When Darkness Descends, Look for the Light

November 27, 2013


The Darkness Descends

Every year, right around the end of Daylight Savings Time, I notice a curious phenomenon. For several weeks, social media posts become more negative, conspiracy theories become believable, and sarcasm and snark take over as the vernacular du jour.

Oh, we grow a little happier in the days surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas, but then we (collectively) slip back into our darkness until we gradually transition out along with springtime blossoms.

This “darkness” may well be the curse of Daylight Savings Time, or it may be any of a thousand other reasons. And, experienced en masse or not, along with times changes or not, we all tend to slip into seasons  that seem a little darker.

In our desperation, helplessness, times of being overwhelmed, and truly life-altering crises, the darkness descends.

But when the darkness descends, look for the light.

The darkness may be figurative, or it may be literal. The light may be what you find at the end of a tunnel, or it may be a distant twinkle in the sky, or possibly, it may be a whole new world of light just around a very dark corner.

But look for it. And keep on holding on to it.

7 Realizations that Look for The Light

Lists don’t solve life longings, but here are a few ways to look for the light in the darkness:

1. Realize that things seem darker than normal.

Sometimes, simply acknowledging where we are is a helpful step in the right direction. Next, pinpointing why can take us a little bit further toward the light.

2 . Realize your privilege and provisions.

It’s still dark, but consider the luxury your darkness may be to those in more desperate circumstances.

This isn’t to mitigate your own darkness, but sometimes perspective can be a little light glimmering in the distance.

3. Realize that darkness might be getting to you.

Yes, the darkness outside your window might make the darkness inside your heart feel a little bit harder to deal with. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a legitimate condition, and it may play a greater role than you think. I’ve been surprised at how readily I can personally attribute my feelings of “darkness” to these factors. (Sometimes decluttering, cleaning, getting outside, or exercising can get a surprising amount of mileage here, too.)

4. Realize that grief takes time and space. 

Death is not the only time that we grieve. Most of us need to learn how to allow ourselves and others time to grieve. We are most prone to expect this with shocking tragedy.

But this is also important when we are taken aback by dull waves of distant grief.  Allowing time for grief is likewise important when “hope deferred”  makes our heart acheaches that fall anywhere along the spectrum of everyday, ordinary struggle to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity lost.

5. Realize that we can’t interpret all of life by the moment. 

Sometimes we slip into a sort of recency bias, in which interpret all of life through the lens of the present. (And when the lens of the present is dark and cloudy, it can be hard to remember what the rest of life looks like!)

For the believer of Scripture, God’s truth anchors us to eternal hope. As a modern-day author has often reminded, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.

Few truths are as calming as this one: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” found in Romans 8:38-39.

(Of course, this isn’t attempt to tritely dismiss discouragement, something that is hard to express in few words.)

6. Realize that lists aren’t everything. (But sometimes they help.)

This is a list, and no doubt this umbrella of realizations will not protect anyone from a torrent of discouragement or difficulties we will encounter in life. The darkness is sure to come in all of our lives.

Yet, sometimes practical steps help move us past the darkness. The widespread transformative success of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts speaks loudly to this truth. And our own of gratitude, thankfulness, and joy can sometimes serve as grappling hooks that rescue us from pits of sorrow, even when we assume they’ll flop. These lists can be the lights that twinkle in a sky of darkness, our North Stars that take us back to where we need to be.

7. Realize there are seasons of darkness.

Sometimes practical steps work. But other times, we are stuck when every last resort has been used and the waves still crash over us.

Darkness is a part of life in a broken world. In the darkness, we grieve and yearn for the wholeness we know should exist. And we rejoice at the evidences, the lights, of common grace that are displayed in our lives and throughout the world.

In the tension, we will always experience seasons of darkness and seasons of light. The goal isn’t necessarily to get out of the darkness as quickly as possible. Nor is it force ourselves to wear a smiling mask while darkness eats away inside of us. We look to the light, even when all we can see is a faint glimmer, and rejoice when light floods in; for it is in darkness that we most rapturously praise its appearance.

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  • Johanna Hanson November 27, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Great thoughts. SAD is definitely real and it affects some more than others. We’re learning a whole new world of darkness and how to deal with it since our days are very short!