Dwelling in Thick Darkness

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“Thank you, God, for dwelling in thick darkness.”[1] As I listened to my 8-year old daughter pray those words a few weeks ago at dinner, I was moved by the way she spoke to God. The way her words were not simply a dinnertime prayer but a personal and deep conversation where she praised, entreated, interceded, and confessed to God. Where she expressed so much of who God is to her. The words she prayed moved my heart to its own posture of praising, entreating, interceding, and confessing, too, and as she proclaimed her “Amen,” I noticed that there were tears in my eyes, because I recognized what had happened in that moment. That ordinary moment that started out as a dinnertime prayer was the Holy Spirit at work through this amazing young girl, and I was truly transformed by it. As she thanked God for dwelling in thick darkness, she was thanking God for being present in her life, and she was proclaiming the love that comes from that presence.

In the weeks that have passed since that evening, I have told that story to many different people, and it always begins with “as I listened to her pray,” because it is through that action on her part that I saw the Holy Spirit so fully at work. In that moment of prayer as we sat around the table, I was reminded of the myriad ways that God is present and at work in each of our lives and, perhaps more importantly, how God so completely and constantly abides with us.

When I think about what it means for God to abide in us, I think about a God who is good, true, faithful, and constant. And there is an indescribable level of comfort in being sure of that. Throughout Scripture, we see the abiding presence of God as God protects the Israelites as they flee Egypt. We feel the enormity of that presence when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. We are enveloped by the strength of an abiding God as God continues to empower Deborah to lead and guide the Israelites. And we bear witness to the nearness and involvement of God in this world through the wisdom of the Proverbs. While the abiding nature of God appears to us in so many different forms, the important point to remember is that God is always present. God was present then, and God is present now.

This fall at ACU’s Summit, we are focusing on presence. Our theme is Abide with Me, and we are inviting people to discover not only the different ways that God abides with them but also how we are called to abide with God. Ministry areas such as preaching, small-church, and youth ministry, to name only a few, will interpret this theme in a way unique to each area of ministry, and our general interest community will examine the deep spiritual wisdom of 1 Peter and its relevance for the church today. We will also have the opportunity to hear from noted author and theologian Andrew Root as he explores rebuilding the life of the church through encountering the presence of God. Furthermore, as Summit continues to build on the richness of our heritage, we will seek to foster greater relationships—with God and with each other. And we hope you will be able to join us.

The presence of God was on the heart of my daughter that evening as demonstrated through her prayer. It remains on so many of our hearts as ministers, ministry leaders, and people dedicated to the kingdom of God, because it is an ever-constant reminder of God’s love. When my daughter led the prayer at dinner that evening, she was saying so much more than her words indicated. She was acknowledging the depth of what it means to dwell in the presence of God, to abide with God. The presence of God means that we are held in God’s love, and there is a tremendous peace and stillness that comes from knowing the certainty of that. Thank you, God, for dwelling in thick darkness.Thank you, God, for abiding with me.

When the temple was complete, King Solomon said, “The Lord has said he would dwell in thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12).” The spirit of God dwells in the holy darkness where we are invited to be held in God’s love.[2]

[1] Sharei Green and Beckah Selnick, God’s Holy Darkness (Minneapolis: Beaming Books, 2022).

[2] Green and Selnick, God’s Holy Darkness, 11.

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