Flaming Torches: Counter-Intuitive Thinking in the Dark

Fears!  We all have them.  Some fears are a little bit more obscure like fear of clowns or butterflies or cakes (yes cakes…don't believe me read the article.) It's very interesting that with all the variance within the human race, there are still very common threads in regards to what we are most fearful of. But what are our most common fears?

What are people's most common fears?

  1. Fear of Flying (Aerophobia):  I think this is a bit of a misnomer, it really is fear of crashing.
  2. Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia):  I confront this all the time with people.  I ask them to share an announcement or a testimony and they give me that “deer in headlights” look.  One person was trying to get validation about this fear in their life and they said to me something like, “Well, you know how terrifying it is getting up in front of people?”  Then they remembered who they were talking to and said, “I guess you wouldn't because you're not normal.”
  3. Fear of Heights (Acrophobia): Once again, I ask is the fear of the height or falling from it?FEAR
  4. Fear of the Dark (Nyctophobia, Scotophobia, Lygophobia)  Not sure why they have to have three names to descibe it.  It is the most prevalent children's fear and lingers on in many to adulthood.
  5. Fear of Death (Necrophobia).  It always puzzled me that people are more afraid of public speaking than death.  Which means more people would rather be in the casket, than giving their euology.

Rounding out the top ten were fear of intimacy, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of spiders and fear of commitment.  It's interesting to note that the majority of these most common fears are not innate; i.e. we have learned to have these fears. Which means the good news is that, with God's help, we can learn to deal with them.

I want to speak about the fourth most common fear: the fear of darkness.  Now, the fear that is spoken of here is the literal fear of darkness (the absence of light).   But there is another side of darkness as well…a spiritual darkness: the overwhelming sense that you have been abandoned and left in your difficult situation alone.

Jesus experienced on the cross both a literal and figurative darkness.  The bible records that as Jesus hung on the cross. the world went dark, as if it were night. (Matt. 27:45).  But Jesus also is in a spiritual darkness and cries out to God in the midst of it, of his feeling of absolute abandonment. (Matt. 27:46)

Sometimes our difficult circumstances can feel like darkness. When we are in this black place, our tendency is to want to move ourselves into the light.When we are lost in depression and despair we will do just about anything to make ourselves feel better.

When we are lost in depression and despair we will do just about anything to make ourselves feel better.


The Bible uses an enlightening term to explain our human endeavours to create light in the midst of our darkness.  It is described as “flaming torches”. Listen to what God spoke throught the prophet Isaiah:*

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
    and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
    and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
    You will lie down in torment.  Isaiah 50:10-11

God tells the people of Israel that there is only one way out of the darkness, “Trust in the Lord and rely on God.”  But instead they light flaming torches and walk in the light of their own fire.

What do we do when we are in the dark?

What do we do when we are overwhelmed in the dark?  Our natural reaction is to light flaming torches.  We try and find something to make ourselves feel better.  Some through pornography, others through drugs and alcohol.  Many Christians find more acceptable ways to deal with the darkness, they overeat, they shop, they work too much, they seek inappropriate relationships, they watch too much tv, they drown themselves in social media…all flaming torches.  The Bible tells us that the ultimate outcome of creating our own fires is our own torment.  We will never get the desired outcome we want.

It is counter-intuitive to do what scripture says.  When you are in the dark – trust God.  Rely on him to bring the needed illumination.  Your insticts will tell you to try and light your own fires.  But those of us who Fear the Lord and those of who Obey His Word, we will “trust in the Lord and rely on their God.”


*Thanks to Wayne Attwood for sharing the Isaiah reference with John Pace, who  shared the verse with me.

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