“For thou wilt light my candle;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”
(Psalm 18:28, KJV)
Life unfortunately involves periods of darkness that we must go through. Suffering, hardship, struggle, adversity – and simply, pain – are all part of the texture of life. But we are blessed, for there is light that comes to us from God in these periods of darkness.
The speaker says, “Thou wilt light my candle,” reminding us that we all have a “candle” that we carry around with us. That candle is the potential to receive the light and warmth of the Lord. It is our faith, our hope. When we stay in faith, we allow ourselves to experience the Lord’s light: his guidance and his joy. This can come in many forms: a realization of how to end our difficulty, acceptance of a tragedy, or just simple relief and inner peace.
Interestingly, the speaker uses the word “enlighten.” To enlighten means to educate, to bring knowledge or wisdom to someone. So often, our “darkness” periods involve ignorance, not knowing what to do – how to overcome a hardship, accept adversity, even how to forgive. In these periods, we must keep aware that the Lord is there to be our teacher, to enlighten us.
The image of God dispelling darkness through a lit candle is timeless. Candles are part of many church services and stories throughout the world, and in literature and culture are seen as symbols of hope. A popular song from the band REO Speedwagon in the early 1980s contains the line, “You’re the candle in the window, on a long cold winter’s night,” as the speaker addresses his beloved.
Psalm 18 is one of the longer psalms, at 50 verses. It begins by declaring the speaker’s love for God, and then launches into an abundance of inspiring analogies:
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My buckler [shield], and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
(Psalm 18:2, KJV)
What an extensive list! The words all signify protection and defense. The military nature of the words implies that we are under some form of attack – which we often are. Notice how the images, though of the same theme, are diverse: a rock, a fortress, a shield, and then a horn or trumpet – something designed to declare, through sound, that God is there to protect us. Finally, there is the image of the “high tower,” showing God’s magnitude, his greatness, and his ability to see all, like an expert field commander.
These images give us confidence. On this battlefield of life, we serve under a brilliant military strategist who does not see us as expendable but who wants to keep us protected. Meanwhile, he is helping us to advance, to move forward. In verse 29 the speaker says, “For by thee I have run through a troop; And by my God have I leaped over a wall” (Psalm 18:29, KJV). The imagery is palpable: it is God who gets us past those lines of enemies. So many times in life, we see adversity coming towards us, but it often passes us by or God carries us right through it. Likewise, there are so many walls that we see in our lives: obstacles in our career, relationships, or health, or even mental walls that we have constructed ourselves. Our faith in God, and in his help as our leader, enables us to leap over these. By the end of the psalm, the speaker is saying, “I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them” (Psalm 18:37, KJV), and “Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me” (Psalm 18:39, KJV). In addition to getting us past our hardships, God will also raise us above them.
Notice, though, that we still have to stand up on this battlefield – we can’t just lie down and expect God to do all the fighting. He can light our candle, and be our shield, but we have to be willing to advance, ready to face a “troop,” ready to leap over walls. Sometimes, this involves physical action on our part, everything from getting out of bed in the morning, to making a dreaded phone call, knocking on that intimidating office door, sending that email, filling out that application. Always, it involves being positive, maintaining our serenity, and damming thoughts of defeat.
When we’ve done all the actions we can do, we are still required to stay in faith. Faith is that potential that we always have with us. It is our candle. All we have to do is reach out to God so he can light it.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my new book, Passages for Inner Peace: Finding Joy and Comfort in the Psalms, available in paperback and e-book formats here.