“God puts out our lights to keep us safe, because we are never more in danger of stumbling than when we think we know where we are going. When we can no longer see the path we are on, when we can no longer read the maps we have brought with us, or sense anything in the dark that might tell us where we are, then and only then, are we vulnerable to God’s protection. This remains true even when we cannot discern God’s presence. The only thing the dark night requires of us is to remain conscious. If we can stay with the moment in which God seems most absent, the night will do the rest…” – Saint John of the Cross
Darkness. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I am afraid of the dark. I guess what scares me most, is the fear of the unknown. My imagination runs wild and can conjure up horrors that could only be found in the type of movies I don’t care to watch!! Most of us would agree and associate darkness with some equivalent to either bad or evil, usually due to our fears and what we have been taught to fear. There’s physical darkness, spiritual darkness, mental darkness, and the most uncomfortable, emotional darkness; which include, but not limited to: anger, hatefulness, depression, sadness, melancholy, irritation, grief, resentfulness, loneliness, and many many more.
There are a lot of self help books you can read to supposedly find happiness, many cheery blogs about being and doing better, plethora instructional posts of what to do to have a better marriage, a better life, a more ideal weight, happier kids, an organized picture perfect home and (gasp) playroom, how to meditate, breathe, and what vitamins can help you feel the best, but there are very few materials out there which encourage you to face your dark moments head on. Yes, head on.
The world, in general, has the inability to deal with dark emotions, which, I believe, is the cause for a lot of the world’s problems. The knee jerk reaction to your world darkening is to force yourself to snap out of it, hide behind a brave face, pray more, think happier thoughts, and when that doesn’t work, because it probably won’t, we tend to try all kinds of ways to escape the darkness and find the light, and/or glimpses of happiness, albeit: filling up our days with busy, so there’s no time to dwell, drugs, alcohol, TV, sex, shopping, food, internet, work, books, medication…just to name a few.
*In some cases of depression and mental illnesses, medication is required.*
Emotions, dark or light, are ways of forcing us to wake up, to tell us something we need to know or work through. Most of the time we cover them up or try to shut them down, especially the darker emotions. However, when we walk, not run, in darkness, with eyes open, feeling all the feels, dealing with what comes, head on, fully conscious, it makes us better, happier, more compassionate human beings, than those only wanting to acknowledge the light, the good and happy, which is living and experiencing only half of what life has to offer.
I have dealt with my share of darkness, from postpartum depression all the way to my current darkness, grief. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t handled the darkness very well, because dark has always been a bad, evil, scary thing. There must be something wrong with me. I must not be praying enough, or reading my Bible enough, or whatever else, enough, or I must deserve this. But, I am getting better at being fully conscious in the darkness and have come to realize, my physical, spiritual, emotional well being is going to shift, grow, and change everyday. Just like how the weather changes everyday, the sun goes down and the moon comes out, tides come in and out. It’s called life. Process. Equal amounts of dark and light. Embrace it. Know that you are normal. You may not be okay today, tomorrow, in a week, or a month from now, and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone rush your process out of the darkness, just because it makes them uncomfortable. You can’t put a time frame on any one emotion, or experience. It will be different for everyone. If by thinking about an hr from now, a day from now, a month, or even a year from now, overwhelms you and reduces you to tears, which, in turn, makes you frozen in the darkness, just focus on one breath, one step, one moment at a time. Know you aren’t alone. And you’ll pull through. However, if you are honest with yourself, thinking in the true present, in this exact moment:
You are awake. You are breathing. You are alive.
You. Are. Okay.
And if someone tells you:
When God closes a door, He opens a window.
Ask them to kindly show you the window,
so you can shove them out of it!
Sometimes, if we choose to embrace the darkness fully conscious, it’s in the eerie dark hallways where we encounter the most remarkable changes, heartbreaking wounds, fantastic story-telling scars, miraculous healing, and incredible blessings, so when we walk through the next door, even though we may walk with a limp and have a few bandages, we are ready, prepared, more compassionate, happier, living a much fuller life, as the human beings we were created for.
There are many aspects of darkness, in which we can find goodness,
but perhaps another time…
A great book I’ve read on this topic:
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor