God Sees in the Night (Psalm 139:11-12)
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.—Psalm 139:11-12
“If only I’d been wrong!” Those were my exact thoughts that fateful Saturday evening as we drove home from the swim party. A mile ahead, we saw the police helicopter circling off to our right, sometimes shinning its bright spotlight, sometimes not. I joked with my young boys, “Hey, guys, it looks like that copter is scooping on our house.” After seeing their eyes grow big, I assured them it wasn’t our house.
Only it was. As we pulled up to our Los Angeles area home, officers with guns drawn were going through the front door. Spectators were everywhere. My neighbor breathlessly explained, “I was sitting on my porch when I saw four dudes break into your house. I called the cops, but there were no ground units available. However, within minutes they sent the copter and the bad guys were in such a hurry to get out that they dumped the stolen goods—computers, CD players, televisions, and printers—into your bushes and scattered!” Traumatic as it was, we lost nothing! The police air unit had saved the day.
Funny, though the crooks used darkness for cover, the guys in the copter had perfect vision. Their infrared technology allowed them to track the suspects even without a spotlight. As the officer explained, “sometimes we see better at night.”
In like manner, our heavenly Father is not caught off-guard by our blackest moments. “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as day.” Those are comforting words from the Psalmist, right? Yes, but in my fallen state, I often struggle appreciating their significance. Let’s face it. We live in a dark world where suffering and death are real—and they hurt. You may not get your best life now. Nevertheless, when I’m blindsided with grief or buried in a depression that will not lift, I don’t have to punt to blind faith. I can exercise trust based on evidence. Dr. Gary Habermas puts it this way: When the darkness is thick and thwarts understanding, reason from what you know to what you don’t know—and often that brings a measure of relief.
He knows what he’s talking about. In his book The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, Habermas—one of the world’s leading historical scholars on the resurrection of Jesus—writes about losing his wife Debbie to cancer. As Debbie lay dying, Gary talked to himself this way: “I am unsure why things are happening the way they are, and I am suffering. But this is still the same world in which God raised Jesus from the dead. Eternal life for believers is the direct result of this great event. Therefore, I can still trust God that there is a sufficient answer here, even if I do not know what it is.” No matter how badly he hurt or how much he wanted to scream in anguish, Gary forced himself to focus on the doctrinal facts found in 1 Corinthians 15. Yes, suffering and death are real and they sting. But resurrection is more real. Jesus went through the darkness of the grave and transcended it—and so will all of his children, including Debbie!
Sometimes, though, our darkness is self-inflicted and follows naturally from our sin. Perhaps you’re that Christian husband with a porn habit. Since kids came along, your wife just isn’t interested in connecting with you sexually. Twenty years later, you’re opting for a substitute. You’re haunted by the words of that old Baptist preacher from your youth: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.” You need help, but won’t ask for it because you shudder at the thought of God’s prosecuting eye. Your sin is just too dark to mention.
Yes, God sees our sin and often exposes it. But unlike the all-seeing police helicopter, his watchful eye is not there to aid the prosecution. It’s there to root out the evil so his children can be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). In short, God’s children are subject to his discipline but never his wrath. As C.S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity,
[T]he great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.