WHEN THINGS LOOK DARK
¶ And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two heroes of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.
First Chronicles 11:22
Benaiah was having a bad day. After all, it’s bad enough just being outside when it’s really cold and snowing and you’re not dressed appropriately. That’s not fun. But that wasn’t all he faced. Not only was it snowing, Benaiah was in a deep pit. I’m not an authority on being thrown down a pit by my enemies, but I can only imagine being in a deep pit, possibly for days, is not fun, but being in a deep pit on a snowy day ill-dressed is really not fun. But that wasn’t all Benaiah faced. He was stuck outside on a snowy day, down a deep pit, and sharing it with a man-eating lion! I’m no authority on being outside in the snow down a deep pit with a ferocious lion, but I’m guessing that it’s really really not fun! If things had ever looked dark for Benaiah, I think it was this day! But Benaiah discovered what I have also found: that when things look dark they never stay that way.
Benaiah reminds me of Reepicheep (the warrior mouse), the hero of the Chronicles of Narnia series. Despite all the odds stacked against him, despite everyone around him looking glum and bleak, despite being with a lion, he always sees the positive in the dark situation he’s facing and then a way through it! It’s as if his confidence, that everything will turn out alright, becomes a light to brighten up these kind of dark days.
THE KEY TO HANDLING DARK DAYS
A snowy day.
In a pit.
With a lion.
A dead lion.
Out of the pit.
Walking home through the snow.
Benaiah knew that attitude was everything when it comes to navigating dark days. Attitude is that inner disposition which shapes how we approach life, tasks, people, and difficult circumstances. The more virtuous qualities of attitude include courage, persistence, endurance, hopefulness, forgiveness, faithfulness and tolerance. These can never be developed in times of comfort and ease. In fact, it’s in times of distress and darkness that we can truly grow for it is then that these positive virtues are called for. And even though God is light, surprisingly, He is often found in darkness…
The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Dark times come to all people. Dark times make us feel as if God has abandoned us. Dark times summon our most natural (which are also our most negative) responses: despair, gloom, despondency, and introspection. But God has ordained for darkness to also challenge us to step up, rise up, lace up, and to look up! We read in the Old Testament that God seemed to have left the young nation of Israel in the dark. The Scriptures reveal that God had left some of Israel’s enemies in the Promised Land for Israel to conquer in order that they might learn to fight. Dark times are God’s times for His people to learn to fight!
He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle.
Judges 3:2 NLT
Benaiah would have been in the darkness for sometime. But his attitude was that of a victor not a victim. Our Dark Times can be brought on by pain and sickness, debts, unemployment, relationship drama, the mistakes of our past.
No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.
First Corinthians 10:13 NET
THE MEANS OF HANDLING PITS
Benaiah managed to get out of his deep pit. Sometimes we find ourselves down a pit. Benaiah must have initially tried to climb out of his pit. The worst kind of pit to be in is the one you think you can’t climb out of! Every parent hates to see their children suffer or get frustrated with difficulty. It is our most natural urge to step in and simply do for our child what they are struggling to do for themselves. But every parent knows that if we do that we are depriving our child of the necessary grit to solve life’s small problems so that their problem-solving muscles can continue to develop to the level of one day being able to handle life’s more serious problems.
It reminds me of the young boy watching caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as butterflies. After watching with fascination the first cocoon in his backyard begin to wiggle, then shake, then repeated deny the young butterfly its escape, eventually after what seemed like forever, the cocoon eventually gave way and the exhausted butterfly emerged through the tears in the now discarded cocoon. As it poked its wings out, then rested, as its wings spread like a sunflower to the sky, its tiny head then legs and body appeared as it stood on the edge of its now torn cocoon. The marvelling boy watched on. Then with a herculean first flutter, the butterfly took off for its first flight. Still marvelling at what he had just seen in his backyard hour of wonder, he noticed another cocoon beginning to tremble. Unable to bear to again watch the suffering and trial he had just witnessed, his young and tender heart moved him to help the helpless butterfly. As the cocoon began to shake, he ran inside to the kitchen and brought back his mother’s sharp paring knife. He carefully cut the cocoon where he had seen the other one rip and soon he saw the butterfly begin to emerge. But this butterfly was not panting with exhaustion. Feeling quite proud of himself and quite chuffed that he had been able to assist this newborn creature, he looked on expectantly almost hoping for the relieved butterfly to make its immediate flight path to his nose and whisper its thanks. Instead, the butterfly emerged from the cocoon, spread its wings and then fell to its death. Despite his best intentions motivated by compassion, he had denied this second butterfly what the first butterfly had benefitted from. In its desperate struggles to be free from cocoon, the first butterfly was growing in strength with each attempt to the point that by the time it emerged from cocoon after having struggled for so long, it had now developed its muscles sufficiently to be able to flutter its huge wings. Your pit may actually be your cocoon.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
THE WAY TO HANDLE SNOWY DAYS
The best way to handle snowy days when your clothing is ill-prepared is to keep moving. Stay still in the snow and you’re in trouble! If you’ve ever read the story of Captain Scott and his team of explorers racing to be the first ones to reach the South Pole and bring further glory to British Empire, you’ll know that he and his team were pipped by the Norwegian adventurer, Roald Amundsen, and his four companions. Amundsen used dogs to move through the snow and ice. Captain Scott travelled by foot. Having discovered that they had been beaten, Scott and weary team began to trek back to base. But they made a fatal mistake – they stopped moving. All of them died as a result.
If your world seems cold and loveless at the moment, keep moving, keep reaching out, fight the urge to withdraw and feel sorry for yourself!
THE SECRET TO HANDLING LIONS
Again, I’m no expert on being attacked by a lion. But according to the Smithsonian Institute, the one thing you must never do is run away!
The Bible says that our enemy goes about like a lion seeking those he can devour by his lies, temptations, and intimidation designed to induce fear and rob the believer of hope.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
First Peter 5:8
Being outside too long on a snowy day, down a deep pit, with a lion, would be a dark day for anyone. But Benaiah got through it. It meant he had to: (i) keep moving forward, (ii) try, (iii) stand up to his enemy. You may be in a dark time (or about to have one). I know what this is like and what I am saying to you is not just a theory for me. Keep moving forward by taking up God’s Word each day and prayerfully reading it. No matter how hopeless things look and despite how deep the hole you’re in looks, keep doing what you can to get out of it. And when it feels like the enemy of your soul is about to tear you shreds, surprise him by showing him just how big and big-hearted you are as you reach out to others and help them despite your own woes. And remember, God is often in the darkness not hidden by it.