Waiting In the Darkness

Holy Saturday, sometimes called The Great Sabbath or Silent Saturday, is the day of Jesus resting silently in the tomb. 

Ultimately, Easter is about life. It’s about resurrection and revival and new life. It’s about hope in something so true and eternal, we’re still talking about it today, thousands of years later. It’s the story of a God who enters into our lives and in the face of death, gives way to eternal life. 

But before that, before the life and resurrection, there is a waiting period, a length of time when there is a body laying in a tomb, and there is disappointment and darkness. And there’s waiting. Anyone else feel like they’re waiting? 

Life is full of of these in-between, darkness moments. 

Maybe in some area of your life it feels like darkness. Like you are stuck between the pain of Friday and the not-yet-realized hope of Sunday, a place where you are waiting for God to do something. Maybe there is a place of disappointment, of having a dream die, or a relationship end, and you’re just waiting. 

Two years after having our son Aaron, Steve and I decided that we were ready to continue growing our family. 

In November 2010, we got pregnant. But there was a miscarriage. I experienced some bleeding around the 5th week of pregnancy, and a miscarriage was confirmed soon after. We were saddened, but knew that early-term miscarriages are common. We continued trying to get pregnant. 

In March of 2011, we were pregnant again. At our 7-week doctor’s check-up, we were prepared to see a visual of the baby and hear his or her heartbeat. As the doctor turned on the ultrasound equipment, she asked Steve if he wanted to record the moment on his camera. Several seconds later, as she looked at the ultrasound, her tone changed, “You may want to turn off the camera. This doesn’t look good.” She explained to us that there was no heartbeat, and that she couldn’t locate a fetus. The next week, we had a follow-up ultrasound with the same results, and that’s when the doctor confirmed the miscarriage. We were told that my body still needed to expel the remaining tissue. That was a particularly difficult time of waiting. We had close friends and family praying with us, knowing that a miscarriage was pretty certain, but still holding on to some hope that there might be a miraculous turn of events. It took several weeks, but my body finally expelled the tissue from the miscarried baby. 

We felt a deep sense of grief and darkness. We both took several days off of work, and also reached out to our community of friends. Friends and family prayed and mourned with us. We cried over our unborn babies, cried over the hope of knowing them and seeing them in this life. 

When we live life long enough, we encounter moments of death and darkness. Doors close, relationships end, hopes die. And we’re stuck in darkness, longing for breakthrough that hasn’t yet happened. 

So what do we do in that moment? When we’re in that moment of darkness and in-between at the tomb, there are different responses we can have.

  1. We can despair – we can lose all hope, and blame God, and run from God. We can believe that death is the end, and lose hope in things, and just sort of stop expecting anything to change.

  1. We can be in denial – we fake that we’re okay, put on our strong face to mask the pain, we escape. We have these simplistic answers and forced optimism. Keep calm and carry on! Just trust in the Lord, but don’t do it in a way that’s messy or takes too long! Denial is the message that if you’re feeling disappointed or grief, you just need to have more faith and get over it.

  2. We can despair or be in denial, or there’s a third option. WAIT ON GOD. We hate that one. More specifically, I hate that one. Waiting is hard. Waiting is not glamorous. It takes away all our control, no guarantees, and puts us in a position of submission and vulnerability. 

But waiting on God is also courageous. Waiting on God in the darkness is saying, “Okay God, I don’t know what’s going on and how this is going to end. But I’m choosing to press into you with all that is in me.” It’s the place of crying out to him with our true selves, and not just putting on the fake happy facade. 

It’s not passive, it’s not escape, it’s not hopelessness. It’s connecting to God, listening to him, doing things with him, resting in him, grieving with him. And it’s a holding out hope that he’s the God of resurrection and new life, even if all we have is the tiniest seed of faith.

And God is with us always, even in the darkness and waiting. Some of the most significant moments in Jesus’ life took place in darkness: his birth, his arrest, his death. For us in the spiritual journey, waiting on God in the darkness can yield extraordinary events. 

In my own experience of waiting in darkness with the Lord, there are a few things that happened:

I learned that God endures with us. 

Through his own death, Jesus enters into death with us. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? His cries echo the despair and lostness of the world’s pain. It is a cry of abandonment and agony. How incredible is that? We have a Lord who doesn’t just stand at a distance from pain, but he enters into it and suffers with us. 

When Steve and I had those miscarriages, I felt Jesus draw so close to us. It was counter-intuitive to me. I suppose I figured that in really painful moments, God would feel far away. But it was just the opposite. I remember the moment a few days after the second miscarriage. Steve and I were sitting in our living room with our friend and staff supervisor Jen. Jen had been our mentor since our earliest days on staff, she had led us through pre-marital counseling, had been at our wedding, and now she was praying and crying with us over our miscarried babies. And as she sat with us, I was overcome with the deepest sensation of safety, comfort, and awareness of Jesus with us.

In my journal, I wrote this: “I feel the power, goodness, and mercy of the Father now more than I have in the last few years. I am more certain than ever that God is the only thing worthy of our hope and confidence.” In many ways, God poured out his love and comfort into our family that was unique to this season of darkness and waiting.

Another thing that happens in the darkness is that God promises his presence.

There are times in life when we are in the dark and God feels far away. I’ve had moments when I am barely making it with the Lord, and really struggling to see him and hear him. I’m going to guess that many of us have had that experience. It feels like God is far or even absent. We feel abandoned. 

But Psalm 139 tells us that there is no place we can go to escape the presence of God. 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Here’s the thing that I find so comforting and reassuring: God’s presence does not depend on us. It does not depend on how we feel. It does not depend on how in tune we are with him. The grace of God is that he doesn’t let go of us, even when we are completely unable to even come to him or pray or feel hopeful. Nothing will separate us from him. Even in the hiddenness and darkness, he’s with us. 

God endures with us, he promises his presence, and third, God cultivates new life.

In a book called The Holy Longing, Ronald Rohlheiser says this about the spiritual journey: 

“It is a process of transformation within which we are given both new life and new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves onto the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is new spirit given for the life we are already living.” 

For the Israelites, there was Egypt, wilderness, and Promised Land. Or in the life cycle of a butterfly, there is larvae, cocoon, butterfly.

The darkness is a holding environment where transformation happens.  We may not feel different or be doing anything different, but God is working to bring forth something new. It’s like the 9 months of pregnancy before a baby is born, and it’s incubating in the womb. It’s Jesus in the tomb, before being resurrected. 

Oftentimes, in the darkness, the new life that God is cultivating is internal. He’s changing us. He’s freeing us from fear or shame. He’s breaking our bondage to idols. He’s gently coaxing in us the fruit of love, joy, and hope. He’s deepening our intimacy and dependence on him. 

After our two miscarriages, we continued trying to get pregnant again. Months and months went by, and nothing. 

On November 10th, we had significant time of prayer with a friend named Ann. Ann was the wife of one of Steve’s seminary professors, and they had a similar experience of miscarriages while trying to conceive their second child. They had a powerful prayer encounter with a friend, and right after that they got pregnant. When Ann heard about our journey, she had a sense that praying for us could have a similar outcome. After Ann prayed with us, both Steve and I believed that a breakthrough had occurred in the spiritual realm, and that we would get pregnant soon after. 

We were a bit perplexed (and disappointed) when December and January passed with no pregnancy.

Finally, in February 2012, we took a pregnancy test, and it was positive! We were thrilled, but also hesitant to get too excited, given our history with miscarriages. At our 6-week doctor’s check-up, we were ready to have the doctor confirm the pregnancy. In the doctor’s office, our doctor told us that at 6 weeks, we could expect to see the yolk sac, and possibly a tiny dot-like image of a baby. The image of the ultrasound popped up on the screen, and we very clearly saw the form of a baby, with a head and limbs. I remember thinking, “Uh, that’s weird…it looks way more like an actual baby than a little dot.” The doctor was shocked. She measured the image baby’s head, did some calculations, and exclaimed, “You are definitely not just 6 weeks pregnant! You’re at least a full 13 weeks!” In an instant, we went from hoping to simply confirming the existence of a tiny, barely-there baby, to actually seeing our nearly second-trimester baby’s moving arms and legs. We then got to hear a strong, healthy heartbeat. 

Apparently, unknown to us, we actually had conceived a baby in early December (right after having that prayer time with Ann). For two full months we were pregnant and didn’t even know it. 

Our daughter Alexandra was born on August 7, 2012. 

She is our reminder of the resurrection power of Jesus. Our reminder that death and darkness isn’t the end. When I look at her, I remember God’s faithfulness as we wait in the darkness, and remember that he’s the bringer of new life.

Jesus has triumphed over death, has resurrected, and is making all things new. That’s what Easter is. Easter is Jesus. Easter means everything Jesus has been saying about God, about life, about death, about faith, about love, about forgiveness, about suffering, about giving over your life…it’s all true. Easter means God, who created everything in the beginning, is now recreating everything.

Whatever death and disappointment and darkness you are in, it is not the end of the story. Jesus is the end. So in the midst of the unrealized dreams, unfulfilled hopes, rejection, shame, brokenness, depression, whatever your disappointment, believe me when I tell you it is not the end. Deliverance and resurrection and breakthrough is coming. New life is on the other side. 

Hold on. Wait on God. Welcome him in the longing and hoping and the darkness. Cling to him with all your might, and hold on to his promise in Isaiah 25: 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 

In Jesus we have freedom and hope and renewal. In him we rise out from evil and death, and in him we have celebration and joy and new life.

2 thoughts on “Waiting In the Darkness

  1. Thank you so much for your post. We found out today on Good Friday about another miscarriage that is taking place, our 2nd miscarriage this year while trying to have a 3rd child. It is amazing to benefit from your wisdom on waiting in darkness and to hear your triumphant story. Thank you Jesus for your presence! Best, Jessie


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