What to Do When the Lights Go Out
by Cec Murphey
If you sincerely desire to follow Jesus Christ, life won’t always be easy. Many times the Bible promises victory, and you may need to remind yourself that there can be no victory without struggling and overcoming obstacles.
In my book, I used the image of God turning out the lights because that was how I perceived the situation. I felt as if I walked in darkness for 18 months. We all interact differently with God, and my experience won’t be the same as yours. Even so, most serious Christians have times when God seems to turn away or stops listening. And we feel alone.
Perhaps it’s like the time the Israelites cried out to God for many years because of the Egyptian oppression. “God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise…and knew it was time to act” (Exodus 2:24 NLT). God hadn’t forgotten, of course, but from their perspective, that’s how it must have seemed. It may seem like that to you if you’re going through your own form of darkness.
Here are a few suggestions to help you:
1. Ask God this simple question: “Have I knocked out the lights by my failures? Have I sinned against you? After you ask the question, listen. Give God the opportunity to speak to you.
2. Don’t see this as divine punishment (unless God shows you it is), but consider the silence an act of divine love to move you forward. This is God’s method to teach you and stretch you.
3. Avoid asking why. You don’t need reasons and explanations–and you probably won’t get them anyway. Instead, remind yourself that this temporary darkness is to prepare you for greater light.
4. Say as little as possible to your friends. Most friends will want to “fix” you or heal you and they can’t. They may offer advice (often not helpful) or make you feel worse (“Are you sure everything is right between you and God?”).
5. Stay with the “means of grace.” That is, don’t neglect worship with other believers even if you feel empty. Read your Bible even if you can’t find anything meaningful.
I chose to read Lamentations and Psalms (several times, especially Lamentations) because they expressed some of the pain and despair I felt.
6. If you don’t have a daily prayer time, start one. Perhaps something as short as three minutes–and do it daily. Talk honestly to God. It’s all right to get angry. (Read the Psalms if you’re hesitant.)
7. Remind yourself, “I am in God’s hands. This is where I belong and I’ll stay in the blackout until I’m ready to move forward.”
8. Pray these words daily: “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12 TNIV). Some versions say “secret sins.” These are failures and sins of which you may not yet be aware. One of the purposes of your darkness may be to bring those hidden problems to light.
9. Ask God, “What do you want me to learn from this experience?” You may not get an answer, but it’s still a good question. Continue to ask–even after the lights go back on again. If you’re open, you will learn more about yourself and also about God.
10. As you receive “light” about yourself while walking in darkness, remind yourself, God has always known and still loves me.
Murphey decided to write about his months of seeking God in the darkness because he suspected his situation wasn’t unique. “If this happened to me, a rather ordinary believer, surely there are others out there who have wept in the isolated blackness of night and wondered if they would ever see God’s smile again.”
Murphey could have handled this topic as a theologian and given pages of heavy, hard-to-read advice, but he chose to write from his heart and expose it for the readers to see. He talks honestly and shares his skepticism and frustration. He asks hard questions. And he lays out the steps of healing that brought him back to the light.
When God Turned Off the Lights is a book for those of us who ask, “What’s wrong with me? Why are otherswhile nothing but dark clouds and darkness envelop me?” Readers will learn:
- Why God turns off the lights
- Why we have to have dark nights
- Why asking “why” isn’t the right question
- What’s worse than going through the darkness
- How to feel worthwhile and accepted by God
Each chapter of When God Turned Off the Lights ends with an inspirational personal quote from Cec. Here’s a sampling:
Although it may seem as if God is asleep when we go through deep darkness, could it be that God is most watchful in the moments of our despair? Could it be that moving from why to what might take us one more step closer to the light?
Our task is to hang on. We wait until God takes us off hold and deals directly with us again. God’s provision is based on unconditional love – not on my faithfulness.
Author Cec Murphey
About the Author: Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including the “New York Times” bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with ) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He’s also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and Christmas Miracles, both 2009 releases. Murphey’s books have sold millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.