Agonizing Joy


“And what communion has light with darkness? God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 John 1:5).

Light and darkness are incompatible. Where the one is the other must flee. When I was a non-believer I detested the things of God. God was offensive to me. Of course, I couched my contempt for God in a different language. I cloaked my disdain in the language of righteous indignation. I piously proclaimed my own righteousness while heaping disdain on those who might dare to point out my deception. Then one day the light itself came. Uninvited, it entered my sphere of consciousness and began as a dim glow. Even when the light was barely visible it was enough to cleave the darkness that clung to my soul. It was through the light of the gospel that I began to see how the darkness obscured what was real. It not only clung to me, it enveloped me. It had entered my soul and was forming it, shaping it, sculpting it to become something entirely foreign to what God had created it to be. Of course, at the time I did not know that God had created my soul with a purpose – until the light came. Absent this understanding I let the dark shape me, believing that’s what I wanted.

At first it was painful. Upon entering one’s life the light hurts. There is an agonizing power in the light. First, it reveals what really is there. Part of the pain is in seeing this reality. All pretense to self-righteousness evaporates in its presence. It showed me who I really was. It showed me that my identity was far removed from the fantasies the darkness whispered to me in the night. It revealed to me what I desperately did not want to see. Looking into the mirror with the light on is not the same as imagining what I think I am in the dark. The darkness tells a maggot in the sewer that it is a king on a throne. It’s hard to accept the truth when it is revealed. The fantasies of our illusions are a sweet tasting tonic to the dying soul.

Second, the light not only revealed what was there, but it began to cut the darkness away. The pain this produces is real because what is being cut away are things that I thought were really me. Pieces of my identity that shape my self-understanding were shown to be only camouflage that hid my sin and deception. In the light of God’s truth there was no hiding the true nature of those things. One by one those delusions that were so compelling in the dark looked idiotic and ridiculous in the light. But, they were entwined with who I believed myself to be. However, the scalpel of truth was relentless in its pursuit to cut away the falsehood of my conceit. Each cut was deeply felt. And with each cut I was slowly being whittled away. As each piece fell away I became smaller and smaller, until what was left was but a pale shadow of what I believed myself to be. The light had shown me that I was much smaller than I imagined. In the dark my significance was established. But the fortress of my vanity all but disappeared in the light.

Third, the light now establishing the reality of the situation, demanded that I acknowledge this truth. From the heights of conceit, I fell to the lowly despair of insignificance – or so I thought. There standing in the clarity of its brilliance, there was nothing left to hide. My true identity was exposed. The light forced upon me a realization that I could not flee. The darkness happily allows its captives to recede into the shadows to rationalize its delusions. It always has room for equivocation and denial. But, the light has no shadows and offers no room for retreat. To stand in the light is to be seen; and to remain in the light one must acknowledge what is seen.

Despite the intolerable pain the light produced, there exposed as I was, I began to experience a sensation I had not known. Despite my smallness, the light revealed something grand and glorious. At first it was the uneasy sensation of feeling free. The things I believed had defined me in the dark I now knew to be shackles that bound me to a lifeless existence. The fortress of conceit I believed to defend and protect me, was a prison that trapped me. The sin I coveted was the very poison that sapped my life of meaning, purpose, and joy – delivering only death. With those things gone I had the freedom to move. The light beckoned, and I followed. It embraced me, and I felt a new warmth – a welcoming sensation of new life filled me. Soon the pain the light inflicted was gone. And it was then that I realized that it was not the light that caused the pain – it was the darkness that clung like a disease to my soul.

Standing in the light I was now free. I was set free to live for the very purpose my soul was created. I was also exposed. But, I am now exposed to the life of God. Nothing can prepare one for its beauty and glory. In the light I am also very small. But, there is no longer anything obstructing my view of Him. My conceit is gone. The delusions of my sin have fled. And all that is left are the heights and splendor of His glory! But, the most riveting experience came when I realized that the very thing I hated while in the dark, was the very thing that pursued me and dragged me into the light: the love God. His loved pierced me, and even for a time wounded me. But, it never gave up on me; and it did not leave me to die in the dark.

When the light shows up in your life, don’t fight it. It’s God’s way of saying, “I love you. Come home.”

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