Night comes early this time of year. Darkness falls even before we’ve had the opportunity to gather around the dinner table. We are in darkness more than we are in light during the months of December. And I feel it.
I’m not a sunshine seeker. In fact, I love the crunch of snow under my boots, cozy sweaters and crisp air. It’s just the darkness, the ever-present darkness, that pushes in on me and weighs me down, making me crave the light of summer. The darkness makes me look back longingly on what was–so much so that sometimes I miss the beauty of what’s right now, in the darkness.
I was a teen when I first learned there was a 400-year gap between the Old and New Testaments. When I asked my pastor why there was such a long stretch between the two parts of the Bible, he told me that God was silent before His people and it was a dark time. Somehow, I equated God’s silence to a deficiency in the people. In my adolescent mind, I believed that if you were “good,” then God spoke to you and if you were “bad,” then He didn’t. It seemed pretty straightforward to me … until I entered my own dark time.
Two years ago my dad died and my whole world was upended. I was suddenly in the dark.
In the years before my dad died, I fought my own battle with cancer, wrote a book and became an associate pastor at a beautiful, thriving church. It wasn’t an easy season of my life, but I walked out each day with determination and a sense of purpose that made me feel strong and accomplished. I felt God with me every step of the way. I could see Him there, in the light. I knew He was speaking to me, guiding me. But when my dad lost his battle with cancer, my world fell dark and silent.
Once my dad stepped into eternity, my husband and I decided to move our family back to our hometown to be closer to my mom as she grieved and learned how to live without my dad by her side. I left my position at the church, my community of support and my growing ministry in the area. In a matter of weeks, I went from an up-and-coming author and speaker to a chauffeur and caregiver for my mother.
While I knew this was the right thing to do in this season, I still felt a deep sense of loss for the life, and dream, I had built. I felt the darkness and the silence so keenly at times. I wondered if God had forgotten about me, if this life of grief and day-to-day management of mundane tasks was all that I would have from now on. I wondered if I’d ever feel the light of purpose and hear the voice of direction again.
There were times in these last couple of years, where I felt I was groping in the darkness for anything that would give me purpose. There were moments where I felt lost, overwhelmed, underwhelmed and abandoned. I felt despair and, yes, I felt sorry for myself.
But God’s patient whisper eventually reached my soul and stilled me. Once I was willing to feel and experience the darkness, I began to see the beauty in it.
I’ve learned that the darkness isn’t unending. Darkness isn’t even silent. In the darkness there is rest, peace and time to just be. There is also growth in the darkness. Restoration. And rebuilding. The darkness is safe; it protects what is too new, too fragile to be sustained in the light.
God is in the darkness. He is in the silence. He is in the pause.
In those 400 years between Testaments in the Bible, God was still God and His love for His people never wavered. He didn’t leave them, not for a second. During those years and that silence, God was with His people, whispering to their hearts and guiding them by the hand. Even in that darkness, that pause, God had planned His moment of life, with His light breaking over the horizon. God had orchestrated a holy end to the holy night because that is who He is. He is the Beginning after the end.
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth …
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
I now see a light just beginning to break on my horizon. The darkness and the silence are fading. Although I look forward to the light and all that it brings, I will miss the darkness, I think. I will carry it with me in the peace, purpose and strength I learned from it. I don’t fear the darkness anymore. I am grateful. For it, too, is holy.