Hope in the Darkness


Empty. That is how I feel this Christmas. It’s not because I am being pulled in a million different directions between cookie making and gift buying. I wish that was the case this year, but it is not. I am empty because my life feels like it has literally fallen apart since the diagnosis of cancer came this fall. Shattered and dark is the way it actually feels. A million glimmers of hope now litter the floor of my life, and most days I don’t feel like there is any way they will be put back together again. So much has been taken from me, and so much more will be taken from me as I unwillingly walk this dark and lonely road this Christmas.  

I know this is not what you want to read about in a season that is supposed to be spilling over with joy and hope. I am a Pastor’s wife after all, a missionary who just came off of the field, and a follower of Jesus. I feel this pressure to say all the things a “good” Christian is supposed to say, despite how I feel. To push grief and sadness aside the moment I feel it bubbling within is not only the American way, but a Christian narrative as well. To pull out all the battle cries and fight head on with a grit that is fierce.  

But what about the times in our lives that are so dark there is no fight left in us? What if we can’t say that everything will be OK when maybe it won’t be, and it certainly isn’t right now? God is bearing my grief with me right now, not ushering it away, and I am forced to sit in the darkness with Him, with all my sadness and all my grief.  

Somedays it feels like I will become lost in this emptiness or stay in this darkness forever, and that thought frightens me. But, I know that even though this season is incredibly painful this year, emptiness before the Lord is often where true transformation begins. The wilderness is necessary, but never permanent. In Ruth Haley Barton’s book called Invitation to Silence and Solitude she says:

“While the experience of being empty is painful, emptiness is the prerequisite to be filled. The presence of God is poured out most generously when there is space in our souls to receive Him. In the vast emptiness of our human soul there is finally room for God.”

As we walk through this season of Advent this year, I feel more of a parallel to it than usual. Advent is all about waiting for hope to show up and shine light and love into the darkness. The nation of Israel had to wait for 400 years. Generation after generation felt empty as they waited in the darkness for the light to finally show up, and when it did, it came through the small flicker of a baby boy. He was what seemed to be a small light that would shine brighter and brighter into darkness that had settled over the nation. This flicker of light represented hope, joy, peace, and love. It’s what we celebrate and remember as we anticipate Christmas each year. We remind ourselves that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is never permanent (nor does it win). "The true light, that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9).

Even though you may not be walking through a devastating diagnosis this year, many of you are walking through heavy and hard things. Perhaps like me, you would say that this year feels a little more dark, and that’s OK to say. Even in the darkness you are in the presence of the one who loves you and bears your grief with you. You are not alone in that darkness. God’s light is there with you, and as He heals and restores hope once again, that flame will become brighter and brighter until it fills the dark spaces in your life and in mine. Remember, light shines brightest when it is dark.  

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