Afraid of the Dark

When I was a boy, my father built a very nice bedroom down in the basement for my two brothers and myself; Rick who was one year older than I was and Gary who was two years older.  The basement was a walkout so we actually had two full sized windows in our room; it hardly felt like a basement.  It was big, big enough for three rambunctious, athletic, and growing boys.  It was a good room in which to grow up.

Initially, it was great.  Bedtime would come and the three of us would trot on downstairs, take our turn brushing our teeth in the bathroom, and crawl into bed with the last one turning out the light.  It was comfortable, safe, and commodious.  Life was good.  Except for one thing.  I would never go down there by myself to go to bed.  I was afraid of what was down there in the dark corners of the basement that I could not see.

Some nights I would wake up in the middle of the night down there. I would hear noises.  One noise in particular that I often heard was the sound of what I was sure was some alien spaceship.  Don’t ask me how an alien spaceship got in my basement because I don’t know.  All I know is that the sound was eerie, high pitched, undulating, menacing, and gurgling.  It was not until many years later that I found out it was the water conditioner recycling at 2 AM in the morning.

We also had the ever-present fallout shelter. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, my dad had constructed a fallout shelter off the end of our house, which sat below the basement floor and foundation.  It was dark, dank, infested with spiders and an altogether unpleasant place.  Additionally, the light to the fallout shelter was ALWAYS on.  No matter how many times you turned it off, you’d walk by the fallout shelter entrance and see the light on.  No kidding, it was uncanny. I kept wondering, “Who keeps turning that light on?”  You might guess where my imagination went.

As my brothers left the home, one for college and one in marriage, I was left alone down there.  I had to get over my fears and eventually, I learned to live down there by myself.  But I can still remember the very real and palpable fear I felt to have to journey down to that room alone.  I’m not sure I ever felt completely comfortable alone in the dark down there. I remember on one of my first “alone nights” in the basement, I went to every room downstairs, turned on the lights, and made sure nothing was lurking.  However, I did not have the guts to go into the fallout shelter. I was a mess!

Funny, right? Why do we fear the dark?  It is usually because of the fear of the unknown.  If we can’t see clearly every corner of the basement or room, we are uneasy and our imaginations can get the best of us. But, truth to tell, many of us are still afraid of the dark.  The dark today, however, is a metaphorical and symbolic darkness.  We fear the darkness of unforeseen events.  We tremble at the thought of financial disaster.  We find ourselves in the “dark providence” of God and wonder what the end of all this is going to be.  Darkness to us today is not literal lack of physical light.  It is the inability to see through the gloom of foreboding events and the despondence of difficult circumstances.  This is the darkness we fear, the dread of what lurks in the dark providence of God, that which hides under the cover of that darkness.

It is just at this point in our lives that we need to flee to Ps. 139:12: “Even the darkness is light to him, the night is as bright as the day.” Psalm 139 is this wonderful Psalm on the absolute sovereignty of God. The first three verses assure us that God knows everything about us, when we sit down and when we rise up. He knows our thoughts and is acquainted with all our ways (v.3). He knows what we are going to say before we say it (v.4).  There is not place we can go but that God is there (vv. 7-10).

Then he says in v. 11, 12 “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is light to you, the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

No darkness obscures God’s vision.  The night is as bright as day.  There is no creature, no alien, or assailant lurking in obscure corners of our lives that he does not see.  There is no danger in our lives but that his sovereign presence and purposes have crafted it and over which he wields complete control.  The darkness may scare us, but it is as day to God.  He sees perfectly clearly every situation, every heartache, and every anxious issue in our lives.  And he rules over it.

I do not know what “darkness” is troubling you today.  However, I do know that God is the one in the darkness who sees everything as clearly, as if the noonday sun was shining in that situation.  And the great thing about that is that he is the sovereign God of Psalm 139 who rules over all the issues of your life.

This thought was so precious to the Psalmist that he says in vv. 17-18; “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand, I awake, and I am still with you.” Can you believe it…God thinks about you with a vast sum of thoughts? This is like a dream.  But when I “awake”, I am still with you.  It is not a dream.  God thinks about you in that darkness.  Your vision may be impaired, but his is not.  And he will never leave you alone in the dark.  So he concludes the Psalm, “…lead me in the way everlasting” (v. 24).

Let us not be afraid of the dark. It is as light to him.


2 Replies to “Afraid of the Dark”

  1. Thanks Pastor Mac. That Psalm is my favorite for the reasons you wrote about. Your brothers probably kept turning the shelter light on because they knew how to get your goat! Did it continue after they left?- Lynda


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