Finding Treasure in Darkness: Part 1
Emmanuel (Noel) Villarivera
Many people are afraid of the dark. Perhaps you are the type of person who always has a flashlight by your bedside. You have one in the bathroom so that you won’t stumble over anything in case you get up at night, one on your keychain, a couple in your car, and one in your purse. And thank God for cell phones because you’ve always got light when you need one. You need light. You hate the dark!Not everyone fears physical darkness, but many feel strongly about emotional darkness. Emotional darkness is incredibly uncomfortable for them. When they are in emotional darkness their vision gets distorted, and they have as hard a time understanding what’s going on in their lives when in emotional darkness as others do when in physical darkness.
Several years ago, a mom went to counseling because she was worried about her son whose darkness and depression began to deepen. The frequency of her 19-year-old son’s suicidal thoughts began to increase, giving this mom a lot of sleepless nights. One night she was feeling frightened by this darkness that she felt was encroaching on her son and upon their lives.
She used a Bible search program and searched for the words “dark” and “darkness.” Within a few minutes, she had twenty pages of verses that talked about dark and darkness. She came across verses like 2 Samuel 22:12 “He wrapped himself in a trench coat of black rain cloud and darkness.”
As she sat in her home, feeling those storm clouds of darkness and not being able to find God. She asked God, “where are you? It feels like you’ve wrapped yourself in a trench coat of darkness and I can’t see you.”
She kept reading and she came to Job 19:8. It says, “God has blocked my path and turned my light to darkness.” As she sat there, she thought, “yes, God, it feels like not only have you hidden in this trench coat of darkness and I can’t find you. But you’ve put this wall across our paths, and I can’t get past it. I’m in such darkness.”
She came across Isaiah 45:3, which says “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name,” and had three reactions to that verse.
The first one was, “I don’t want to be in the darkness. Please get me and my son out of this darkness.” Right on the heels of that came the next thought: “Are there really treasures that are hidden in the darkness?” The third thought was, “Even if there are, I don’t want them because it means I’m only going to find them in the darkness and, I don’t want to be in the darkness. What are you’re trying to tell me, God?”
The Israelites had been in captivity. God said that He was going to use a Gentile (non-Jewish) king named Cyrus the Great. this non-Jewish king to deliver the Israelites from their captivity to the Babylonians. In chapter 45, God gave this prophecy of what was going to happen and how he was going to use Cyrus.
He said that Cyrus was going to be very wealthy and that he would find secret riches that have been hidden away in the darkness. In this, Cyrus would know that God is real and that the God of Israel was the one that was talking to him. This is exactly what happened. The Jews, before they left for captivity, had hidden their jewels, their gold, and anything else that was valuable to them, to keep it from the invaders.
Cyrus delivered the Israelites from captivity and found their riches. While it is important to know that God is the God who not only gave the prophecy but actually fulfilled it in the life of Cyrus and the Israelites, we must also ask how applies to us, today.
God has concealed riches in the darkness of suffering.
God knows the way I take; and when he has tried me, I will come forth as gold. – Job 23:10
In the fiery trials of suffering, there is the potential for something beautiful to be formed. These treasures and these secret riches are the blessings that are hidden in the messes of our lives. They are the unexpected good things that occur in the middle of the horrible, the terrible, and the catastrophic events and moments we encounter. They are the light that shines in the midst of darkness.
Sometimes these treasures, these good things, come in ways that we did nothing to get them – they just seem to land in our lap. Many times, however, we must dig for the treasures. We must put forth some effort to find what God has hidden in the mess of our lives. Consider how diamonds are mined. Diamond miners must move 1750 tons of dirt to come up with a single one-carat diamond – a lot of effort to find even just one diamond!
Sometimes when we are in extreme darkness – when the suffering is deep, when we are going through painful things – the effort to look for even one blessing in that mess is daunting. It can take all of our energy to find something good hidden in the chaos of our broken lives.
A widow recently related how her husband had remodeled their bedroom right before he died of a sudden heart attack. He had just done this incredible remodel of their bedroom and they were expecting to enjoy it for many years together.
She said every time she walks into the bedroom, instead of being overwhelmed with pain and sorrow, she sees it as evidence of how much he loved her. She sees it as a treasure in the darkness because it makes her feel loved. That takes an awful lot of effort, and it might be difficult for others to look at it that way, but she has decided that she’s going to find the buried treasure in the darkness.
A young woman whose father took his life a few years ago has said that it was as if she was driving the car, and a rock flew up and shattered the windshield of her life. It now feels like God is taking that shattered windshield and creating a mosaic of her life that brings Him glory.
A man who’s living with HIV, he’s said that he would not trade his physical condition for the new purpose that he has to help others who are suffering. That’s treasure in darkness.
Someone said that one of the hidden treasures that we should look for in the darkness is emptiness. No one likes to feel empty and do everything we can to avoid it. But it’s actually a hidden treasure because when we realize that we are empty it allows us to come to God to be filled and to find that He alone is sufficient.
One of the greatest treasures that we find is community or fellowship with people who choose to share our moments of grief.
In his book, A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser writes:
“Community does not simply happen spontaneously except in rare occurrences when conditions are right. Not even the unique circumstances of catastrophic loss are sufficient to create community. When people suffering loss do find community it comes as a result of conscious choices they and other people make.
“First of all, it requires a choice on the part of those who want to provide a community for suffering friends. They must be willing to be changed by someone else’s loss though they may not have been directly affected by it. Good comfort requires empathy, forces adjustment, and sometimes mandates huge sacrifices.
“Comforters must be prepared to let the pain of another become their own and so let it transform them. They will never be the same after that decision. Their own world will be permanently altered by the presence of one who suffers. They are changed because they chose to get involved and to allow my suffering to become theirs.
“They refuse to give me only a month or a year to return to life as it was for me before the loss. Since they knew life would not be the same for me, they decided that it would not be the same for them either.”
God has wired us in such a way that we desperately need each other. We need community. We need relationships. We need a place where we feel loved and valued, especially when the hard times hit.
“Treasure”, Courtesy of David Bartus, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Treasure Chest”, Courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Fishing”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Bright Dawn”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Pexels.com, CC0 License