What’s in the Darkness?

Read and reflect on John 1:1–18.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:5 RSV

When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. That was because my brother and sister, both older than me, would scare me with ghost stories and hide in the dark, making mysterious noises. I had a vivid imagination even then, and their antics only increased my fear. When I went upstairs at night, I had to flip on every light switch along the way, and I couldn’t fall asleep unless the hall light at the bottom of the stairs was turned on, its beams reaching into my bedroom, dispelling the darkness and calming my fears.

When I grew up, however, I learned no spooks lurked in the darkness, waiting to harm me, and the darkness held no real threat. But still, inky blackness had the power to resurrect old fears buried deep in the recesses of my heart. 

I remember one time my husband, our three children, and I were camping, and all the lights were extinguished. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand two inches from my face. My heart beat faster, and my breath came in short gasps.

“Calm down,” I scolded myself. I thought about turning on the reading light and reading through the night until I fell asleep, but the light would disturb my husband. So I squeezed my eyes shut, pulled the covers over my head, and forced myself to breathe deeply and slowly—and think about something other than the blackness that still held terror for me. 

While adults may scoff at a child’s (or another adult’s) fear of the dark, I believe we need to respect it for its power for good and for evil. 

The Bible tells us there are three kinds of darkness: Physical darkness is the absence of light and can harbor both good (rest) and bad. Our fears, worries, and heartaches are felt more acutely at night, and loom larger than in the light of the day. Spiritual darkness, not knowing what is right and true, also represents everything evil, gloomy, or hopeless. Eternal darkness is hell, the absence of God.

As Christians, we are to avoid spiritual darkness, respect its power to destroy and send us into eternal darkness, but not fear it. Why?

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus tells us in John 8:12. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus, the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the child born in Bethlehem, the God-man who never sinned and became the perfect sacrifice, paying the punishment for our sin by shedding His blood and dying on a cross so that the darkness will no longer have power over us. Jesus, whose name means “God will save,” who overcame the eternal darkness of death and rose from the grave, continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not—and cannot ever—overpower Him. 

Like that hall light when I was a child, His beams of love and life continue to reach out to me, surrounding me, enfolding me, dispelling the darkness around me, and calming my fears. I know I need never be afraid of the dark anymore.

As I light the first Advent candle, dear God, remind me that in this season of long, dark nights, that I never need to fear the dark, as long as I walk in the Light. Amen.

From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 by Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Lessons from the Sea Turtle

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. –Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

When my husband and I visited the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island, I became fascinated with sea turtles.

I learned that Mama Sea Turtle lays her eggs—as many as 120 at a time—in a nest she digs on a sandy beach, far enough away from the shoreline that the tides won’t reach it, yet close enough for the baby turtles to make their way to their ocean home once they’ve hatched and climbed out of the nest.

Sixty days after they’re laid, the eggs hatch, and the hatchlings make their way to the shoreline. Thirty to 35 years later, females will return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs.

The baby turtles’ lives are fraught with danger—mostly from predators on land and in the sea—but the period they are most vulnerable is when they make their trek from the nest to the shoreline.

Once they’ve hatched, the little turtles head for the brightest horizon. Hence during hatching season the lights on beachfront buildings are turned off and residents close their window blinds at night so the hatchlings don’t head for the wrong light.

Not only are they exposed to predators on their dash to the sea, but also they’re in danger of dehydration from the sun. Many don’t make it.

Yet helping them get from nest to surf is not in the best interest of the turtles. Although it’s a time fraught with danger, it’s necessary for the young turtles to make the trek themselves.

The crawl to the ocean allows them to wake up—remember they are only hours old. Alertness, mobility, and strength increase as they move.

The trek is also an important part of a complicated process whereby their surroundings are imprinted on the brains of the baby turtles, so the females will return to the very beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs.

I liken the hatchlings’ crawl to the ocean to the times in our lives when we, too, have to muddle through. Let’s take a lesson from the sea turtle.

First, head for the right light. Many false lights clamor for our attention, but only one Light is the right one that will lead us to our eternal home. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Second, know the trek is necessary. The trial will make you stronger. It will refine you: “For you, O God, have tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10). It will develop perseverance and maturity: “The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3–4).

Also, trials purify your faith: “These (trials) have come so that your faith—of even greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine” (1 Peter 1:7).

And finally, the trials impress upon us that our lives are not random wanderings. We were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27)—thus we bear His imprint. “He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). After our sojourning, which will include many times of trial, we’ll find our way to home—and our Creator—again.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the Light that guides me through the muddling times and to home. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 42.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.