Playing with Darkness: A Lesson on Forgiveness & Healing

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“Mommy, I get a book to read!” Del says excitedly as he races out of the den. I just sat down with my first cup of coffee for the day and my shoulders slumped after hearing those words. I’m tired. I just want to check in on my social media and wake up. I open up Instagram and start looking at stories. Del comes into the room.
 

“Mommy I found a new book! I want to read!” he announces as he crawls up next to me in the recliner. I wish I were better at being excited to read to my kids. I was an English teacher. I believe in reading. Why don’t I want to read to my own kid? Why is Instagram taking over my life? Why do I care about strangers’ lives more than my own child’s bonding and reading with me?
 

You see, I realize what Paul says in the book of Romans rings so true in myself:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:15-20).

 
 

Did you follow that? Essentially Paul is saying like I’m saying, I want to do what’s right but I end up doing what I hate—and what I hate is sinful. It’s neglectful. I’m neglecting my relationship with God when I do not take time to engage in his Word. The Word we are so fortunate to have depicting all the things of life. When I tell my child no to reading to him when I should really say yes is me neglecting him. I hate that behavior I have. There’s something in me that is off. And that is where I want to start: When we do the things we know we should detest, there is something wrong in our hearts.
 

This is a huge deal for me because as a type one on the Enneagram, I want things to be right. I want to do things the right way simply because it is right. I’m big on integrity and justice. And yet I can’t even uphold my own standard with my child who needs me to read to him.

 

Let’s take this further, what happens when someone just does wrong, hurts me, has no integrity, and it affects my life? I am told to forgive. Forgive anyway. Forgive seven times seventy times. And, for me, when someone betrays my ultimate trust… It. Is. Hard.

 
Forgiveness begins with acknowledging the wrong and accepting that I am no better than the person who wronged me. God is the Almighty and justice is reserved for him alone. There is no separation of sin. All sin is separation from God. Me choosing to eat my feelings is gluttony and it is no worse than the sin committed against me. When we acknowledge we are no better than anyone else, we can forgive.

 

Forgiveness is just the beginning, though, because it releases the control of that wrong over us. No longer do my emotions control me due to that hurt. Forgiveness sets us free so we can begin the healing process. The healing process from that wrong may take years or it may take a few prayers of release depending on how intense the wrong was.  There is no set limit on healing. For example, if a partner in a marriage has been unfaithful to the other partner for years, it will likely take years for the healing process.
 

Forgiveness is not letting everything go. Forgiveness does not allow for vengeful behavior either. We do not get to say we forgive and then use the wrong against the person as an excuse for our mistreatment of him or her.

 
Let me put it this way, when we break our arm, we go to the Emergency Room. Our arm is set and casted for six weeks or so while it heals. Then we go back and have an x-ray again to ensure the healing has taken place. But it doesn’t stop there, we are usually given instructions how to build muscle strength back up after that period of weakness in the cast.
 

Just like the broken arm, the process of forgiveness and healing takes time and requires active engagement in the healing process.

 

The interesting thing is when you’re actively engaged in the healing process of yourself, you begin to understand a truth—we don’t know what we don’t know. Simple as that. Forgiving an addict for choosing whatever substances over us can be forgiven because they don’t know what they don’t know.  The substance or the adultery or the fill-in-the-blank is not about you. It’s about that person’s denial of brokenness. That person’s behaviors reflect hidden darkness in his or her heart. If you don’t believe me, look what it says in the book of Job chapter 24:13-17,

 
“There are those who rebel against the light,
who do not know its ways
or stay in its paths.
When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up,
kills the poor and needy,
and in the night steals forth like a thief.
The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’
and he keeps his face concealed.
In the dark, thieves break into houses,
but by day they shut themselves in;
they want nothing to do with the light.
For all of them, midnight is their morning;
they make friends with the terrors of darkness.
 

Do you notice a trend here? Those who rebel against the light—murders, adulterers, thieves—they hide themselves in the night or darkness. They do their dirty deeds at night in the safety of darkness. They feel comfortable in the darkness because they themselves are dark inside.

 

Look back at the words “he thinks no one will see me” and think about that a minute. When we’re in the darkness lies are easier to believe. It’s easier to continue to spiral down into the pits of Sheol.
 

This Sheol is a Hebrew word used to define a pit, death, a place where wicked go, and darkness. Oftentimes there are words used in Scripture or you’ll read Christian writers’ work that refers to darkness. Darkness is usually referred to in our culture today as a place without God. This is why Sheol stuck out to me a lot lately in my personal reading. Let’s go on a journey to see why Sheol is significant when it comes to discussions of the heart.
 

In the CSB version Psalm 88:3-5 says:
For I have had enough troubles, and my life is near Sheol.
I am counted among those going down to the Pit.
I am like a man without strength,
abandonedamong the dead.
I am like the slain lying in the grave,
whom you no longer remember,
and who are cut off from your care.
 

When we parallel that to the NIV Psalm 88:3-5 reads:

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

 
Sheol appears to be a pit void of life and God does not seem to be present there. It seems hopeless, a place without strength. In the Old Testament generations it was believed everyone went to Sheol. In Psalm 49:12-14 we read they thought animals and humans went to the same place for death
 
But despite his assets, mankind will not last;
he is like the animals that perish.
This is the way of those who are arrogant,
and of their followers,
who approve of their words.
Like sheep they are headed for Sheol;
Death will shepherd them.
The upright will rule over them in the morning,
and their form will waste away in Sheol,
far from their lofty abode.

  

When we look at Ecclesiastes (9:6-10) we see Sheol described as this place where there is “neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

 
We see Sheol to be this place of nothingness. Ending. Simply a catchall and pit for every dead thing to go, clearly void of God.

 

Now go back to the passage in Job.

“There are those who rebel against the light,
who do not know its ways
or stay in its paths.
When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up,
kills the poor and needy,
and in the night steals forth like a thief.
The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’
and he keeps his face concealed.
In the dark, thieves break into houses,
but by day they shut themselves in;
they want nothing to do with the light.
For all of them, midnight is their morning;
they make friends with the terrors of darkness.

 

Stick with me here a minute because this is important. Sheol is never defined as hell. It’s defined as a place where the wicked will go, an unseen realm of the dead. The people listed above are wicked. The murderer, the adulterer, the thief. We all agree they are wicked because of their behaviors. Our behaviors are effects of our heart’s condition.

 
The murder is a thief of life.
Probably because his life has been destroyed.
The adulterer is jaded by the lie that no one will see him.
Probably because he’s had a jaded sense of relationships and love.
The thief hides behind the darkness to move in and out obtaining.
Probably because joys of life have been taken from him.
 
 
It says, “They make friends with the terrors of darkness.”
Friends reading this, dare I challenge you right now to think—you’ve also been a friend with the terror of darkness? Dare I challenge you to think that you might be a friend with darkness in your future?

 
 
Remember when I said Paul’s words of doing what I don’t want to do and yet I do it? I still play with sin even though I don’t want to. I still am gluttonous, but I don’t want to be. I am still prideful, but I yearn to be humble. I am greedy obtaining more and more, but I want to give it away. I lust after what other people have, but I want to be content with what I have and am given. I am lazy, but I want to be actively contributing to God’s purpose for my life.

 

This is where Jesus comes into play.

 

God reveals in Isaiah 26:19 that there will be a resurrection of the dead. In Isaiah 25:8 we learn God will swallow up death. Look at Daniel 12:2 “Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will wake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.”

 

Sheol will be redeemed. The depths of the darkness will be redeemed and a choice will be made. Jesus will raise up the dead, those living in darkness, those that want a change of heart and thus a change of behavior in life, they will live—fully alive eternally. But those who do not want the change of heart, do not want to accept the salvation and redemption, those have chosen disgrace and eternal contempt.
 
 
Whoa. Do you see what I see here? Jesus came to win over the depths of Sheol, the darkness, the emptiness and darkness of life, in order that we might have eternal life with him. A life of abundance here on this side of earth until we reach our final home destination.
 

Meaning… Jesus came to rescue you and me from the pit of darkness or the season of darkness we might be living in. He’s come to clear out and bring your dark, deep sin secrets to light, giving you restoration and healing.
 

No one is too far gone for Jesus. Short of apostasy, Jesus will not give up. He doesn’t give up on us and surely he does not give up on those who have betrayed us, either.

 

Jesus saves us from sin and death and I’ll add in there, he saves us from ourselves. He reminds me gently and sometimes forcefully what living like him looks like—humbling myself, remembering I’m no better than anyone else, and choosing to die to my (Instagram) wants. My heart condition at the time was likely tired and frustrated at things going on I couldn’t control. But Jesus said in that moment:
 

Read to your gift of a son, Danielle.
The son you had after your second miscarriage.
The son you had after you went through six months of failed fertility treatments.
The son you had when you went said yes to an IUI.
The son you conceived while being obedient to your purpose in another state.
The son you helped maintain your pregnancy with excessive hormone therapies.
The son who might not have been—Be faithful to him.

So Friend, I ask you, what do your priorities say about your heart condition?

Just a PS—This post was meant to explore the rationale that we do what we do out of our heart conditions. So do the people who hurt us. Yes we are to love them well, but loving people well does not mean enabling, doing things for them, or condoning their behaviors. It is showing them Jesus. Being the hands and feet of Jesus to them. Sometimes because of boundaries or unhealthy people, being Jesus simply means modeling the proper behaviors so they are open to changing their hearts.

The bottom line is just because we’ve made the changes to live in the light, does not mean everyone else has. We need to have eyes to see people the way God sees them and love out of that view.

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hey, i’m Danielle

I love Jesus. I love my family. And I get joy from having a front row view of people growing toward their goals because of what I’ve taught.

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