the world, then He shared His victory with us, and now we are MORE than conquerors.
Please take a moment to let that sink in. Because, if you really believe it, you’ll never be afraid of the dark again.
This week, I want to share with you some key steps I took in applying Jesus’ victory to the dark things in my life.
But first I want to answer a couple of questions…
What is the dark?
Before we move forward, I want to define what I mean when I say “darkness” or “the dark” so nothing is assumed. I don’t believe it’s helpful to just define it generically as “bad,” because the definition of “bad” tends to be subjective. Sometimes we even attempt to make sense of the bad things in our lives by glorifying them.
“God made you sick to teach you something.”
“God made you depressed to bring you closer to Him.”
“God made you poor so you would rely on Him.”
“This (insert bad thing) happened for a reason.”
And the list goes on…
Before you think I’m just pointing fingers here, I’ll be the first to admit I have said silly things to help people feel better about their pain. But I have found that scripture speaks a better word.
God only gives good and perfect gifts. He doesn’t author bad things in our lives in order to manifest His goodness. That’s manipulation. But God, in His glorious kindness, will most certainly manifest His goodness by shifting the bad things for our good. That’s good news. That’s a good Father.
Here’s how I define the dark — it’s all that is opposed to God’s Kingdom. God’s Word says His Kingdom is filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.
So whatever is trying to strip you of righteousness, peace, and joy is dark.
And, if a who and not a what just came to mind, I totally get it. People often cause us pain. But I want to remind you (and me) that we have only one enemy and his name is satan.
God has provided us a complete armory to wage war on satan, not each other. Do not strip yourself of your righteousness, peace, and joy by disregarding unity. Remember that You and I share a divine calling authored by Love Himself.
Can we really overcome darkness in this life?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Jesus has already overcome all darkness. He did this by breaking satan’s hold on us. Contrary to what we may have been taught, our Christian lives are not about defeating satan, because Jesus already did. Our lives are all about spreading Jesus’ victory throughout the world.
We wage war on satan by putting his defeat and Jesus’ victory on full display in the world around us.
Isaiah 61 says we are a planting of the Lord to be a living display of His glory — in this life, not just in the one to come.
For far too long I carried a wrong belief about the difficulties I faced in my life. I thought I was experiencing hard things because I was weak.
That’s the danger of the darkness. It intimidates us into staying hidden and getting so stuck inside of ourselves that we allow disappointments to breed wrong beliefs.
Deep down, I believed I was struggling with anxiety because I wasn’t a strong person. I believed the prolonged physical sickness only proved my insignificance.
And while all of that felt very real, and experientially evident, I could not find any proof of its truth in God’s word.
In fact, according to God’s word, life’s difficulties only stirs up strength to overcome. According to God’s word, even our weaknesses make way for God’s mighty power to be displayed in us and through us. According to God’s word, all of our troubles, even the prolonged ones, are short-lived.
You’re not “under attack” because you’re insignificant, but because you scare the you-know-what out of satan.
It’s the truth.
But it only became true in my life when I started believing it.
I had to start having more faith in God’s ability to deliver me than I had in satan’s ability to take me out.
Darkness is just a distraction, never your destiny.
6 Ways to Activate Faith and Overcome the Dark
Faith is vital. We often spend our energies seeking a quick fix to our problems, when we should be building our faith to surround them.
It all starts in your mind.
Thoughts create beliefs, beliefs dictate actions, and actions form habits. If we want to live differently, we need to first think differently.
Here are 3 mindset shifts I made to start thinking differently.
Mindset shift #1: “I’m not alone.”
…for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, “I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!” [Hebrews 13:5]
When I’m in the dark, I often feel extremely lonely. This is because pain isolates us from others. One day, when I was alone with just my thoughts and feeling very fearful, the Lord reminded me that He never leaves me alone. Even in the midst of battling my greatest fears, He was right there with me.
When life is hard, I’m quick to remind myself, “I am not alone.” When I’m alone with my thoughts, I ask God to think with me. When I’m sad or grieving, I cry with Him. When I’m frustrated or angry, we process together. When I am afraid or anxious, we take deep breaths together — I breathe in His goodness and breathe out His peace.
I also ask, God, what do You think about this? Whenever I ask this, God always gives me an upgraded perspective of my circumstances.
In a recent teaching, Beni Johnson said, “Jesus faced betrayal and He did well.” Jesus faced pain, sickness, depression, grief, anxiety, betrayal, and every other form of darkness, and He did well. So you better believe I want to know His thoughts on whatever I’m currently facing. He is a Wonderful Counselor.
Mindset shift #2: “This is not a competition.”
We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One. [2 Corinthians 10:5]
We’re all going to face troubles. But the trouble I face may not be the same trouble you face. And here is just another reason why comparison can be so deadly — If I’m not aware, I’ll take the darkness I’m facing and hold it up against what others are dealing with, and I’ll conclude one of two things, 1) “This darkness I’m up against is far too serious” or 2) “This darkness I’m facing is not serious enough.”
Either conclusion keeps me hidden and from seeking help.
Darkness is darkness is darkness. No matter how it manifests in your life, severe or simple, it will deplete you if you don’t deal with it because you were designed for the light.
Don’t compare your pain. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t be defined or confined by it.
Confront every darkness with the power of God’s Word.
Mindset shift #3: “This darkness is not my trophy. Jesus is my prize.”
If we claim that we share life with Him, but keep walking in the realm of darkness, we’re fooling ourselves and not living the truth. [1 John 1:6]
Some of us are facing some seriously dark things, or we have faced serious darkness in our pasts. It’s tempting to start identifying with the pain in order to give it meaning. We want our pain and suffering to make sense, so we attach meaning to it by claiming it as our own.
Again, I’m not pointing fingers. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve claimed the darkness as my own before as a way to cope.
It gave me a false sense of freedom. It is somewhat freeing to become less afraid of the darkness by admitting its presence in our lives, but that’s not the end of the story.
This scripture gave me clarity.
Even though I had experienced a bit of freedom from the fear of the pain by finally facing it, I wasn’t completely free from it.
If I keep claiming the darkness as mine, when does it no longer become mine? When I’m fully healed? Or did the darkness lose its tie to me when Jesus cut off its supply long ago?
When “my anxiety” became so tightly woven into my identity it was near impossible to believe I could experience complete freedom from it on this side of heaven.
I started to think, “Maybe this is just something I’m going to have to deal with the rest of my life.”
I reasoned, “It’s not as bad as it could be. A lot of other people have it a lot worse.” (Take note of the comparison here)
But here’s the bottom line, Jesus didn’t come to cut a deal with darkness, He came to completely defeat it. And He did.
Jesus conquered all darkness on the cross. If He took it, I most certainly don’t want it back. I want what Jesus paid for me to have.
According to Jesus, sickness isn’t mine anymore. Health is mine. When I am sick, my health is being attacked, but that doesn’t mean health no longer belongs to me. I don’t ignore the sickness, I fight the attack with all I’ve got. I don’t want Jesus to get any less than what He paid for on that cross.
Peace is mine. When I am experiencing anxiety, my peace is being attacked. I don’t pretend I’m not anxious, but I also don’t prescribe the panic as my new norm. I address it, I find the root of it, and I get my peace back.
There is a scripture that I will probably end up tattooing on my arm someday because I just never want to let it go.
“Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance. You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.” [Psalms 16:5]
I read this during one of the hardest months of my life last year, and it illuminated a way forward for me like nothing else.
Our bodies may break. People may severely hurt us. We may lose things precious to us. We may have to walk away from something we thought would last forever.
Jesus is the prize.
That truth doesn’t make the other things we cherish in life matter any less, but it does bring deep meaning to life that nothing else ever can.
I realized one day I would wake up and the pain of that hard season would be far removed from me, but I would still be tempted to hang on to it as some kind of glorious battle scar. I’d want to talk about it sentimentally. I’d want to remind people often of what I’ve overcome. I’d want to use it as a reason to not do certain things or relate to certain people and call it “wisdom.”
But, the removal of pain…the overcoming of hard things…even the destruction of darkness in our lives is not the prize.
Jesus is the prize. And I always have Jesus – before the pain, during the pain, and after the pain.
So I’m not waiting around for everything to work itself out before I start living like a victor. I’m not going to respond to people and problems like I’m some kind of victim. I’m not going to be defined by what I overcome, but by Who overcame it all for me.
Even in the midst of our deepest pains, we have the Prize.
Faith requires action. Here are 3 actions I took to walk in faith.
Action Step #1: Talk to someone.
Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles. [Galatians 6:2]
I’m an internal processor, which means I have a very hard time opening up to people about most things, especially the dark things that cause me pain.
But one day, after battling a long darkness, I realized that if I could get myself out of the dark all by myself, I would have done it already.
We need each other.
I know that getting help is not easy. Getting help requires trust, and many of us are in the dark because trust has been stripped from us in some way. But don’t allow what put you in the dark to keep you there.
Talk to someone.
Notice I said someone, not everyone. When it comes to processing hard things, some of us may have the tendency to speak to no one while others will have the impulse to speak to everyone. Seeking healing through confinement or committee only leads to further confusion. If you talk to no one, you’re in danger of getting stuck inside of yourself. If you talk to everyone, you’re in danger of being tossed around by multiple, maybe even conflicting opinions.
Find a counselor, a pastor, or a trusted friend who is going to lead you to the light by speaking the truth and loving you well. The inner circle will most likely naturally expand as you seek healing, but I urge you to keep that circle small.
Action Step #2: Forgive.
“But if you will not release forgiveness, don’t expect your Father in heaven to release you from your misdeeds.” [Mark 11:26]
I believe the root of all darkness (hurt, rage, bitterness, depression, anxiety, etc.) is an accusation. Maybe it’s an accusation that has been made against you (or an accusation you’ve made against yourself), an accusation you have against someone else, or maybe even an accusation you’re holding against God.
The only way to remove accusation and its ill effects in our lives is through forgiveness.
It’s how Jesus overcame our accuser, through forgiveness of the very sins we were accused.
Sometimes we need to forgive others, and sometimes we need to forgive ourselves. But always, we need to receive the forgiveness of a God who loves us deeply.
Let me be clear, unforgiveness will eventually kill you. Not just spiritually, but also physically. Study after study has proven just how toxic withholding forgiveness is to our physical and mental health.
I believe this is because we were wired for love. When we operate in a way that violates love, we short circuit ourselves.
Forgiveness is not a childish concept nor is it a feeling that magically appears from the goodness of your heart.
Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to let go of the shame, blame, and pain, and to not allow what was done to you to filter your future.
Action Step #3: Fill yourself with Truth and speak the Truth (every single day).
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. [Psalm 119:105]
We cannot expect to get out of the dark without the light of God’s Word. His Word is Truth.
King David wrote, The rarest treasures of life are found in His truth. That’s why I prize God’s word like others prize the finest gold. Nothing brings the soul such sweetness as seeking His living words.
This is what I do. Every morning before I grab for a screen or start any other task (except making coffee, ha), I open my Bible (the paper one, because the one on my screen has unread emails and texts) and I read something (usually from the Psalms). Always there is one or two verses that seem to resonate. I reread that verse out loud. Sometimes I’ll write it down on a Post-It or index card and stick it somewhere I will see again throughout the day (like a mirror, my to-do list or my laptop screen). Whenever I see that note, I’ll say it out loud again.
This is how I fill myself with truth.
I also pay attention to what else I fill myself with throughout the day (music, social media, television, etc). If I’m in the dark, I don’t need to be filled with more dark things.
So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always. [Philippians 4:8]
Friend, this is your opportunity to walk in faith. I am walking right alongside you. Each of these steps I shared is something I am continuing to grow in.
These lists of steps are not to be used as measure for missing the mark. They are to serve as a reminder that freedom is closer than you think.
If you’re in the dark, and you feel like you’re spiraling and destined only for decline, I have good news for you. You and I are being transformed into the image of God with an ever-increasing glory.
Righteousness, peace, and joy — they are all yours through Jesus.