At the risk of being too dramatic, I must say that on some days, my path seems dark. Whether caused by chronic pain, illness, or other challenges, I sometimes walk through patches of darkness — often immense patches of darkness that seem to go on forever. Dark thoughts about an uncertain future can flood my mind.
Much wiser persons than I have made sense about the veil of darkness that often covers our lives. Francis Bacon left us with these words:
In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.
— Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
It is the dramatic contrast between darkness and light that leaves us perplexed. We can feel the promise of light on one day, and on the next, darkness prevails. So often, it is the darkness that wins the day, having its way with us. But then there is this thing we call faith.
Faith, we recall, is something that Jesus tried to explain over and over again to his disciples. They couldn’t quite get it. And like those twelve, we don’t quite get it either, that “faith” is at once simple and complex, available yet impossibly unattainable. At best, faith can be elusive.
But getting back to me on this dark day, here is a brief personal anecdote. I have my dialysis treatments for seven and a half hours every night. My dialysis machine has a screen that lights up in our dark bedroom. I have to read the screen at times during the night, and that troublesome screen shines in my eyes so intensely that I cannot see anything else in front of me.
That mundane daily experience teaches me that the most effective light in a dark place is not the light in my eyes that blinds me, rather it is the light behind me.
The light behind me stirs the depths of my soul, because I know that God’s light truly is behind me as I travel this journey. To know that the Light will guide my way is to again find my faith, in spite of illness, in spite of pain and suffering, in spite of uncertainty.
We uncover the holy mystery and the divine promise in the living words of Scripture.
The people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
— Matthew 4:16 New International Version (NIV)
I do not know how it all happens, that this Scripture comes to life within me and gives me life. I do not understand a God that can find me in every dark place. I do not comprehend the miracle that shines light behind me in the middle of my darkest days. I do not understand how a light can dawn “in the land of the shadow of death.”
But I do know that my fickle faith transforms at times into something solid and steadfast, comforting and constant.
Light behind me, I think.
Thanks be to God.