Adjusting to the dark

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

My worship was radically changed on Sunday morning, July 28, 2002, in Denver, Colorado. It had never been more difficult for me to take my usual pastor’s wife place at Riverside Baptist Church — only I was no longer the pastor’s wife and my husband was no longer the pastor. Three days earlier, Rick had been killed in a tragic car accident, and I was now a 45-year-old widow.

The service that morning ushered me into a strange season of worship — a season of worshipping in the dark. Things once clear, now seemed veiled in darkness.

I was limping badly, and my face was heavily bruised from the injury I sustained in the accident. My faith was in a similar condition — battered, weak, and disoriented. The room was full of stunned faces feeling similar to myself. The loving, caring eyes of our church family were on me as I found my seat. I felt their embrace, even from afar.

And then worship began. The screens prompted the words, “God is good,” yet my heart was far from believing those words. In that moment I made a huge discovery — His goodness, once clear, was hard to see in the dark. Unconsciously, my faith had been propped up by good circumstances, which also propped up my worship. However, no matter how devastating my circumstances, how dismantled my world was, it was time to worship.

And yet worship had never seemed so inappropriate in my heart.

Has life created crisis in your worship? Do the words on the screens belie the scenes in your life?

The verse that says “we walk by faith and not by sight” had never held such powerful meaning. “Sight” was keeping my heart from worship, and yet faith was demanding it.

On that day, I began the struggle of reconciling my theology to the landscape of my life. God was behaving so unpredictably. As Larry Crabb has aptly stated, “No one will conclude that God is good by studying life ….” I was definitely studying life — my life — and my heart was coming to painful conclusions.

Yet worship still was appropriate, though perhaps in a form that was yet foreign to me. Although my circumstances had changed, God had not. The screens were right, “God is good.” I had to strap myself to the truths of the Word. My heart and its conclusions was not reliable.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling (Ps 46:1-3, NKJ).

God is unchanging. Even in the dark, where His ways are mysterious, baffling and painful, the unpredictable turns do not suggest either His character or nature have diminished. And we must tell that to our hearts.

My eyes and heart adjusted to the dark. And my faith did also. Worshipping in the dark has become my most sacred moment. It might not always look like an exuberant joy or unfettered praise. It may look more like tears flowing down cheeks with wordless awe — and yet with a heart that still believes, hopes, and worships.

The inescapable process of “being tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7) produces inexplicable joy. In other words, a joy that is hard to explain in light of circumstances. It is as precious gold when by faith you know He is good and trust Him, despite crushing, unresolved circumstances.

My friend, when your faith adjusts to your dark place, you will find He is still the God you knew in the light. And new, unexplainable worship will occur.

Published May 14, 2018

Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.