I had an imaginary conversation with T last night as I was going to sleep. Yes, I have imaginary conversations, don't judge me. At least I was talking in my head and not out loud. This time.
You see, I think my little boy, not even four months old, is afraid of the dark. He normally goes to sleep with a lighted/musical thing hanging off of his crib. But there have been a few occasions, mostly in the car, when he has been wide awake and it's been pitch black around him. The kid screams. Turn on a light and, usually, everything seems to be okay.
So what will I tell my boy some day when he begs us to leave a light on, not to leave him alone in the dark?
First, we'll get him a nightlight.
And then, we'll tell him that it's okay to be afraid of the dark.
Darkness is scary because of the unknown; we are deprived of one of senses we rely on the most. We can't operate like we normally do. And we are suddenly surrounded by the unknown; the known becomes unfamiliar and we don't know what else might be lurking out there. In short, our weakness is accentuated by the darkness.
How does God respond to us in our weakness? With mercy -- he is kind, he is gentle, he makes allowance for our weaknesses. "For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust."
Being aware of our weakness is a grace that helps us remember our rightful place in the world. "They are weak, but he is strong." It's okay to be afraid; fear is a God-given emotion that was designed for our preservation. But. But: let your fear not only be a reminder of your weakness, but also of his strength.
Scripture also talks about evil in terms of darkness, and somehow intuitively we link the literal and the metaphorical. Evil, shameful deeds are done in secret, in the dark. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light." (Eph 5:11-14)
Do a quick search of the word "dark" in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. You will be amazed at how prevalent and powerful the metaphor is.
It's okay to be afraid of the dark; there are things in the dark that are unknown or outright evil. But "when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:3) because here is the good news: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5)
We are children of the light. Just like when we flip a light switch and darkness is instantly banished, the end of history has already been settled and good triumphs over evil.
When you are alone in the dark, don't beat yourself up for your fear. Instead, know and cling to this: Light wins.