Life’s painful trials can bring shame about our inadequate and broken faith. There is relief in hearing the expressions of desperation in the psalmist’s voice. He didn’t experience this life perfected, and we don’t either. But the psalmist was loved. So are we.
God was so kind to give us the Psalms.
To walk through darkened days is part of the human experience. To walk through them with faith, comfort, strength, joy, and hope is part of the divine experience. Our eyes, though, are often clouded to those blessings by the thing oppressing us. When we remember and recognize our Father’s faithfulness, when we see reality with the eyes of understanding, the darkness ebbs and the light of hope grows. The impossible, unbearable, and unthinkable becomes the hidden passageway to truth, hope, and joy in Christ.
These letters were originally written as encouragement to a friend when the darkness began to overtake his path. Each day for 22 days, a letter arrived with one of the eight-verse sections from Psalm 119 along with a small thought to bring light and hope and to be a reminder that we do not fight our battles alone. The letters, along with nine more devotions on the subject of experiencing God in the dark, make up this powerful, honest, hope-filled 31-day devotional.
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About the Author
Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She's the mother of two boys, stepmother to three more, and wife to David. Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She's done this for years for numerous friends, and will continue to, Lord willing. It's her gift to them. It's hope written down.
Read an Excerpt
CENT OF HOPE
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
AS I WRITE THIS, there's a shooter loose in a nearby high school. The only news that has broken the airways is that shots were fired. Hundreds of police and emergency responders have arrived, but parents and loved ones have no idea if the shooter has killed or injured someone they care about. As parents run to the barricades, police gently but firmly push them back. The parents are standing on the dark side of understanding. They are waiting in what must feel like a vacuum of hope.
Before we know that all will be well, there is darkness, deep and suffocating. We hide, curled up under the covers, waiting for confirmation of the news we dread. The feeling of certain doom overwhelms our rational minds and drowns us in the possibilities of things we fear. We hold on, with white-knuckled hands, to the only thing we know: life. The threat that it could be taken from us is more than we can endure.
But there is something else in that darkness. It's always been there, but our panicked hearts haven't slowed down enough to recognize it.
It's hope. Faith. Belief. More real than our present circumstances.
It takes belief to smell the perfume of hope at times like these. Hope is aromatic, a rose grown in the deepest of wells. It thrives in the absence of exposing, disclosing, unmasking light, and inhaling its fragrance takes faith. Our eyes can't see it, can't detect it, won't prove its existence. We can't see hope. We can only believe it. And though we would prefer to see with our eyes and know for certain what's to come around the corner, there are times we cannot see and cannot know. In the absence of proof, faith makes itself known. When there is no hard evidence, we rely on belief. Hope doesn't blast us with gale-force winds, but instead seeps through the crevices of a cave on a cold breeze. It is small but certain. It is a scent that, once detected, strengthens and intensifies — but in the moment we revert back to trusting in what our eyes see, the scent disperses.
But oh, hope is the sweetest scent. It comes from a place beyond us. Hope is the aroma of Christ, and we can find it only in him. Our present reality produces no such fragrance.
The writer of Hebrews brings this irony to light in this verse: "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible" (11:3). We most often place our faith in this visible world. After all, we can prove this realm by what our eyes observe. But where did this observable world come from? Where did that which we see originate?
Everything we see came from the invisible — from the word of God. But we mistakenly put our faith in something that came from "nothing" rather than in him who created it.
This world as we experience it, our temporal existence, is a vapor. Hebel in Hebrew. Smoke. The thing that is more real is that which we cannot see: the Word of God ... the aroma of Christ. Hope. Nothing this world has to offer has more permanence than the invisible.
Satan has done a masterful job of turning reality on its head. Our dependence on the physical realm is evidence of this. When circumstances threaten our lives and the lives of those we love, even to small degrees, we scurry into the dark places. We hide and wait. Fear sets in. Hope vanishes.
I do this more often than I like to admit. Dark seems to be my go-to place. But when I find myself again in those dark places, I want to make a different choice: I want to close my eyes and inhale deeply; to search, with a heart full of faith, for the scent of hope; to reach out for God. If I do that — when I do that — I will detect the aroma of Christ, awakening the other senses to the reality of the truth surrounding me. I start to see with the eyes of faith the world that is more real than what I think I know.
My friend, if you lean not on your own understanding, but trust, believe — then you will begin to understand what it means for the things of this earth to grow strangely dim. Anxiety, fear, and doubt will melt away as the perfume of hope overtakes your need for certainty.
This isn't a recipe for all things to work out as we wish. Hardly. I think choosing hope is more in line with becoming sanctified. As we turn away from the lies that keep us in the darkness, we walk closer to the truth, to our Father. As we choose hope, the covering cloak of fear falls off. As we understand more of who our Father is and what his heart is, rest overtakes anxiety.
Take courage. Even the darkest night and the thickest air can be penetrated by the scent of hope.
Excerpted from "God in the Dark"
Copyright © 2018 Sarah Van Diest.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
FOREWORD BY MARY DEMUTH, ix,
Day 1 HOPE EMBEDDED, 1,
Day 2 WORD OF LIFE, 5,
Day 3 THE SCENT OF HOPE, 9,
Day 4 STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND, 15,
Day 5 CONFIDENT FAITH, 19,
Day 6 EVIDENCE OF VICTORY, 23,
Day 7 THE CHOICE, 27,
Day 8 FAIL TO FORGET, 31,
Day 9 REMEMBER, 35,
Day 10 TOO FAR GONE?, 39,
Day 11 SURROUNDED, 45,
Day 12 GRADUATION DAY, 49,
Day 13 FIX OUR EYES, 53,
Day 14 THE DANCE, 57,
Day 15 COMFORT, 61,
Day 16 IMMENSE, 65,
Day 17 SEEING TRULY, 69,
Day 18 SWEETER, 73,
Day 19 LAMP TO MY FEET, 77,
Day 20 HIDING PLACE, 81,
Day 21 A NIGHT WITHOUT DARKNESS, 85,
Day 22 SURVIVAL INSTINCTS, 91,
Day 23 WORTHY, 95,
Day 24 GLIMPSES, 99,
Day 25 ANGUISH AND DELIGHT, 105,
Day 26 CRY OUT, 109,
Day 27 GREATER REALITY, 113,
Day 28 THE SPACE BETWEEN, 117,
Day 29 STEPS, 121,
Day 30 A GOOD ENDING, 125,
Day 31 ONWARD, 129,
What People are Saying About This
Hope, faith, identity, and victory. These are just some of the very real issues that Sarah speaks into with vulnerability, authenticity, and truth in God in the Dark. Through Scripture and then her own reflection, Sarah compassionately yet confidently assures us that while we all have those times of walking in the hard, dark seasons of life, God is always there waiting to hold, guide, and at times carry us through, all the while taking us deeper in our relationship with Him.
The Bible says that man is born for trouble as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). We all experience hardship and difficult times. The journey through those troubling times is often very lonely, confusing, and dark. It is in those dark times where an uplifting and encouraging word from a friend is the very thing that our greatest Friend uses to help and heal . . . or to simply refocus us so that we may endure another day. God in the Dark is a book born from real life; a friend encouraging a friend to remember God’s presence and love despite the darkness. It is a pleasure to call Sarah Van Diest my friend, and I know that all who ponder and digest her caring, compassionate, and tender written words will sense a kinship with her and be touched by her tenderness. And, most importantly, you will be reminded of the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:18).
Sarah Van Diest’s short devotional, God in the Dark, arrived at a pivotal point in my life. I read the intimate letters in the morning, not because I needed to write a blurb, but because it felt like the perfect way to align my perspective with God’s heart. Lyrical and yet easily understood, God in the Dark is a gift to believers during these crucial times.
When going through difficult circumstances, the best comfort often comes our way from someone who has walked in our shoes. My dear friend Sarah Van Diest is one of those people. She takes the lessons she’s learned in the dark moments of her life, shares about the God she discovered there, and then highlights precious promises from His Word that provide hope. I highly recommend God in the Dark for anyone who needs a reminder that God is always there with us . . . even in the dark times.
Almost everyone I know is trying to chase away their questions, frustrations, fears, confusion, and heartaches with methods that seem temporary. They creep back instantly with the same or worse confusion. This book has solid, long-lasting answers to chase away the darkness of life by offering truth and promises from the Book of Life. Read God in the Dark. Gift it to your loved ones and friends. Snuggle with it in your darkest hour, catch the light of God’s love for you, and live free!
Perceptive insights and poignant moments weave their way through the tapestry of Sarah Van Diest’s touching new book, God in the Dark. This book beckons all, for none can escape those seasons when we struggle under the debilitating cords of discouragement and even despair. Don’t miss the uplifting light in God in the Dark!
We are often scared of the dark. But do we need to be? With penetrating insight and pointed prose, my friend Sarah Van Diest has crafted an invitation into the dark. Not an invitation to live in the dark, but an invitation to crack open the door and let the light pierce the darkness. This beauty of a book makes being in the dark so much more hopeful. Highly recommended. Cheers.
Into the experience of all come dark days, days in which feelings of despair are so overwhelming that death seems preferable to lifebut if one could penetrate that dark veil, they would see God holding them close, directing His angels to strengthen and protect, His Spirit to enlighten, heal, and free the soul. Sarah Van Diest’s God in the Dark is penetrating, powerful, illuminatingdispelling the dark and healing the soul! This book is a shining beacon of heavenly light!
Times of darkness and despair come to us all. Sometimes they burst in like explosions, toppling everything we hold dear. At other times, the darkness creeps up on us, enveloping us in a stifling cloud bereft of hope. No matter where you are, author Sarah Van Diest is offering you a light. This book is a lamp to help guide you back into the healing presence of the Father. Like me, I know you’ll purchase it again and again, not just because you’ll wear out your copy, but because you’ll want to offer its hope to others who are also struggling.
Penned with a poet’s hand, God in the Dark is the kind of book that comes alongside you like a best friend. The kind of friend you can turn to when the rest of the world is sleeping and the quiet is overbearing. Who reminds us to hope when there are no clear roads or easy explanations and points us to worth, strength, and trust in the One who is greater than our overwhelm. I have a very short list of books I feel worthy to gift friends in times of difficulty. God in the Dark is now one of them.
If you’re looking for a friendly, fluffy devotional, this is not your book. But if you’ve known gut-level, wrenching cries of the deep heart and thunder-filled shouts of hope, then Sarah Van Diest’s collection of thoughts will draw you back again and again. Tears will come (mine did) and joy will surface as Sarah’s words usher you into the presence of the One that brings unquenchable light to the darkness. Yes, buy this book for yourself, and know you’ll likely be buying another for a friend.
The perfect daily dose of deep truths, wise words, and inspiring and poignant insights. Highly recommended!
I’ve been a recipient of Sarah’s generous, penetrating, and beautiful words, and I’ve long treasured her humble friendship. It’s an honor to share some of the best of her insight with what I pray will be many new friends. Come near, all who thirst for comfort, and drink deep!