When we are in the dark, the temptation is to put on an artificial light to illuminate our way and make us feel better. However, to do this before the blackness has taught us all we need to learn may mean missing out on wisdom we’ll need for the rest of our journey. Putting on a light might be literal. A friend responded to my last blog by telling me how when she was awake in the night with all her worries and fears looming large in her mind, she instinctively put on the bedside lamp, but then chose to turn it off again. When she did so, she realised the new day had dawned and it was actually naturally light again outside. She says of this experience, “I was reminded, if we don’t let the darkness fall how can we see the dawn when it comes? Trusting the process of the dark seems in some ways like giving in to circumstances, to me it seems like that anyway. And I’m scared, to be honest terrified. Can I really trust an unseen God whose ‘church’ has so often been so hurtful? But I really want to trust Love, the God of love.”
Other ways in which I’ve become aware of turning on the light is to immerse myself in busyness. I can keep darkness at bay by allowing no time to let it in. I can kid myself that all is well, I’m loved and productive all the time I’m doing worthy things for God and for others. Yet, I’m a human being not a human doing. Intellectually I know that I am valued because I’m made in the image of God. But I still try to earn approval and justify my existence with constant activity in Her name. How else do we rely upon artificial illumination to make ourselves feel better? Dare I suggest that upbeat, charismatic-style worship could offer a similar means of avoiding the reality of disappointment and confusion when what we’ve been led to believe about faith does not tally with our experience of life? Can church become an unreal bubble where we pretend that the Bible is literally true and prayer always works when in our day to day lives we are struggling to come to terms with relationship breakdown, childlessness, redundancy, bereavement, terminal illness, and countless other symptons of a world that is not exactly the way God intended it to be?
However, this week I have been reminded that it was out of blackness and a nothingness void that God created all that is good, beautiful and wonderful in the universe. It was also out of the darkness of the tomb where Christ’s broken body was laid that death was finally defeated and new, everlasting life became possible. God comes alongside us in the darkness, but He doesn’t leave us there forever. If we are brave enough to sit and wait, She will, “bestow upon us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61: 3) For joy does indeed come in the morning.