Ooohh. Sounds like a good title for an episode of Doctor Who or something. (Sorry, with the announcement of who is to play the next Doctor, it's on my mind). But this "Dark Guest" isn't some sci-fi/fantasy villain. It's a real villain, a real threat, and one that haunts all of us at one time or another.
If you're like me (and I pity you if you are) you have those areas of "un-mortified" sin in your life. Those things you struggle with time and again. One of the biggest for me is anxiety. I can remember even as a kid my mom called me a worrier. She said worry was what kept me together and if I stopped worrying I'd probably fall apart. Well, as much as I love my mom and appreciate her wisdom, that was both a right diagnosis and a wrong cure. I do worry too much, but it doesn't "hold me together", it works at tearing me apart. And plain and simple, it's sin.
Do I need to remind you off the biblical commands? "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life..And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Matthew 6:25a, 27) Or "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6). The list goes on. Trust me, if you deal with anxiety, you've probably memorized every single verse on the subject.
Of course, there are lots of other great verses which help to combat that anxiety. Those come in very handy in the middle of the night when I'm awakened by worry. But in the end, I still know this is sin; my worry. And like Paul's prayer to remove his thorn, I go to God asking Him to remove it time and again. Of course, I also wonder if maybe my anxiety is a thorn like Paul's in more ways than one. Maybe God leaves it there because He knows I tend to drift from dependence on Him, and my anxiety always drives me back. Maybe that's bad theology; I don't know.
Anyway, back to the point (if there is one). Having this "dark guest" of besetting sin in my life is horribly frustrating. Yet, I'm glad to know I'm not alone. I've mentioned before in these "pages" how much I appreciate the Valley of Vision, that wonderful collection of prayers gathered from a variety of Puritan divines. There is one prayer that is actually entitled "The Dark Guest."
It's been a help to me from time to time, and so I wanted to share it with you. Maybe you're struggling with a dark guest of your own. I want to encourage you that you are not alone, and that God's grace is sufficient even for this. I especially appreciate the second half of this prayer which begins "O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!" Oh the cry of my own heart. Anyway, here is the whole prayer as posted on the Banner of Truth site. I hope it helps/encourages someone today.
Bend my hands and cut them off,
for I have often struck thee with
a wayward will,
when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.
I am not yet weaned from all created glory,
honour, wisdom, and esteem of others,
for I have a secret motive to eye my name
in all I do.
Let me not only speak the word sin, but see
the thing itself.
Give me to view a discovered sinfulness,
to know that though my sins are crucified
they are never wholly mortified.
Hatred, malice, ill-will,
vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after
man’s approval and applause,
all are crucified, forgiven,
but they rise again in my sinful heart.
O my crucified but never wholly mortified
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!
Destroy, O God, the dark guest within
whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.
Yet thou hast not left me here without grace;
The cross still stands and meets my needs
in the deepest straits of the soul.
I thank thee that my remembrance of it
is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword
which preached forth thy deliverance.
The memory of my great sins, my many
temptations, my falls,
bring afresh into my mind the remembrance
of thy great help, of thy support from heaven,
of the great grace that saved such a wretch
as I am.
There is no treasure so wonderful
as that continuous experience of thy grace
toward me which alone can subdue
the risings of sin within:
Give me more of it.