When the Lights Go Out
by Sharon Betters
Even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.
It’s likely that I have never walked where you are walking, but I do know what shattered dreams and broken hearts are all about. My husband Chuck and I experienced four years of intense church conflict in an independent church before we joined our present denomination. We do not understand why the ugliness and hatred we experienced were necessary for God to move us to where we are today, but how grateful we are for the ministry He gave us. A year after Chuck became the pastor of the Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church, I learned I had life threatening breast cancer at thirty-nine years of age. We were just pulling our lives together, learning anew how to rest in His love, and could not understand why God allowed this to invade our home. The day after surgery, I heard God say to me through His Word:
My blessings are new every morning. Great is My faithfulness.
Look for My blessings. I will not disappoint you.
God used cancer to change the way Chuck and I viewed life and many of our decisions now flow from the knowledge that life is fragile. We spent enormous amounts of time with our children and counted every day as precious. God also gave me Isaiah 45:2-7 during that dark time:
I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God. I will strengthen you though you have not acknowledged Me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.
During recovery from surgery and going through aggressive chemo for six months, the truth of that passage showed up in tangible ways. My circumstances and the biblical encouragement treasures of others pushed me toward Him. Those treasures reminded me He is my God and calls me by name. At the time, I did not know this passage would be my rock in the darkest days of my life.
What is your response when life breaks apart? You may be gifted with a special peace and restfulness, with no questions of why. Or perhaps like me, when disaster has struck, you wrestled or perhaps are wrestling right now, with how to reconcile God’s love with His sovereignty.
My journey through brokenness is not a picture of peace and rest. On July 6, 1993, ten minutes after they left our home, our youngest son, Mark and his friend, Kelly, were in a fatal car accident. In the days, months and years that followed, I faced two crises: the indescribable longing for my son and the feeling of isolation and betrayal by the very God I served. Instead of bringing me comfort, the tenets of my faith initially mocked me with questions like these:
How could I ever bring together the love of God and the sovereignty of God?
We raised our children to serve God. Mark was a leader, loved and respected, active as our percussionist in our church.
He talked to his friends about becoming a pastor like his dad.
He offered so much to our God.
So many other parents do not invest in their children; they don’t even love them, why was our Mark taken?
It did not comfort me to know that when God gave us Mark on May 11, 1977,
He knew He would take him back on July 6, 1993.
Where was the love?
I thought God was my Father. I would never treat my child the way God is treating me.
Everything I believed was thrown into the Refiner’s Fire. The Scriptures of promise mocked my faith and taunted me with unbelief. That was more terrifying than even losing Mark.
One of the brightest treasures that helped guide me in my journey through grief was meeting Marilyn Heavilin, a mother further along in the grief journey. Marilyn gave me permission to bring my doubts, fear and terror to God. She herself had lost three sons and she urged me to accept God’s invitation to “beat on His chest”. She also told me that if I continued to be honest with Him, I would one day come to the other side of my struggles with a deeper understanding of His love and character. I could not begin to comprehend what she was saying to me, but her words held me tightly and gave me hope.
A friend of Amy Carmichael’s said, “The woman who has no experiences in the dark has no secrets to share in the light.” In this series, A Broken Hallelujah, I will share with you some of the secrets God gave me in the dark, just as others ahead of me in broken pathways shared their “secrets” with me. You won’t read anything new, but when my heart hemorrhaged with unrelenting grief, I needed someone to keep telling me the truth about God’s character, Jesus’ sacrifice for me and that one day, I would experience joy again.
Whether you are in a season of peace or darkness, I am praying God will use these words to encourage you to feel His arms holding you tightly, to give you strength for this moment. To those who are struggling, I am praying that you will choose to believe His promises, even though you may not know how He can keep them. I am a little ahead of some of you in this life journey and I am calling back to encourage you to believe He will restore the years the locusts have eaten, He will bring beauty from ashes, He will glorify Himself through the darkness in your life and that you can live a life that is a broken hallelujah and experience supernatural peace and joy. What a walk of faith He leads us on!
Treasured by Him,