Did you know that God dwells in thick darkness? That the God of light, at times, dwells in darkness? This idea flies in the face of much of our imagery and imagination about God. After all we so often hear that God is light (1 John 1:5) and that the Lord will be our light (Isaiah 60:19) and this is true. But what is also true is that “The Lord has said he would dwell in thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12).

How is it true that God is light AND that God dwells in thick darkness?

First its important to understand what will happen to a person that views the full glory of God directly, in short, instant death (Ex 33:20). A person is incapable of taking in all that God is in His glory and living through the experience. Ever had your breath taken away by something truly spectacular? Now multiply that feeling by millions and I think you will get the point. So, specifically when God is within the reaches of human contact, He dwells in thick darkness so that his glory doesn’t completely consume those He loves. A few examples of this:

  • When the Israelites sent Moses to speak with God on the mountain because they were afraid of Him (Ex 20:21).
  • Psalm 97:2 – “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;”
  • Deuteronomy 5:22 – “‘These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.'”

Why does it matter that God dwells in thick darkness?

First it matters because it shows the nature of God. From this we learn that he desires to be near His people, so much so that He is willing to mask the fullness of His glory with thick darkness in order to interact directly with His people. To me this seems like a great length to go to when God could have simply sent a messenger. God loves mankind enough to come personally, first in the thick darkness and later in the Son. He is a personal God, not a distant one.

This also matters because often we walk in darkness. Who hasn’t felt the darkness of depression or uncertainty, of fear or sadness? In the dark moments of life I believe that God is far nearer than we can comprehend. In those times when He feels distant, when it feels like we are lost in the darkness, God is in fact with us, near enough to touch if we will simply reach out.

An example from CS Lewis.

This moment from The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis captures this idea beautifully. Its a long section, but well worth the read. You can read the full exchange here, but here is a summary:

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, (Shasta) felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

What put a stop to all of this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls….

…The Thing (unless it was a person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope that he had only imagined it….

…So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.

“Who are you?” he said, barely above a whisper.

“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep…

The boy in this story is lost, and his mysterious companion is of course Aslan, the “High King above all kings.” Aslan was with the boy in his darkest time, simply waiting for the boy to speak so that Aslan could comfort him.

Is this not our experience when we are in thick darkness? When you are in thick darkness if you will quiet your soul and pay attention I believe that more often than not you will begin to notice that you are not alone. You will realize that there is one that walks with you, quietly, sure footed and with great patience. He walks with you through the darkness waiting for that moment when you will speak, when you will reach out, when you will ask for His help.

One of the funny things about mankind is that we always expect God to come onto the scene with a flash of lightening and thunder that will shake our very souls. But God is rarely like that, I think it’s because He isn’t much of a show off. God loves to come on the scene quietly and even humbly. He peers onto the scene of human suffering with the caring heart of a Father and the gentle grace of a lamb. He can be easily found by those that realize He is in the thick darkness, we just have to remember to look. After all, He did come onto the scene of mankind as a baby in the little town of Bethlehem. And on that dark night He was found by those humble enough to seek Him.