Learning to See When the Lights Go Out

By Sharon W. Betters

God is keeping the promise of Isaiah 45:2-3 to me:

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 m ay know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isa. 45:2-3)

When death grabbed my youngest child, Mark, and tried to destroy our family, I wondered how my heart kept beating. In my grief I felt estranged from God. For more than twenty-five years I had taught women to believe that God will make beauty out of ashes, that he is the Repairer of broken walls, that they could trust him. But on July 6, 1993, I concluded that I had lied. How could God ever bring beauty from the ashes of the sudden deaths of our sixteen-year-old son and his friend Kelly? How would I ever trust my heavenly Father again?

Because of my rich spiritual heritage and role as a pastor's wife and Bible study teacher, it's possible that people who knew me well imagined that my response to deep sorrow would be great faith. Instead, my long journey into the abyss of grief frightened our closest friends and extended family. I raged against God, demanding that he give me back my child, demanding that he show himself to me in the way I wanted. At other times, I sobbed quietly, exhausted from the constant presence of the ghost of grief, surrendering to God's silence, longing for what had been, concluding that never again on this earth would I know joy or happiness.

Early in my journey, I often envied those who experienced similar loss but seemed to be in a cocoon of peace and strength. Though their grief was as deep as mine, they never seemed to question God's presence or love. It seemed that I, indeed, was in a cocoon, but one characterized by darkness that blinded me to God's presence.

Why didn't God grant me peace and strength? Why did I have to struggle to trust him once more? My personal journal is filled with questions like these - and more.

I have concluded that God gave me the gift of wrestling. At first I think I wrestled with him in order to win - to change his mind. But soon the wrestling was for the purpose of resting in him. I learned that he is not afraid of our confusion and needs no one to defend him. But neither is he obligated to answer all of our questions.

A friend of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once said, "The woman who has no experiences in the dark has no secrets to share in the light." This statement challenged me with a choice in the aftermath of Mark's death. Would I accept midnight sorrow as an opportunity for God to reveal his secrets of the darkness? Or would I refuse to open my eyes and hands to treasures designed to turn my heart toward him? In time, desperation to understand my heavenly Father and experience his power drove me to place my hope in what I know about him, now in what I do not know. That's when I began to more clearly experience the treasures in the darkness and riches stored in secret placers.

Learning to see when the lights went out took me back to the foundations of my faith, where I unpacked each belief and examined it through the grid of God's Word. I needed to know that what I had believed and taught for more than twenty-five years was absolute truth. Through tear-filled eyes, I searcher for God's presence everywhere and in every event. No detail was insignificant. It still isn't.

My journal is a written record of the many times God responded to my please for relief. It gives me tangible evidences that before I even expressed my sorrow, he had sent treasures to turn my heart toward him. I know now that he prepared many of those gifts before the foundation of this world, with plans to send them to our family at just the right moment.

Thirteen years later, God continues to keep his promises by sending treasures in the darkness, riches stored in secret places - treasures designed to turn my heart toward him and remind me that he calls me by name.

Sharon W. Betters is the wife of Dr. Charles F. Betters, pastor/teacher of MARK INC Ministries. Sharon is the author of Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-authored Treasures of Faith with her husband. For more resources designed to help turn your heart toward the love of God, visit www.markinc.com.

Adapted from Treasures in Darkness: A Grieving Mother Shares Her Heart. Used by permission of P & R Publishing Company, copyright ©2006 by Sharon Betters. All rights reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without permission of P & R Publishing Company and/or MARK INC Ministries.