Focus 1 (of 4)-Darkness is Passing

Focus 1|The Darkness

What is darkness? What does it look like? Darkness is obfuscation—it makes things that should be able to be seen hard to see. It makes for confusion and questions and incorrectness and unclarity. More specifically, though, darkness makes it so that we can't see things the way they were meant to be seen. Darkness makes gifts into curses and opportunities into forbiddances. And why does darkness do this? To keep us from seeing each other. Darkness stops us from being able to do what we are essentially designed for: connecting with God and with one another.
Consider this ice breaker question to get started.
Can you remember the last time you stubbed your toe in the dark? How long ago was it?

See what this Spotlight—and series— is focused on.
Tap on the words "Focus 1" in the image below to read this Spotlight's summary.
Let's talk about our fear of the dark.
Read this section when you’re ready to begin today's Spotlight. (And welcome, by the way! It’s great that you’re here!)

Here’s a question: Are you afraid of the dark? I mean, are you afraid of darkness itself? Or are you actually afraid of things that are in the dark. Moving, creeping, unmonitored things—the kinds of things that go bump in the night. The kinds of things that, if they were in the light, probably wouldn't be all that scary. But that’s the thing about darkness: it’s an almost invisible force that separates you from everything around you—even things that are close enough to touch. It’s the dark that makes it so we can’t see—and while that can just make us stub our toes on the legs of our beds, it can also stop us from seeing each other. That means that everything that is ruining our communities and culture: judgmentalism, fakeness, impatience, competitiveness, apathy, bullying, grudge-holding, small-mindedness, rejection, sexism, and loneliness—these are all possible because of the darkness. If we could just see each other the way that God who is light itself sees everyone and loves them all, we’d be able to be ok. But we can’t, and that leaves us with… well… this. So now tell me: Are you afraid of the dark?
Let's say a prayer together as we dive into this Spotlight.
You spoke the light into the darkness,
but the darkness can be consuming.
Help us identify the darkness and its limits,
and move us to hope for the true light.
Welcome Perspective
Darkness is what makes it hard to see.
See how God loves through the darkness
Do you know the first thing that happened in the Bible? Here are the first couple of verses:

The first verse here is like the title: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Verse 2 is where the story starts—we get a description of the situation in which God created these heavens and earth. When God set about making the universe, there were three basic issues at play: 1) It was formless. It needed to be shaped. 2) It was empty. It needed to be filled. 3) It was dark. And it is that darkness that God chose to deal with first. Before he shaped the sun, moon, or stars, before he carved mountains or oceans, God looked at the situation and said: None of that stuff will be any good if we can’t see. In fact, that was the problem. It’s not as though God’s love didn’t start until he created the universe. His love is eternal—it has always been and it will always be. Even before he said “Let there be light,” God loved you, because God loves through the darkness.

Listen to this song (and sing along with it if you're comfortable).
Read and meditate through these next sections.
Have two members of your group volunteer to be readers for the remainder of the Worship section. In between readings, take a minute or two to meditate on each of the designated meditation sections.

Reader #1: God, your love has always sought me out, even when I think I’m hidden in the darkness. 
Reader #2: Where can I go from your Spirit? (Psalm 139:7)
Reader #1: Thank you for wanting to be with me, no matter where I am. 
Reader #2: Where can I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)

Reader #1: Relieve me of the foolish idea that you only want me when I'm in the light, when I'm being good or being brighter than somebody else. You're everywhere, no matter where, because you are where I am—because you know we belong together.
Reader #2: If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:8)

Reader #1: Lord, help me whenever I start to feel safer in the dark and fear the light—when I cling to and seek out ignorance or denial or obfuscation. Remind me that the light of your presence isn't something I need to fear. It's love! It's good. It's the dream. 
Reader #2: If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:9–10)

Reader #1: Keep despair far from me. You know better than I do, God, that the world is dark. Help me not to give up, and help me to help those around me when they're feeling the weight of deep darkness.
Reader #2: If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day... (Psalm 139:11–12)

Reader #1: You are the only one who will love me even in my darkest times. 
Reader #2: for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)
All: Amen.

God loves through the darkness.

Read through and ponder the lyrics of this song.

Plunged in a gulf of dark despair,
we wretched sinners lay
without one cheerful beam of hope
or spark of glimmering day.

With pitying eyes, the Prince of grace,
behold our helpless grief.
He saw, and—oh, amazing love—
he ran to our relief.

Down from the shining seats above,
with joyful haste he fled;
entered the grave in mortal flesh
and dwelt among the dead.

Oh, for this love, let rocks and hills,
their lasting silence break;
and all harmonious human tongues,
the Savior's praises speak.

Angels, assist our mighty joys—
strike all your harps of gold.
But when you raise your highest note,
his love can ne'er be told.

So when despair is dark and deep
and faces are downcast
his promise means the light will come
and darkness all will pass.
Worship Perspective
God loves through the dark.
See the darkness better through this interactive presentation.
Navigate through the presentation by using the buttons and arrows in the frame below.
Learn Perspective
Don't just try to see in the dark. See the dark.
Listen to this interview with this month's partner non-profit.
Trigger warning: podcast content is based around abuse/sex trafficking.

Feel free to submit a prayer request by filling out the below form.
(If you choose to make your request public, you'll see it display in the Current at the end of the Spotlight along with anyone else who did the same.)

Prayer Requests

Pray through your requests—together—as a group.
After submitting your requests in the above form, take some time to share with your group whatever requests the group might have for this week.

Follow along with this prayer guide with your group.
Follow this simple, written suggestion on how to pray about the prayer requests shared during this Spotlight.

Today, pray simply—no more than three sentences per request. It's OK to leave some things felt but unsaid.
Serve Perspective
People aren't darkness. They're in darkness.
Let's recap what we have learned in this Spotlight—and series.

Discuss: What in this Spotlight do you find most useful to talk with those in your life about?

Sing along with (or listen to) this song to close out this Spotlight.
Feel free to sing along or simply listen. Do what makes you comfortable—but do whatever helps you focus on the song's meaning best.

Let's wrap things up by taking a look at what's Current at Illume.
Tap on the buttons in the frame below to see what’s currently happening at Illume—information on everything from current and upcoming online content to live events and opportunities to serve in the community can all be found here.

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