When I was in high school I heard a boy say this:
distance and darkness are a girl’s best friends.
I think that we are quick to believe it. If I want people to think the best of me, I’d better not let them get too close, or see me too clearly. If they do, they might not like what they see and they might reject me.
Like most people, I did deal with that mindset while I was growing up and finding my way. But this way of thinking really set in with me as an adult, as a Christian, as a missionary!
In 2009, I faced a very serious health issue – a stroke. In His mercy, God healed my brain in miraculous ways! I will always stand in awe. We had come home from Zambia during this time and we were so thankful to be cleared to go back to the work God had called us to there! As we returned to Zambia and began to settle into life again, fear and anxiety began to settle deep into the corners of me. I became utterly crippled by the fear of death.
And I never told anyone.
Not even my husband. In my mind, anxiety and fear were not things that a “godly woman” should be struggling with. I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t think anyone would understand. I kept it all inside. I didn’t sleep. Every time I had a headache or felt any twinge of tingling, I panicked. I was afraid. And I was afraid to admit I was afraid. Sadly, I was part of a very close group of friends who would have prayed for me and walked with me through it, but I felt too self-conscious to share my need with them. I didn’t want the attention. I didn’t want to be needy.
I always say Isolation is the devil’s playground.
If he can keep us shut up in our own minds about things and convince us that we are the ONLY ones, or that there is SHAME involved in telling the truth, he can keep us stagnant in our growth, ineffective in our relationships, and destroy us from the inside out. This, I believe, is one of Satan’s primary tactics for disabling God’s children. If he can get us to believe things that aren’t true about God, ourselves, and other people, and keep us isolated in those beliefs, he can begin to control the rudder of our lives through those lies.
He is a thief and he comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
But Jesus came to bring us life, and life to the fullest!
When we come into faith in Christ, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Yet, while we live in the Kingdom of Light and our position and righteousness are secure in Christ, our relentless enemy will continue to try to infiltrate our lives with darkness. In fact, if he can only lure us into a dark place and make sure we convince ourselves that it’s easier and safer to just stay there, his work is done!
I read a story once of a horse that had been rescued from an abusive situation. It’s front legs had been so tightly shackled for so many years that it had learned to walk by hobbling. Immediately upon its rescue, the shackles were removed from the horse’s legs, but it continued to hobble as though the shackles remained. It was the same for me in a spiritual sense. Even though I was free, I was living shackled. Even though I was transferred into light, I was living in the dark. Until intervention came.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6
Our God cares for us. He never leaves us. He never takes His eyes or His hand off of us. And at the right time He intervenes. God initiates the light through His Son and by the power of His Spirit. My shift from darkness to the light did not occur because I stopped doing wrong things and started doing right things. It was never about my actions. It was only about surrender to the One who intervened by His grace and took my anxieties on Himself.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6
Change began to come and darkness to flee because THE LIGHT shined in. THE TRUTH was revealed. This is a person. Jesus.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate.
Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.
Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening.
They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Acts 12:6-10 (NLT)
The angel of God came into the prison and walked Peter out. In the same way, Jesus met me in my prison of darkness and walked me out! When HE comes, chains fall off. Iron gates open.
As He began to walk me out of fear, I began to set my mind on the Truth of Jesus, His words, and His finished work on my behalf. He began to diffuse the lie. He began to teach me how to walk forward in truth and how to fight the enemy.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
One evening, almost a year after the stroke, I finally got the courage to tell my husband about my struggle. Even letting it come out of my mouth felt like healing! I was met by his deep compassion and wondered why I had ever been so afraid to share with him. I shared with my small group who came around me without hesitation and prayed over me fervently. They fed me with truth and encouragement and love. There was NO shame.
From that day, not only did the physical headaches and sleepless nights stop, but the power of the lie began to fade. The lie did not instantly leave, but it’s power over me had changed because it was no longer in the darkness.
For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. Psalm 56:13
This, friends, is a call is to come close, and to step into the full light of the Sun of Righteousness. Then, will you dare to draw near to other people in true community?
We live in the shelter of the perfect love of God. Perfect love casts out ALL fear. Fear of death and fear of man. And the fear of being known.
Community is one of God’s gifts to us. I know it’s scary. I know that it can seem easier to deal with life on our own rather than to risk compounding our struggles by adding the pain of being hurt by the people we confide in. I’ve been there.
“Real community is being fully known, and fully delighted in.” ~Jeff Shipman
I LOVE that definition. It seems impossible that anyone could know me as I really am and still fully delight in me! Yet, God has used His children to wrap me up in His perfect love as I’ve opened myself up to them.
You may be thinking, “yea, but you have no idea what my darkness is.” I emplore you to know that NO darkness is too dark for our God and you are NEVER the only one! We have all been hurt by people. I get that. And I urge you with everything in me to keep trying. Ask God to help you find a safe community. He WILL lead you to someone who will be that for you. His heart is not for us to do life alone.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Tim Keller said this: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Even in my mess, even when I’m getting it wrong, even when I’m still dealing with the shackles of darkness, my community is a place where I am safe in the struggle, where my companions don’t try to convict me or fix me, but where they speak truth to me in love, encourage and exhort me, and walk with me as I journey into freedom. And that has given me strength and courage I have never known before.
I wish I could go back and talk to my high school self! I would love to look her in the eyes and say, “NO! Distance and darkness are not your best friends. They are there to imprison you! Run toward nearness and light! They are the things that set you free!”
Live free. Live loved.