My legs had never felt so sore. It was the first night of the Hillsong Worship & Creative Conference and I was headed back to my accommodation.
When I was planning the trip, the 15-minute walk from the bus stop had seemed manageable on Google Maps. Yet I had not expected how dark the neighbourhood would be. Or how cold it was. Or how hilly and quiet it was.
It wasn’t going to be a walk. It was going to be a hike.
Standing alone at the bottom of the first of many mini hills I didn’t know I would have to climb, I had to admit it, I was scared.
At the 15-minute mark, I had only completed three-quarters of the walk. I stood under one of the few street lamps that lined the neighbourhood trying to catch my breath. I was exhausted from the climb itself and having to keep watch for any hiding assailants. It was quite a bizarre feeling of being both physically tired and mentally alert (or paranoid) at the same time.
As I shone my torchlight ahead and behind of me, as I had been doing every few steps, I simply felt the Lord impress this upon my heart, look up.
So I did. And I immediately gasped – the entire night sky was filled with stars. It felt as if He was watching over me even in the darkness.
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40: 26)
I had been so focused on peering into the darkness around me that I had forgotten to look up towards the One who could assure and protect me.
While still shrouded in material darkness for the rest of the walk home, I completed it with a serene heart and mind.
But this encounter didn’t just end there…
A few days later, I found myself with my luggage standing at the opposite end of that hilly trek. Thankfully, in daylight. The conference had ended and I was preparing to head back to central Sydney.
The walk did not seem as intimidating as it had been that night even while dragging along 2 bulky suitcases. It was a sunny and windy day, and simply a lovely day.
“Wow, that’s a beautiful design for a house.”
“Oh, I didn’t know there were such large dandelions growing alongside the road!”
“Oh, there is a canal here, with such lovely fauna surrounding it!”
These were a few of the thoughts running through my head as I headed to that same bus stop. I was now aware of the beauty surrounding me, whether natural or man-made. It didn’t matter that my legs were aching again or that my luggage was weighing me down.
And then it struck me: All this beauty had been surrounding me that night as well. It was just the darkness – literal and metaphorical – that prevented me from seeing it.
This beauty reflected His nature as the Creator – these were things He created and things He gave us the creativity to create.
I’m thankful to have had that journey on my first solo trip, both in the light and the darkness. Allow me to share the 2 key lessons I picked up along the way.
1. Our God doesn’t reign despite the darkness, He still reigns in the darkness
In Genesis 1, we are told that “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep… and He separated the light from the darkness.” God didn’t create darkness, but He still ruled over it and He had the privilege of naming it “night” (Genesis 1:5).
So even in the darkest periods of our lives, He reigns. Today if you’re in a season of darkness, He reigns in it. Even if it’s painful, even if it’s long, He reigns. And He knows exactly what you’re feeling.
Renowned English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said: Trusting God in the light is nothing, but trusting Him in the dark is faith.
So if you’re in such a season, take heart and know that your faith is being built.
2. Do in the dark what you do in the light – praise Him
Each time I gasped at the display of beauty before me during my daytime journey, it brought me back to a posture of praise. Even during my night-time trek, I praised Him not just for the knowledge that He was protecting me, but simply because as the Creator, He made the night beautiful.
You’ve probably heard it many times, but cultivating a lifestyle of praise and thanksgiving grounds you in your seasons of light and supports you in your seasons of darkness.
One of the new songs by Hillsong UNITED previewed at the 2018 Hillsong Worship & Creative Conference is titled Highlands and I love the chorus:
So I will praise You on the mountain
And I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise You in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
You’re the Heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same
What a beautiful reminder that our God reigns regardless of our season. Let us give Him the praise that is due to Him!