There were those “high alert” days when Dad stayed too long at Alex’s Tap after work. On those days, he would come home and scream and cuss and throw dishes. I would often simply run for cover, seeking refuge in a closet, under my bed, sometimes even in the dog coop. Our fox terrier, Max, proved faithful in keeping me safe when I needed to flee the house.
On “moderate alert” days it was typical for Dad to polish off a six-pack while launching an occasional, outrageous allegation at me or my mom, then stumble into his room and sleep it off. On those days, we would tiptoe through the house so as not to awaken him and trigger any more serious verbal explosions.
Sundays were “low risk” days. Dad rarely drank on Sundays. Sunday was my favorite day of the week. Dad was a great guy when he wasn’t drinking — kind, caring, a wonderful sense of humor. I have many pleasant memories of Sundays — family dinners that always included warm garlic bread; watching White Sox games on our Zenith black and white TV; and going to church, both morning and evening, armed with enough pink peppermints to offset our garlic breath. We never missed church.
I have never not believed in God. Even as a young child, creation just made more sense than evolution. But I have a confession to make. While I’ve never doubted God’s existence in all my years of being a practicing Christian, I’ve often doubted His word.
If we’re going to be honest, when a person lives with fear, shame, sadness, and the haunting belief that his or her life doesn’t matter, it’s often difficult to buy into what the Bible says about God. We may believe it in our heads that God is a God of love, that He accepts us just as we are, that He works all things together for good. But those attributes are nothing more than spiritual soundbites if they never gain entrance into our hearts.
Many times throughout Scripture God is referred to as light. The Apostle John refers to Him as the Light that shines in darkness. James calls Him the Father of lights. I remember singing as a seven-year-old in Sunday School, the Light of the world is Jesus. Problem is, I didn't believe it. I didn’t always see God as light. And not just when I was a scared little boy attempting to navigate through life with a drunken dad, but when I was an adult trying to make sense of all different kinds of heartaches and hurts.
I had come to believe that sometimes God was light and sometimes He was dark. Sometimes He was there for me and sometimes not. Sometimes I experienced Him as warm and caring and other times I viewed Him as dark and brooding. I was believing a lie. And it was a lie that stood as a barrier between me and the God I so desperately needed.
But one day, this truth dawned on me: You can’t possibly trust a God who is sometimes light and sometimes dark.
After decades of this cloudy thinking, God directed me to a Bible verse that gave me much-needed clarity on the matter. The aforementioned Apostle John, who was all about correcting false doctrine in the church, strips away all doubt about God’s luminescence with these straightforward words: God is light; in Him is no darkness at all (emphasis mine).
What an illuminating truth. God is light. God will always be light. The light of His love will flame through all eternity. It cannot be extinguished by the problems or pain we may encounter in life. Even if our circumstances are dark, our God is light.
The truth is, this world can be a very dark place. When faced with world news about terrorism or political corruptness or having to deal with personal pain like depression or addictive behaviors it is easy to be overcome by darkness. But like a candle glowing in a cavern, God’s love shines brightest in the darkest of times.
Even on the cloudiest of days, we don’t question the sun’s existence. We know that above the clouds the sun still shines. The same is true of God’s light. It burns brightly whether we can see it or not.
It’s all about trust. Trusting that God is who He says He is. Believing that He longs to dispel our darkness so that we may bask in His wonderful, life-giving, wound-healing light.