God Speaks in the Darkness

The moonlight spilled over the room’s edges through the large windows on the south side. I could see his body lying still, yet attentive, as I slipped through the bedroom door. The light outlined his small form on the pillow, and a foot peeked out from under the sheet. He was waiting again, more patiently than most eleven-year-olds, because waiting is his life. Waiting to hear the creaking of the stiff door hinges, waiting for the sound of feet coming near, waiting to hear the bedrail creak indicating presence.

My slippers shuffled noiselessly along the wooden floor; at his bed I leaned forward and felt his warm breath on my cheek. So near, yet his eyes still wide and waiting—no recognition greeted me, just the same wondering and expectant expression. I have done this a thousand times, but still, he does not know my face. His eyes could not pick his mother out in a crowd.

I broke the silence with a hoarse whisper: “Son, it’s Mom. I’m here.” His head jerked to the side, searching for me. “I’m here, I’m here,” I whispered again, triggering a slow smile across his face. A big sigh escaped his body—content, reassured. Someone was here; he was no longer alone. I lifted his hand and ran it over my face.

Born blind and with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, Calvin is no stranger to the dark night and constant stillness. The moon pierces the darkness of the night, but it cannot help his eyes to perceive the details in the room, and the morning sun cannot break through and lighten the darkness. It is in this blackness, this still darkness of his, that we rely on something else to cultivate relationship, reorientation, comfort, and life: the spoken word.

God Speaks

The gift of words spoken into the darkness can be traced all the way back to Genesis 1. Words of creative power are spoken into literal darkness, and then the fall and redemption are unfolded—words of calling and purpose, blessing and judgment, promise, and consolation into humanity’s total spiritual darkness.

Everything changed when humanity fell, but God kept speaking. From burning bushes to mountaintops, through prophets and in visions, God spoke over centuries and to many people. And whenever He spoke, the words brought the only light that could illuminate our darkness. Words of truth about our condition, words of calling, words of restoration, and words of promise. And finally, the Word of all words, the Son of God, became flesh and lived among us. Jesus was the ultimate message spoken into our darkness: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

As twenty-first-century believers, we now have the collection of these spoken words, the complete “sure word,” as Peter says (2 Peter 1:19, KJV), and it is very much alive and speaking today by the Spirit’s power. The words sit on our bookshelves and nightstands, but they are not just part of the décor, a passive duty, or a devotional distraction. Instead, the Bible is active in sustaining and shaping our lives, bringing understanding and life to our hearts and minds: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Words of Reality, Reorientation, Relationship

I did not realize the magnitude of this constant speaking until words became such a vital connection in my life as a mother to Calvin. Given that our son cannot walk, see, or speak, our words provide him with the crucial context of who he is, the ability to understand his life and the world around him, and an awareness of our presence and love. In a small way, it points to how the Bible is a lifeline for us in giving us an accurate picture of reality, in reorienting us to live by gospel hope, and in providing communion with God.

The Bible is a lifeline for us in giving us an accurate picture of reality, in reorienting us to live by gospel hope, and in providing communion with God.

Calvin can’t see his baby pictures, but it doesn’t keep us from exclaiming over them and sharing every detail with him. We want him to know his story, to know his family, and to have an understanding of why he experiences life the way he does. We want to help him have a true awareness of his identity, which fills him with purpose, belonging, and hope. On a much grander scale, God reveals our reality and identity in the Bible, giving the backstory of who we are and to whom we belong. The Scriptures reveal the hidden motivations of our hearts, the doubts that plague us, and the power of Christ to save us. They are words that not only accurately reveal our reality but, by the Spirit’s power, change our reality, moving us from blindness to sight, despair to hope, and death to life as we believe in His Word. 

Words not only provide context for Calvin to understand his reality but also provide him with the ability to reorient himself to his changing surroundings. As we run hot water for a shower, stand by him through a medical procedure, or head to Grandma and Grandpa’s, we are constantly communicating so he can make sense of what’s happening. Sometimes we forget, and he’s taken off guard and uncertain. Recently at one of his siblings’ music concerts, the trumpets startled him so much that we had to take him in our arms and speak to him reassuringly until he calmed down. So, too, when circumstances startle us, challenge our perceptions, and test our faith in God, we are called to remember His words. As we allow the Word of God to be our starting point for understanding who we are and what our experiences mean, our perspective changes as we rely on His words more than our perception. We live our lives actively, but we make sense of them as we look at them in the light of Scripture. And as we believe the unseen realities of grace, hope transforms us as we wrestle with present seen realities.

The most personal dynamic of words is when we use them relationally, communicating our presence and love. During a difficult feeding tube change, my husband, Darryl, and I worked together, constantly assuring him: “We’re here. Mom and Dad are right here with you.” Calvin loves when the other kids cheer him on or hop into his bed to read him a book. Words bring relationship, comfort, and confidence. It took me a long time to realize the power of God’s Word to do the same for me. “Where is God?” I’d cry. We’re people who want reassurances that are physical, circumstantial, and immediate. But God often expands our awareness of His presence and love through faltering faith and trust in His Word through waiting seasons. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His words are not only true; they are personal and change the course of our lives.

Deep confidence in God does not come from understanding or controlling everything around us but from hearing the Shepherd’s words. And as He speaks into our confused minds and dark nights, we find that He is with us and His words bring comfort and confidence. When the situation worsens, He reminds us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2). And when there seems to be no end in sight, “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Faith Becomes Sight

There are certain moments when Calvin can catch a glimpse of us. He has cortical visual impairments, meaning that there is nothing wrong with his actual eyes, but his loss of sight is from his brain’s inability to perceive objects. This means there are rare occasions that he can get a glimpse of something, a shadow or a bright light, in his peripheral vision. Once as I was moving behind him, I saw him turn his head quickly back. I walked noiselessly back and forth several times—each time my shadow blocked the sunlight, his head would jerk. He caught a glimpse of me, but it was just a shadow. I cannot imagine what it will be like to know Calvin restored, to be able to see my face, not just hear my words. It brings a joy that I cannot find words for.

This makes me reflect on how much the Lord longs for our final restoration, when our faith will be replaced with sight. Now we “see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The Bible is an incredible gift, bringing light to our reality, reorienting us, and bringing us into relationship with God, but one day we will no longer need it. Instead of having faith in His words, we will actually be in the presence of the Living Word. We will no longer catch rare glimpses of Him but will be saturated with His presence. The Shepherd’s voice, familiar to us from following Him through the dark nights, will be accompanied by His physical presence, as He will wipe every tear from our eyes: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 27, 2022.

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