You’ve heard the saying “the calm before the storm,” but perhaps a more appropriate phrase for Christians to remember would be that there’s always “darkness before deliverance”.
Travel back with me to the book of Exodus. Moses has been chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. When Moses first goes before Pharaoh, the king makes the lives of the Israelites even harder than it was before. The oppression becomes worse. There is serious struggle. And then, the plagues start coming.
We all know the end-all plague. We remember the death of the firstborn because its trauma still reaches through to our hearts today. But what about the ninth plague? Do you remember what it was?
Just before the children of Israel were to be delivered out of the hands of the corrupt and Godless Egyptians, there was darkness. Thick, palpable darkness throughout the land of Egypt (though not in Goshen where the Israelites were, for there’s always hope for His people).
Fast forward in history to the most wonderful and terrible moment in time: the cross of Christ. Satan is injuring the heel of our Lord at this time, and it’s a proud moment for him. Evil reigns in the hearts of men, and so many are traveling down the road to destruction. After a brutal scourging, and after being mocked and spat upon and pierced with spikes, Jesus is hanging on the cross in the early to middle part of the day. And guess what’s there?
The sun was darkened in the middle of the day because even light couldn’t look upon this moment —the moment when Christ would be forsaken by His Father; the moment when sin’s full weight would rest upon the sinless Savior. There was darkness, but only because supreme deliverance was coming. Deliverance that had been prophesied about for generations. Deliverance unlike any the world had known. Freedom from sin and death. But first, there had to be darkness.
When I think about our lives today, with all the pain that comes with being human, I long for deliverance. I’m sure you do, too. We sing songs of hope and deliverance each week, don’t we? This World is Not My Home, Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims, To Canaan’s Land I’m On My Way! We long for the day when we’ll see our Savior face to face, a day when God will wipe every tear away. We long for deliverance from evil and pain and suffering and separation and loss. But if we want deliverance, we must accept what comes first:
All those who live godly lives — lives that will hear “well done” on that final day — are lives that will experience persecution. Those who want the eternal deliverance from God are those who must come face to face with their own cross. They must pick it up and carry it. They must be ready to forsake all. They must be ready to lose relationships. They must be ready to lose material blessings. They might even lose their own lives. Because before deliverance, there is darkness. Pain. Suffering. Turmoil. Persecution. Heartbreak. Loss. Faith that is tested in the hottest fires, but faith that comes out on the other side ready to face the deliverance that God promises His children.
If you want deliverance tomorrow, be ready for darkness today. And if you are experiencing darkness today, know that deliverance is on the horizon. They go hand in hand, as they always have.