Darkest Before The Dawn

dawnI don’t know if the expression “darkest before the dawn” has a bases in nature or not, or if darkness is even a measurable quantity. But we’ve all heard the adage, and we understand it because there seems to be experiential truth.

Novelists often take characters into the “black night of the soul” before a climactic reversal and triumph. And readers accept this as “real.”

Scripture chronicles a number of instances when the darkness got darker before God moved.

Lazarus got sick, seriously sick, and then … Jesus came? No, then Lazarus died. And was entombed for four days. Darkness at it’s darkest before Jesus showed up and said, Come out.

Or how about the enslaved Israelites, crying out to God because their burden was grievous. At God’s command, as a direct result of their cries, He sent Moses. And things went from bad to worse.

Keep making bricks, their slave masters told them, only now you have to collect your own materials because you’re so lazy. And when they didn’t meet their quota? Their leaders were beaten.

Darkness turning darker. And then the exodus.

Or how about Gideon. Already out manned, God reduces his fighting force, not once but twice. Darkest darkness. And then God intervened to defeat the enemies.

And even for those saints who died. The thief on the cross had Jesus’s promise that he would be with Him that day in paradise. Stephen, as he was dying, had a face that shone like an angel’s.

But here’s where I’m glad I have the Bible. I think of Abraham hiking up to the mountain with his teen son Isaac, ready to sacrifice him on the altar they would build. He didn’t know how that darkest moment of his life was going to turn out. He just knew he needed to trust God completely and obey.

The Israelites didn’t know that Moses was indeed the one who would lead them out of slavery. They thought he was, when he showed them the miraculous signs from God. But then the slave masters’ demands came and the beatings came. Suddenly, Moses’s own doubts resurfaced:

O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people; and You have not delivered Your people at all.

The thing was, God intended more for His people than just release from slavery. When Pharaoh finally sent them away, they had acquired silver and gold from their neighbors. They had a reputation as a people blessed by God, so when they arrived in Canaan, the locals were scared to death.

My temptation, when the darkness comes, is to find my own way into the light. I’m impatient and don’t want to wait for the fullness of God’s time. If I would only remember, dawn follows the darkest of the dark.

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This article is a re-post of one that appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in August 2009

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. I’m somewhat surprised you didn’t mention what seems to me the strongest passage emphasizing the need to wait patiently for God’s deliverance, 1 Samuel 13; Saul offered the sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel because he didn’t have enough patience and thought he had to do something, and his dynasty lost the kingdom because of it.

    In the literal rather than metaphorical sense, “it’s darkest before the dawn” is almost a tautology—of course it keeps getting darker until it starts getting lighter again. But in the metaphorical sense, it’s harder to see, because we don’t (usually) have the example of previous cycles to be able to say from knowledge that “it can’t get any darker,” and only faith—warranted assurance from the promises of God, or induction from previous cycles of life—can tell us that a “dawn” will come this time.

    In fiction, writers tend, and are encouraged by every book about writing that I’ve ever read, to make The Problem as difficult as possible for the Protagonist to solve or get out of, including through the judicious or excessive use of complications, because the Protagonist’s eventual victory or escape will be more satisfying the worse the Problem (so long as the author doesn’t “cheat”). If our characters knew that they were characters in stories written by authors, they would have to, and would have reason (depending on our track record in previous stories …) to, trust us to get them through. How much more should we trust the perfect Author to accomplish the most glorious Ending that he has promised!


    • Jonathan, thanks for sharing you thoughts. Of course the ultimate “darkest before the dawn” was Christ crucified and buried in a tomb. Who would have expected Him to come back more alive than ever? Those who expected Him to be Messiah had to have experienced a shocking darkness that they couldn’t understand. Which, I believe, was why He told His most intimate disciples what the plan was. They just couldn’t fathom it, even after Lazarus.

      Great analogy about characters (if they lived) trusting the author and we, God’s people, trusting Him, the omniscient and infallible Author.



  2. Excellent Becky. The old song “Joy comes in the Morning” was a favorite for many hard, hard years. We are living in darkness…gross darkness of Isaiah 60.
    Thirty years ago did we think it could get much worse? It has and it will but He will come shining in like sun at dawn. “Hold on my child, Joy comes in the morning”…so the song goes.


  3. P.s. My husband has done an entire study on time, day, night, etc. There really is a longer time then most think from that darkness into the dawn. It is like twilight in reverse.


    • Thanks, Sandy. Interesting about the time frame.

      Yes, I think we are living in darkness, the inevitable result of sin. In Colossians Paul says God rescued us from the dominion of darkness, so the more our culture turns from God, the darker our society will become. But isn’t that precisely what Romans 1 says?

      Paul also said in Philippians that we can be children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom we appear as lights in the world, which of course implies that the world is darkness.

      Sobering that what Paul says will prove us to be blameless and innocent is doing all things without grumbling or disputing! Really, God? No grumbling? No disputing? I think I’ve lived much of my life at the corner of Grumbling and Disputing.

      God continues to teach me! 😀



      • Me, too Becky…the grumbling part. I used to judge the Hebrew Children harshly. Now all I see when I look back is ME! Like Nathan said to David —You are that man! UGH.


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