Many of us are afraid of the dark; uncertainty fills our hearts with each step we take. Yet sometimes the darkness is not an absence of light, but a heaviness of spirit that can overwhelm us. What are we to do with such emotional darkness?
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Genesis 15:12
God appeared to Abram in a vision telling him to not be afraid for the LORD would be his shield and his reward would be very great. Abram responded with a reasonable question, how could this be because he had no child and his servant would inherit everything. God assures Abram that he would have a son who would be his heir and not his servant Eliezer. The LORD also reminds Abram about His promise to multiply his descendants, more numerous than the stars. Abram believed the LORD and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.
The LORD then reminded Abram that he brought him out of the land of the Chaldeans to give him possession of the land where he dwelt. Just as Abram asked about the promised heir, so to he now asked God how he could be sure that he would possess the land. This is when the LORD instructed Abram to get animals killing and arranging them as a sign of covenant with God.
This must have been a fearful thought for Abram as it was a common practice for covenants to be sealed in this manner. The one making the covenant would pass between the dead animals saying, “May I too be killed if I fail to fulfill this covenant.” Would God ask Abram to make such a promise? How could he as an old man insure he would have a son to be his heir? How could Abram guarantee that he would possess the land upon which he lived?
Yet Abram did as God said killing the animals and aligning them on the ground, and when scavengers tried to come eat the carcasses Abram chased them away. Abram was taking the steps he could to enter into this covenant agreement with the LORD.
Then as evening came Abram fell into a deep sleep and “a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” So much for him being able to do anything to uphold a covenant with the LORD; Abram was definitely the weaker party to this covenant.
In a vision Abram saw God pass through the carcasses of dead bodes as a fiery pot. God and not Abram would be the one to guarantee the covenant. Abraham would have a son, the child of promise. Abram and his descendants would inherit the land. God guaranteed it.
I imagine this experience must have been one of the highlights of Abram’s lifetime. I can see him telling this story to his son Isaac. Yet before God confirmed the covenant Abram would always recall the darkness filling his spirit. Could it be that in this darkness of spirit Abram understood his weakness – and in turn the strength of the LORD?
As much as seeing the vision of the LORD passing between the carcasses, the emotion of feeling in that moment provided Abram with the assurance that God would be faithful to fulfill the covenant made that night. Often we think such negative experiences could not be from God. Yet God used this to seal in Abram’s heart a covenant only the LORD could fulfill. Abram was powerless to have a son and guarantee the inheritance of the land. But God would do what man could not.
God gave us the gift of emotion; however, I need to ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern the ‘spirit’ of my feelings. The heaviness of spirit I sometimes feel could be of just of human origin – often my own making, and yes, sometimes it might come as an attack of the devil. But another possibility must not be forgotten; it could be God wants to get my attention and seal His promise in my heart.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, You know my heart and my emotions which sometimes ebb and flow like the tide. I look to You as the lifter of my head, the One who is my joy and song. Holy Spirit empower me to live a life of unbroken joy because I know You are always faithful. Yet LORD, I pray You give me discernment to recognize when You may bring a darkness to my spirit. Holy Spirit help me to understand how You are teaching me to fear You as holy – to live in dreadful awe of You. Help me in those times to have an attentive ear to what You are saying and doing in my heart. Above all I pray You help me not to fear the darkness, because even the darkness is light to You!