Can darkness be a friend?


13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? 15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:13-18 A Korah Prayer of Heman)

I wonder what the Psalmist meant in this closing line . . . ‘darkness is my closest friend’.  Simon and Garfunkel crooned out the same sentiment as the ‘sound of silence’. It is the dead of winter for all those seasonal affective disorder types, which might be a little of most of us.  Experiences of darkness and loneliness are part of the human drama, but a friendship?  This is an interesting perspective.

I think darkness has its’ part to play in the grand scheme of things.  Think about the top 5 life lessons you have learned.  How many of them came from incredibly painful but formative experiences?  As humans we have built in mechanisms to avoid pain and hardship at all costs, but darkness has its’ place. Pain and suffering grow us up in ways self-help books cannot.  Deeper maturity and character are often born out of opportunities to persevere and long suffer. How many times has darkness preceded the dawn in our lives?  It is darkest just before the sun begins its’ rise of a new day.

As a person of faith, I have been at this place the psalmist is expressing many seasons in my life.  My journal is filled with tear stained words on paper pouring my processing of darkness. In my crying out, I have repeated often the phrase: ‘God, if you don’t come through, there will be no coming through’.  Somehow, he understands me at that level.  He always shows up in that place of darkness . . . and then he does the extraordinary . . . he enters in. The God of blinding light . . . enters into my darkness.  The God who with one word spoke light into being at it’s very creation . . . enters into my darkness.  Why?  Is it because he likes the darkness?  I don’t think so, in my old age I’ve come to the conclusion that I just thinks he likes me.  I know he has to ‘love’ me, but I’m learning at some level that I think he even likes me.  The God of the universal cosmos, likes me, and enters in.  He pays attention to me, though he must be quite busy.  I receive these experiences as good news.

Can darkness be a friend?  It’s not very fun, but if God enters in and shows up, you might want to wait out the pain.  Pitch a tent, stoke a fire and hang out there a bit.  You won’t be disappointed. It is darkness that precedes the dawn.

4 thoughts on “Can darkness be a friend?”

  1. I’m terribly familiar with that Psalm, and that last line. The versions I’ve always read, said “darkness is my only friend.” Only is a little different than “closest” – seems that way to me. It seemed that this was the case many times for me. I don’t think HE intended that to be so. It just was. I was in the pit. I was covered in mud. I could not see light, hardly any, for a long time. This was/is part of my own brokenness. And brokenness is something to be fixed – so that it is no longer broken.

    I believe these experiences we all have with darkness, with mess, with pain and anguish, etc., are a matter of our swimming in a polluted pond, of the sickness swimming in the deepest part of ourselves. The transformational process = some painful ontological twisting.

    I don’t think I want to embrace darkness. I want to embrace who I was created to be. I want to embrace HIM. Those things, though, require that I am often surrounded by darkness and funkiness. Just an unfortunate part of the process. And we continue to hope for the cessation of hostilities.

  2. This has been a very different year for me; I had a nervous break down some months ago after 5 months of pain and 3 operations in four weeks on my urinary tract. I’ve been a believer in the work and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ for 48 years. But some how I got lost as I like to say in neutral without hope of returning to sanity. Years of working
    on the streets at a food mission in a place called “Kensington” in Phila
    with the question :how could tenured professors, published authors, former cfo’s of major corporations lose their way and join the homeless in their community. The regulars often told me ” Mr. Bob we don’t take drugs to feel good, we take drugs to feel nothing”! Feeling nothing is a sort of darkness that a Christian is not supposed to feel. It is an area for our enemy to send his two favorite imps “guilt & Shame”, you cannot have one without the other, they are twins unseperable. Truly this time the enemy came in like a flood and I neither recognized it or
    did anything to alieve the situation. I sat in darkness for weeks I reacted out of pain and self pity. At the ripe old age of 65, retired by my company ahead of schedule unprepared financially looking back on
    a life time of so called Christian service at which I did the following
    youth leader, elder, missionary, prison ministries, inner city (feeding the homeless, clothing the homeless) somewhere in my mind I was waiting
    for GOD to bail me out for years of service, guess what he didn’t ! Slowly but surely he has sat with me outside of my darkness and brought me into his glorious light. My friends, heaven will be heaven because of
    unlimited access to the king of kings not mansions and streets of gold as we are told. All I can say as I am coming back into the light. I never needed religion I needed to face reality in Jesus Christ.

    Bob Marshall

  3. Dad, truly we are cut from the same cloth. The genetics ring true, sir.

    You are the one who taught me that ‘leadership is not for cowards’. you just don’t truly know what that means til you try it.

    I have much respect and admiration for you, I wish in life we could have been closer. We share much in common.

    Someday, we’ll eat from a banquet table together in a Kingdom that has come and tell stories and entertain the others, it will be a Marshall reunion.

    peace and love to you.

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