Lately I’ve been reading a book on solitude and silence. I was sitting in the chair by my bed last night trying to turn off the noise in my head and just be quiet – not exactly the same as silence - when suddenly the power went off. As the air conditioner whined to a halt and the ceiling fan slowed then stopped, I found myself in the dark. The security alarm went off with shrill insistence and I confess that a wave of pure adrenaline coursed through my body and mind. I was instantly in survival mode, my response to perceived danger was classic “fight or flight”.
What I realized later is that I don’t like to be in the dark or power-less. Unlike gradations of light, dark is dark. In darkness there’s only more darkness. And although I could see a little light from a nearby house, apparently I was the only one in the neighborhood without power. When the momentary grip of fear eased, I remembered the small flashlight carefully stashed in the third drawer for just such an emergency – I had no idea whether it even worked. Would I need to change the batteries? Could I at least see to call and report the outage?
I gathered my wits, mastered the flashlight, turned off the security system, and made the call. It was late so I got ready for bed - by flashlight – and waited. I had no idea how long I’d be in the dark, but I knew with certainty that, at the latest, light would return with the dawn of morning. As I lay there in rather unsettling solitude and silence - my heart still racing - I listened to the symphony of mystery noises beyond my own four walls and heard the sound of darkness. I felt powerless.
With the death of our loved we find ourselves suddenly alone in the unfamiliar darkness of grief. We’re powerless to change what’s happened and, for a while, all we can do is grope our way along - it's dark. The power of faith is that we’re never disconnected from God, even as we seek glimmers of light to guide us through the dark passage of grief. And though questions of life and death may quietly swirl forever in some dark corner of the heart, grief is about actively managing the darkness of our shock, fear, anger, worry, and despair, “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (Isaiah 60:20 NIV).
If you’re living in emotional and spiritual darkness, overwhelmed by negativity and immobilized by grief, I encourage you to ask for help – I did. It helped to talk about my grief and the the emotions I was feeling and experiencing. And over time I got unstuck and was finally able to inch forward toward the light. Find a confidential, non-judgmental counselor, therapist, or minister who will listen thoughtfully and understand your grief. Let another guide you away from the darkness into the light, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:23 NRSV).
God is with us in the darkness of our grief. We’re assured that God’s light surrounds us in our sorrow, “He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:22b NRSV). God created light out of great darkness. And though we live for a while in the dark night of our grief, we look with hope for the light of new life. God is light, “God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV).
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the light of your love. Amen.