For the last few days I have been thinking again about the dark places of life. Not because, at this moment ,I am experiences a dark place myself, although there have been periods in life I have known something of it – but I have been struck again by how our attitudes to the dark places of life can either bring us down even further or help us reach towards the light.
However, there is more to it than that – because, strange though it seems to us, it is, very often, in the very place of darkness itself, that place some have called ‘The dark night of the soul’ (John of the Cross) that light is to be found.
Recounting his experience of meeting God, the Biblical sage Moses says – ‘He spoke with a loud voice from the heart of the fire, surrounded by clouds and deep darkness.’ And as he continues to relate the experience he speaks of ‘The voice from the heart of darkness.’ (Deuteronomy 5:22 NIV).
We normally associate God with light – but the truth is he is still to be found in the deepest darkness! And it is there, at times, that the God, who is Light, will reveal himself.
The place of darkness is a lonely place – we believe we are totally alone and that no one can suffer here with us. And that is often true – our darkness is not seen or obvious to others – particularly if we are adept at hiding our true feelings. However, yet another biblical sage, who himself knew much of the experience of darkness in his life, could say to God – ‘Even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.’ (Psalm 139:12). So God sees us and knows us – God cares for us even in our darkest moments.
The biblical prophet Isaiah, as he spoke of the coming of the Messiah, said this – ‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.’ We know of course that this promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus (Matthew 4:16). But think again of the implication of the statement made here – it is to darkness that light is attracted!
In my home I have two objects that are very precious to me. One is a small sculpture made by a lady I know. It is of a Hebridean woman kneeling with a heavy load on her back. She looks worn out and depressed. The lady who made it did so in her own depression. Beside it I have a wooden cross – a gift from some Orthodox friends in Eastern Europe. The cross is unique in that it is made from wood which was deliberately burned. It speaks both of the fire of suffering and of the love of the Christ who is delicately painted in gold upon it. I have these side by side deliberately – so that as I rise in the morning I am reminded that the fire and darkness of the love we see at the Cross joins every day with the suffering in us and in our world in order to bring healing and light.
I pray today – that if you are in a place of darkness, the Light of the One who is Suffering Love may be yours.