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A Box Full Of Darkness

A Box Full of Darkness

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Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~Mary Oliver

This is true of my life, and for anyone living on this side of eternity, it is true of yours, as well. Either you’ve opened a box full of darkness, you’ve not discovered the gift in the box, or the day will come when such a box darkens your door. This article will pose more questions than answers, and I challenge you to contemplate each one in light of your own broken experiences and the gifts therein.

I hate having to admit how long I tightly clutched my box, opening it several times, somehow wishing its contents would change. And I think we all go through that phase to some degree – the denial, the desire to change the past, the refusal to move on. Heart Check: Are you stuck? Are you still peering deeply into your box, wishing the past were different, unable to make progress because you refuse to accept what life has sent your way? The writer of Jimmy Needham’s “Clear the Stage” said, “Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” Pain, too, can be an idol; the darkness can consume you if you let it. Have you given the box its own pedestal in your life, allowing yourself to act and react out of anger, hatred, or fear?

I know our human desire for control will make you want to kick against this next statement, but sit with it for a minute. Your worst relationships, your deepest hurts, your most shameful life experiences, more than any other moments, define your relationship with God. I did NOT say dictates or determines; I said DEFINES. The box full of darkness, whatever your box may be, serves to highlight some of the essential qualities of your relationship with God. Heart Check: Will you wrestle with God in the dark? Will you praise Him in it? Will you place your hope in Him despite the darkness? Will you so deeply desire He change your box that you miss God changing you?

In the darkness of our experiences, we are given a gift. The gift, of course, isn’t the darkness itself, but what we do with the darkness, with the initial pain, with the ensuing shame, the desire to blame. What happens to you in life isn’t what matters most; what matters most is what you do with what has happened – how you happen to life when life happens. I recently came across a comment from an individual who reported having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following an accident. He concluded that although the resulting PTSD stuck with him for at least 4 years, the accident instantly made him decide to never waste the gift of life, so he got both Post-Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Growth. That accident became a defining moment for him.

By the same token, the person who injured us most, the events that have caused us the most pain, or have utterly broken our hearts absolutely define our relationship with God. These broken experiences give depth and breadth to the myriad of emotions and choices He’s given us the capacity to experience and express. Heart Check: Have you let God open the box with you? Have you immersed yourself more with the contents of the box than you have with Him? Have you passed the darkness on to others because you’ve failed to let God in, to let Him handle your darkness, or let Him handle you? For years I handed out boxes of my own unresolved trauma, boxes of rage, of unrepentant disdain, of bitter criticism that crushed, and scorched, and scathed. To whom have you dealt your unresolved darkness? Have you poured more of yourself into the box, unknowingly trying to fill a shattered cistern? Have you discarded it, never learning the gifts that it held? What have you done with your box?

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Often, our box full of darkness is best opened in a safe, therapeutic environment with a trained therapist or like-minded friends whom God has commissioned to join us in dark places.

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Nelson Fernandez

Nelson is married to the love of his life, Sarah, and together have a son named Isaac. He serves as Associate Pastor at Miami Temple SDA, a multilingual, multiethnic, and multicultural church in South Florida. He loves ministry, Marvel movies, video games, Naruto, and serving the local church. He also runs his own blog about leadership, evangelism, and practical Christianity at www.nelsonsblog.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @nelsonblogs.

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. This is deeply profound and incredibly inspiring, Dee. Such an excellent perspective to truly navigate through… I love the idea that our relationship with God is defined by these boxes of darkness. I often think that when I go through something really painful, that season is my growing phase… in faith. I have had many of them- and some longer than others, where the pain was bigger and more important than God. I’m learning with each one- to reach for Him and offer my box for His taking, His moving, His healing.

    1. Well praise God! I know many push back against the idea that what someone has done to them defines them in any way, but I certainly don’t mean dictates what they do or HOW they navigate the darkness. I mean that it brings out concepts we’ll only experience in the dark. If there were no darkness, we’d not know what hope even is, for who hopes for what they already see. Hope is a function of darkness – it’s about expecting God to light up the dark. And it’s so true, I’ve made my pain bigger than God at times, too. Thanks so much for what you’ve shared. 🙂

  2. This is so incredibly true! Often when I hit the low box of darkness times is when I completely give everything to God, it’s when things are going fine that I tend to forget.

    1. The same is true here! In the dark I’m forced to either give up on God or cling to Him. It’s in the dark that I’ve recognized what it is for God to truly be the air I breathe – truly be dependent upon Him. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. […] I hate having to admit how long I tightly clutched my box, opening it several times, somehow wishing its contents would change. Are you stuck? Are you still peering deeply into your box, wishing the past were different, unable to make progress because you refuse to accept what life has sent your way? The writer of Jimmy Needham’s “Clear the Stage” said, “Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” Pain, too, can be an idol; the darkness can consume you if you let it. Have you given the box its own pedestal in your life, allowing yourself to act and react out of anger, hatred, or fear? Will you wrestle with God in the dark? Will you praise Him in it? Will you place your hope in Him despite the darkness? Will you so deeply desire He change your box that you miss God changing you? Have you let God open the box with you? Have you immersed yourself more with the contents of the box than you have with Him? Have you passed the darkness on to others because you’ve failed to let God in, to let Him handle your darkness, or let Him handle you? For years I handed out boxes of my own unresolved trauma, boxes of rage, of unrepentant disdain, of bitter criticism that crushed, and scorched, and scathed. To whom have you dealt your unresolved darkness? Have you discarded it, never learning the gifts that it held? What have you done with your box? [Click Here to READ MORE] […]

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