Darkness has always been symbolic of evil, mystery and fear. It was the Apostle John, in whose writings the symbolic is always hidden just below the surface, who said of Judas after his betrayal of The Prince of Light – “Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” [John 13:30].
In a spiritual sense darkness is also symbolic of those times when God appears to be absent, distant or apparently uncaring. It was the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross who wrote the poem “Dark Night of the Soul” – an experience many, if not most, on their spiritual journey will have experienced to one degree or another.
And it is in that experience – the experience of suffering in the night hours – when physical and mental pain seem to do their worst, or in the depth of depression, loss or hopelessness that we are most temped to give up – perhaps even to end it all.
It was about 3am on a dark and hopeless night facing the possibility of death in an unimaginable storm that a few disheartened and exhausted sailers saw Jesus walking towards them on the water – and hope was revived [Matthew 14:25].
I imagine that the bridesmaids in Jesus parable had given up all hope that the bridegroom would ever arrive – and yet we read is was – “At midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” [Matthew 25:6].
I suspect that the Shepherds on a hillside late one night had settled in for another few hours of boredom in the darkness when, without warning they were almost blinded by “The radiance of the Lord’s glory.” [Luke 2:9].
And it was David, a man who knew the sorrow and suffering of the night on many occasions, who could write – “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me.” [Psalm 42:8].
Some of the most beautiful songs have been written at midnight, some of the most comforting words revealed to those in the greatest darkness, some of the most significant lives have flourished in the darkest valley and some of the greatest revelations of the grace and love of God have been experienced by those in the depths and darkness of despair.
“You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.”