I had an “aha” moment this morning after a group-chat with my friend who recently lost two pregnancies and her fertility due to complications. Understandably, she is grieving deeply. I have had losses myself and know acutely how deep the pain can sear.
Our group was reading John 8:12, focusing on the concept of light. In that passage Christ instructs, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We all kicked the idea back and forth when finally, she posed a very good question:
How can this be true when I’ve been walking through lingering darkness, despair, and disappointment? And, I know many other earnest believers suffering overwhelming, relentless depression. This verse doesn’t seem to be true.
I was sitting there simply dumbfounded and slightly panicked. She was right. Come to think of it, everyone I know has walked through seasons of utter despondency, grief and long spells of darkness.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. Maybe we were defining the word “light” incorrectly. Maybe we attached false expectations onto that one word.
Light is a tool. A guide. Illumination. Enlightenment.
Not absence of pain.
“Darkness” is the typical language we use to describe the experience of pain. It feels gloomy, foggy, oppressive, disappointing, and sometimes endless. We await a “light” at the end of the tunnel. But some tunnels do not have a light at the end (here on Earth.) Some dark things are only resolved by God who will make everything sad come untrue in the fullness of time.
💡Light is knowing that.
Without the Light, we trudge alone through the storms of pain by “using.” We use. Not just alcohol and drugs…we use anything that covers over pain for a short time. Food, exercise, friends, shopping, reading, sleeping are all good things, but they are not good permanent relievers of pain. In spite of long periods of pain, we don’t need to rummage for fix after fix after fix.
💡Light points out false remedies.
In the pit of pain, the darkness makes you panic. It is common to exclaim, “I don’t know what to do or where to turn!” With this light of Christ in hand, we can know. We don’t get a view of the entire path of healing. However, we can determine what to do today. We advance incrementally, and in hindsight we look back to see our custom-built path for healing well.
💡Light illuminates the next step.
Carrying the burden of pain increases internal stamina and fortitude. We develop a core strength only developed through the struggle. There is another personal reward: a sense of validity, legitimacy, community, solidarity with the other members of the long line of human suffering.
💡Light showcases the sinews of strength the sad journey amassed in you.
Darkness makes it feel like the joy of others is shallow and nearsighted. If I am in pain, then I want other people to understand and I want them to feel my pain. A “no-one-gets-me” air proliferates until you are rendered powerless and unmotivated to contribute to anything or anyone. Only gratitude can push back this clouded thinking.
💡Light spotlights your blessings, drives out pain-pride.
Not everyone knows where to get this light. If we have it, we have to share it. This does not mean just talk about the light. Light is spread by meeting needs. Someone is always in need. An act of kindness or generosity will instantly break through someone’s darkness. Keep scanning for hardship, and then be an action-taker.
💡Light blazes like a fire. If someone is cold, build one for them.
It is going to be increasingly important to be able to identify all sources, facets and conduits of light in a world of viral abject darkness. I will be all over John 8:12 from now on. Following Him empowers me with the light for illuminated life.
Thanks for musing over these thoughts with me.