It was dark! When you live in the city, you can find a light – or many lights –within eye sight. But this was a mountain top where the closest thing to light was a distant star. When you turned off the flashlight, the full effect of the darkness settled in around you. I can understand why children often feel fear in the dark.
It caused me to think about other kinds of darkness. One is the darkness of the mind. Having treated people who suffer from various forms of mental illness, I have experienced some descriptions of “darkness” when anxious, depressed or potentially suicidal people shared their struggles. That kind of darkness feels hopeless when you are the person who is seemingly “looking up” to see the bottom of the world around you. That blackness is penetrating to the mind.
During these days of social distancing and isolation, one can feel the darkness of being alone. The closest comparison is the feeling of having a nightmare in which you are terrified. There is such relief to awaken and discover that the “terrors of the night” no longer torment you. Those are moments when the human touch means so much. Being alone can be terrifying, especially when one ages, lives alone, and begins to feel loss of control in life.
Another darkness I sense in some circumstances is the darkness of evil. Jesus declared that “men love darkness because their deeds are evil.” When you hear the morning news, there is almost always a crime, a murder or a robbery in the first report. In the newsroom the adage is still, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Too often the darkness of the night also stimulates the darkness of evil when the disturbing anger of many souls strikes out toward a less fortunate person or perhaps a person of authority. It feels evil when the healer is attacked by the disease when he or she is trying to help the patient live. A pandemic stirs that fear of darkness in us.
How can we deal with our fear of darkness? Some years ago a couple I saw for marriage counseling brought me a gift: a small plaque with gold letters engraved on a dark background. It read “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” What we believe can change our attitudes! What we practice of our beliefs can change the outcomes of our circumstances. In the Book of Hebrews (Ch.11) a list of people of faith is described. The definition of their foundational thinking is that faith makes life worth living. Faith is our handle on what we can’t see. Believing there is light at the end of a long, dark tunnel is faith.
I’m comforted by the description of the creation in Genesis, which not only tells us “In the beginning God created," but it says that into the darkness He spoke, “Let there be light.” The lesson for living is: open up your darkness to light. The darkness of the universe can be defeated by a single candle. Think about that and let your fear go!