Charles Stanley - Walking Through Dark Times With God
When you go through dark moments in your life and you don't understand exactly what's going on. You can't figure out why things are happening the way they are. You look around you, you don't see any real reason or purpose for it. Or you may even look for somebody to blame or feel somebody's responsible. Or it just might be that you come to the place you think, God, where are you? You don't sense His presence anymore. And how could God possibly love you and allow you to walk through such awesome darkness as you feel? And somehow no matter what you do and how spiritual you may feel like you have been, you're going through a period of time in your life and you have absolutely no understanding of what is going on. And how long is this going to last and why do I feel this pain? Why do I feel the hurt? What did I do to deserve this? How do you respond when you've had those feeling in those moments of darkness?
Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message entitled, "Walking With God Through Dark Times". I want you to turn if you will to Genesis, first book in the Bible. Want us to look, if you will, beginning in this thirty-seventh chapter. Because in this thirty-seventh chapter begins the story of the life of Joseph, all the way to the end of the book of Genesis, fifty, chapter fifty. And you say, "Well, why would you choose someone like Joseph"? Because here's a young man who walked through the darkness for thirteen years before the light absolutely broke in awesome radiance upon him. And the reason God has placed the lives of these men in the Scripture is because it is through their lives He likens, helps us to liken our experiences to them, maybe not the same thing but the same kind of experience. And likewise, and the most important is this.
That the principles that God wants to teach us, He teaches us by unfolding them in the way He operates in the lives of other people. And so, in the life of Joseph, this is a perfect example of how God works in our life when you and I walk through the darkness. So, you say, "Well, now what do you mean by darkness"? I mean simply this. Those difficult, hard, trying times. Temptation, difficulty, trials, persecutions that you and I go through that sometimes we just can't understand why or what is happening. It may be financial, it may be in your family, it may be your relationships, whatever it might be, but we all have those times we go through.
So, I want you to look if you will in this first verse of chapter thirty-seven. "Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a varicolored tunic. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and so, they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms".
Now imagine having eleven brothers and none of them like you. Hm, hm, hm, hm. But listen, this gets worse. Verse eleven. "And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind. He told about a dream". Now this is the beginning of a long period of darkness. So, let me recount the darkness for a moment. His brothers didn't like him. They hated him and they were jealous of him. And of course, he felt this, living in a family of those kind of close ties, and seemingly nobody likes you. And if you'll recall that he also told his entire family about this dream he had. That he had these sheaves were in the field and his sheaf was in the middle and everybody else's was around his and they all bowed down to his sheaf. Well, you can imagine how that stirred up good feelings and, of course, that just made them that much more angry. Even his parents didn't understand all this.
Well, one day he went to find his brothers for his father, and they saw him coming. They said, "It's about time we settle this issue. Let's kill him". And so, they decided to kill him. Well Reuben, of course, did not want that to happen, and so they finally decided to throw him in a pit. There was no water in the pit so they figured ultimately something would happen. And finally, these Ishmaelites came along and they were on their way to Egypt and so they decided to sell him. So, they sold him for twenty pieces of silver. What a bargain. Sold him for twenty pieces of silver. So, he goes to Egypt and he goes down to Egypt, he gets sold on a block somewhere and so he's a slave. And so, he becomes a slave in Potiphar's household. Potiphar is one of the folks who works close to Pharaoh, and so he's a slave in Potiphar's household.
Well, he gets a little glimmer of hope here because he proves himself and Potiphar finally puts all of his belongings into the hand of Joseph, he trusts him that much. Says Joseph's over everything that I own. Well, he did such a good job that Potiphar's wife was attracted to him. And so, she tried to get him to go to bed with her and he would not do it. And so, she framed him and had him thrown in prison. So, the darkness is getting darker. And so, in prison, for example, he's there for some time, we don't know how long, but before he's recognized by the chief jailer. And the chief jailer recognizes something different about Joseph and before long this man's in charge of the jail.
And so, from the age of seventeen to the age of thirty, thirteen years, we find young Joseph walking through a period of almost uninterrupted darkness in his life. As we said before, God uses people to teach people. And therefore, if you and I want to learn the ways of God and how He operates and how we're to respond, then we look to see, how did God operate in the life of a person like Joseph. If you say, "Well, now wait a minute now. But my life's not like Joseph. He was over there in Egypt, and I'm here in the United States, and all these things'" That's not even the issue. The issue is this. What's the principle God works by? God is still, listen, God has not changed His principles over these years. The principles He used in the life of Joseph and Moses, David and Daniel and Paul and Peter and all the rest, He's still operating on the same basis because God doesn't change. He operated on the basis of perfection then. He operated on the basis of the same purposes then as He has today.
So, God is going to operate on the same principles in your life and my life no matter who we are and what we do. Now the first thing I want you to jot down is this. When you and I are walking through dark times, the first thing to remember is this. God is with us. This young man went through thirteen years of very, very dark time. Joseph began to learn very early in his life God was with him. He gave him favor to the man who bought him as a slave. He gave him favor to a man who no doubt was rather a rough, crude probably kind of man because he was overseeing all those Egyptian prisoners. And those kind of people aren't usually the kind, gentle type. He saw in Joseph some qualities that finally he just turned it all over to him. One thing that he knew, God was with him.
You and I are quick to quote the twenty-third Psalm when we go through those dark periods in our life. And you remember the phrase that we probably liked the best of all and that is, even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the dark times, he says, I will fear no evil for, what? Thou what? Art with me. It is the fact and the assurance that God is with us that makes all the difference. He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Turn if you will to the hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm because often times it's difficult for us to believe that God is with us when we're hurting, we're feeling pain. And we're asking God, "Where are You, why don't You change my circumstances"? We've got lots of questions for Him and somehow He doesn't seem to get upset with our questions.
And I want you to notice in this hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm which deals with the whole idea of our running from Him or escaping from Him. And listen to what he says just in the eleventh and twelfth verses. David says, "If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee". And here's what it should say to us. When you and I are walking through those dark times and we wonder, "God, where in the world are You and what's going on"? Here's what you can remember. That Almighty God who saved us, who lives on the inside of us is with us. I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Now here's the difference. It is easier for us to believe in the presence of God or sense the presence of God in our life when, when things are going our way. It's sorta easy to believe. Yes, I do believe God's with me. But what about when the light's taken away and everything looks dark and gloomy and I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel out there anywhere, then can I still believe that My God who promised to be with me, who will never forsake me, am I willing to believe that He's with me now when I don't feel His presence, I don't see His presence, and somehow, I can't conceive that He could allow me to go through this. Do I still believe He's with me? Yes! Yes, He is! God is with me no matter what.
Principle number two. God always has a purpose for the darkness He allows us to walk through. God always has a purpose for the darkness He allows us to walk through. Now, listen carefully what I'm gonna say now. If I understand what that purpose is, somehow no matter how dark it is, I can manage better. But most of the time we don't understand what the purpose is. Most of the time we don't discover what that purpose is until after we are out of the darkness. But often times God is willing to reveal to us what it is. Now Joseph, I don't think Joseph understood what God's purpose was. I don't think he ever forgot that dream he had, when all the other sheaves in his family bowed down before his. I don't think he understood that. More than likely that kept coming back to him. He'd probably think, "Well God, what in the world did that dream mean? It certainly doesn't seem that it meant much. You know, here I got framed by Potiphar's wife and now I'm a prisoner. I'm here in prison and even though I'm in charge, I'm still an Egyptian prisoner, I'm still in prison".
You see, God is under no obligation to show you and me what His purpose is. But what I want you to notice is this. God never operates without a purpose. God does not allow you and Me, nor does He send us through the dark moments of our life without a purpose. He always has a specific purpose in mind because He predestined you and me to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. God doesn't do things haphazardly and He does not allow things just to happen to us. Now listen, when you hear Christians talk about, "Well, let me tell you what happened to me". Now all of us say that. What I want you to remember is this. Whenever you say, "This just happened, and that just happened, it could only happen under the divine, all-knowing, supervision of a sovereign God who has every single thing in life under His control, who has a definite purpose in your life and who is allowing these things to happen for a definite purpose".
Now, you say, "Well, why in the world would God allow a young man like, like Joseph whom the Bible says nothing negative about, why allow him thirteen years of walking through this darkness"? God had a very specific purpose. Preserving the nation of Egypt, preserving, listen, not only the nation of Egypt but the nation of Israel, Jacob and his family. Remember one of, remember his sons, one of whom was Judah through whom, that was the line through whom the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ came. Friend, God is always ahead of us. He's got everything under control. He's working everything in His absolute perfect timing. He has a purpose for every single solitary thing. It took thirteen years to train up this young Hebrew to become the Prime Minister of the entire nation of Egypt and it would be Joseph, himself, this young Hebrew, who grew up in Egyptian bondage who would ultimately, second only to Pharaoh, rule the economy of the whole nation. God had a specific purpose.
Third thing I want you to remember, He will only keep us in the darkness until He has accomplished that purpose. He's only gonna keep us there until He's accomplished that purpose, whatever it is. Now with Joseph it took from the age of seventeen to thirty. When God's timing was right, when it fit into God's plan for what He was going to do in the world at that particular time. God will only keep you and me in those times of darkness until He's accomplished His purpose in our life. Now, if I don't know what the purpose is, it's a lot more difficult to walk through the darkness and especially when the time goes and it's on and on, and it's days, and weeks, and months, and years. It's more difficult often times for us to put up with that.
And we say, "Lord, now wait a minute, certainly You've not forgotten"? No. And once in a while I find myself arguing with Him a little bit, and then you know the truth is, you just might as well just face it. You can't argue with God. I mean, I mean, you can't out-argue God. And you can tell Him everything you want to tell Him, and He's probably saying, "Hm, hm, I've heard that before, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes". And then, when we finish, He will tell us what He wants us to know or He'll be quiet and let us, listen, let us get under His will and His discipline and do what He calls us to do until He desires to either change that circumstance or whatever it might be. He will only keep us there as long as is necessary to do what? In order for us to learn what He wants us to learn or for Him to accomplish what He wants us to accomplish.
Next principle. We're always walking toward the dawn of a new day. When you and I are walking through the darkness, we're always walking toward the dawn of a new day. Now, at the age of seventeen it was dark in that pit. It was dark on their way to Egypt as a slave. It was dark on the slave block in Egypt. It was dark in that prison for a long time and it was dark probably most all the time. But you know what? The day someone said to Joseph, "Joseph, you're to stand before Pharaoh". What? You're to stand before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to him, "You interpret this dream". He interpreted the dream to Pharaoh, and you know what happened? All the darkness of thirteen years absolutely disappeared, and the absolute total glory of God was all over him. And he lived to be a hundred and ten years of age. That meant for eighty years he lived in Egypt with pomp and glory and honor and wealth, second only to the Pharaoh.
Now let me ask you a question. Do you think it was even a question in his mind when somebody said, "Joseph, were these eighty years of living in Egypt, saving your family, helping to save the world, was it worth thirteen years in prison"? Yes! Yes! I believe everybody who walks through darkness and comes out the other side and is kept their focus on the Lord God would turn around and say, "Yes! Dark? Yes! Painful, hurtful, trying, difficult, misunderstood? Yes"! Why? Because my friend, God loves us. He's always, He's always moving us toward the dawn. And no matter where you are and what you're going through today, there is light. Listen. There is a dawn. There is gonna be a new day. God's gonna bring you through it no matter what. It may be tough right now. You think, "God, how am I gonna be able to stand this"? He's gonna enable you. He will enable us and sometimes it's a day at a time.
And somebody may say, "Well, how do you stand this one day at a time"? How do we live one day at a time? The just shall live by faith. How? One day at a time. And sometimes we get lots of hopes and we can see the future gets brighter. And yet often times in those dark times, it's one day at a time. We learn more in the darkness but we're always moving toward the light. You see, that's why you and I won't ever have to give up. If God has said, "Here's what I'm gonna do". You can rest your eternal life on the fact that God, in all of this sovereign power, everything in heaven is behind the promise of God. He will make it a living reality no matter what. You cannot stop God. When God says, "Here's what I'm gonna do". Now, a conditional promise is: Here's what I'll do if you do thus and so. But when God says, "Here's what I'm gonna do, there's no question about it". That is an unconditional promise of God that cannot be conditioned or altered by anything. And I could give you a number of very personal experiences when God says, "Here's what I'm gonna do".
It was totally irrational to me, didn't fit anything. It was a struggle for me, a big battle for me to believe what I'd heard. But I'll never forget getting in a prayer room one day when I was really struggling about something and it's like the Lord said to me, "Now, are you gonna believe what you see, what you feel, what you hear or what I said"? And when I finally could come to the conclusion to say, "God, I'm gonna believe what You said". I can remember all hell broke loose. Everything around me said, "You can't believe it," what I heard, what I saw, what I felt. It's like the Lord would say to me, "You're gonna believe what I said? Are you gonna believe what you feel, what you see, what you hear"? That's why we must learn to listen to God and not question the Word of the Father. He will do what He promised to do. And you know what? That means that no matter what's going on, how much darkness we walk through, there's always light, always light out there somewhere. God will bring us through all of that.
One last thing, or one last principle here and that's simply this. And that is, those things we learn in the darkness we are to share in the light. Those things we learn in the darkness we're to share in the light. Remember what Jesus said in that tenth chapter of Matthew? Tenth chapter of Matthew, listen to what He said, speaking to His disciples and certainly a message for all of us. He said in verse twenty-seven, "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light, what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops". God wants us to share what He teaches us in the darkness, those difficult times.
Listen, if you, listen carefully. Do you know that one of the ways that it establishes the truth, and you understand even better what God has done in your life is when you share it with someone else? When you're able to share with someone else what God has taught you or what He's in the process of teaching you, it's like God just entrenches it a little deeper. And a little deeper, and a little deeper. God is working in your life. God is doing a mighty work. And so, He says, "What you learn, what I tell you in the darkness. That is, when I tell you when you're alone. You don't understand what's going on and you can't quite conceive of all the things that happen. And what I tell you then, what I teach you then, what I show you then," He says, "you're to speak in the light".
Now I don't know where you are in your walk with the Lord. I don't know what kind of darkness is covering you. Maybe financial darkness, relational darkness, family darkness, all kinds of darkness that we all have to deal with in life. I don't know what it is, but this much I know. If you're a child of God, He's with you in it. He has a purpose. He's only gonna allow you in that darkness to accomplish His purpose. When it's accomplished, He'll bring you out of it. If you will listen carefully and act wisely, you'll learn things in the darkness you're not gonna learn any other way. There is a light, there is a dawn, there is a new day. You're coming, you can come out of it and you will come out of it. And not only that, when you come out, you should come out praising Him, thanking Him, declaring to others the greatness of God, the dependability of God, the faithfulness of God, the love of God to provide for you so abundantly.
Well, you say, "Well, but suppose I'm not a Christian"? Then my friend, you're walking in darkness, this is something entirely different. If you're not a believer, you're walking in darkness. Not only that, your heart's dark. You say, "Well, how do I get light in my soul? How do I get light in my life"? Here's the way you do it. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world". Therefore, if you want the light of truth in your life, you ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. And you tell Him that you're believing in His forgiveness on the basis that He went to Calvary and paid your sin-debt in full. And that you're receiving Him as your personal Savior, and surrender your life to Him. In that moment, the light of the world, the eternal light of God, what happens? It lights up in your heart. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you and to live through you the life of Christ. And then you have the privilege of doing what? You have the privilege of trusting Him, walking through the difficult times.
You say, "Well now, now once I get saved, won't everything change"? Your whole eternal destiny's gonna change. Your circumstances may remain the same. Well, now becoming a Christian, doesn't that mean that God's gonna change everything? No. You may have to walk through some very, very dark days even after you're saved. Let's say that you're married to a person who's an unbeliever, hates God, doesn't want anything to do with Bible, Jesus, God. There are gonna be some dark days. Your parents may not be Christian, and they don't want you to even think about being called in the Lord's service. Dark days. You may have been deeply, deeply in debt and just because you're saved doesn't mean God's gonna get you out of it. He will but not that quick, may be some dark days.
Just because you become a believer does not mean that all the dark days are over, but here's what it means. Before in the darkness, you were there alone. You weren't learning anything, you weren't going anywhere, you weren't prospering, you weren't learning the great principles of God. You were floundering in darkness. Now, God will take your same old circumstance, the same old difficulty and hardships and trials. Now He puts purpose in them. Now God begins to work in your life. Now He begins to grow you up. Now He heads you in the direction of the dawn of a new day. He will bring you through it, but it begins with trusting Him as your personal Savior.
And I want to encourage you wherever you are, whatever you're going through no matter what, if you've never trusted Him just to say, "Lord Jesus, I've blown it. I'm walking in darkness. My life is full of sin. I am full of rebellion. I've been trying to have it my way. I confess my sin to you. I ask You to forgive me. I'm trusting You as my Savior. I want the light of Christ in my life. I want to walk in Your way, even if it's through dark periods, I must know that You're there with me and You have a purpose in it," and He will. Or you may be a believer and you're walking through a very dark time. After the first service, several people said to me, "You talked right to me this morning. I'm walking through one of those dark times".
Well, my friend, listen. If you'll just take these simple principles. They're so simple, but they're all powerful. He's with you, has a purpose. When the purpose is over, He brings you out. You learn a whole lot more in the dark than you do in the light. God in His wonder, what will He do? Head you in the direction of the dawn of a new day. And you know what'll happen? He'll give you the privilege of sharing in the light these awesome things He teaches you in the dark.
Father, how grateful we are that You love us and that Your love for us is unconditional. And that You don't react to us. You understand our weakness and our frailties and our doubts and our fears in the darkness. You're still there. And I pray that those who have heard this message that the Spirit of God will sink it so deep, wrap it around their heart tightly that it may begin to work in their soul, their spirit and their heart so that Jesus who is the light of the world becomes the light of their life. And Father, for all of Your saints who are going through darkness, just bring them to the realization that You are a loving, gentle Father they don't even realize it. You have them by the hand, You're leading them through the darkness. We love You and praise You for being that kind of Father, in Jesus' name, amen.