Posted by: Mad Lamb | 13/01/2017

Light in the darkness

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Like many people, 2016 was a difficult year for me. Work, home and personal circumstances came together to make me feel that whenever it looked as if there was light at the end of the tunnel, it felt more like an approaching herd of stampeding elephants wearing head-torches.

My father died in June under unexpected and tragic circumstances.This was one of those times when you feel on the edge of your faith. Life hits you in the chest, you need to sit down and remember how to breathe again. I struggled to know what to read or how to pray. My ‘Bible in a Year’ programme wanted me to read Job. I know that book too well and I couldn’t face reading about someone who lost many family members, nor the next on the list, Ecclesiastes, that refers to the meaninglessness of life.

Life at home wasn’t proving to be as stable as we had hoped, after moving in January 2016 for my husband to take up his current job. Unfortunately this started to become increasingly unsettled after May. In the last two months we’ve been on the verge of leaving, so we’ve constantly questioned how we interpreted God’s call to come here. Even though we are convinced it was right to move here, we are wondering if there is a new call to leave. Whether we stay or go, the problems here are likely to remain so it doesn’t seem right to go elsewhere because we can, making it hard to know how to focus our prayers.

This has also meant that my local job hunting has been on hold. I work from home mostly so it shouldn’t have been a big problem. However, I usually need to be in the office in Bristol about once a month, so was travelling the 200 miles south, and now I was travelling regularly 200 miles north to Scotland to spend time with my mother and close family. Naturally, I also wanted to be with my husband at key times to support him too, so I was left juggling my need to be in three different places. By the end of the year my health was beginning to suffer from the stress of travelling and of not being able to be in the other two places whenever I wanted.

I did consider giving up my faith at points in the last six months but that didn’t seem right. I tried to write a blog entry about that in October but couldn’t find the right words to say, events were still too raw. However, if I disregarded my faith, there was nothing else in my life that gave any real meaning to life regarding these circumstances and I honestly couldn’t see any point in existing.

But I don’t give up that easily. I’ve had difficult periods of life before, although nothing on the scale I’ve experienced in these last few months. However, my faith has carried me for 40 years through those times, why give that up now? Some atheists may refer to such a faith as a crutch but I have no problem in using crutches when I can’t walk without them. At points I felt my issues were small in comparison to other circumstances in this world but I reminded myself of advice I give to others: that life isn’t a competition. If someone is struggling, it doesn’t matter what else is going on for others, it matters to them. So I had to allow myself time to work through this.

It was with the conviction that I thought God must have something to say that I looked for ways to continue. So I left my Old Testament readings for a while and concentrated on reading the letters to the dispersed churches, such as the Galatians. These reminded me that persecution and division was rife in early faith groups, so why expect an easier life now? When I got to the letters from John, I read that, in faith, we walk in the light of God’s presence and not in darkness (1 John 1:5-6). These words reminded me of John’s words in his gospel that the light shines in the darkness and the dark has not overcome it (John 1:5). In darkness there is fear and despair, in the light is the hope and possibility of moving forward, but we have to make the decision where we want to be and recognise the only way out of the darkness is to head to the light.

So I started to take more steps back into God’s presence. I found the daily led prayers in the Jesuit web site and app, Pray as you Go, helpful to reconnect with God and the Scriptures, and looked for other ways to build light into my life. Unexpectedly I found pockets of time to reconnect with some school and college friends during my trips to Scotland, which has been a real delight.

The offer to walk in light, and not in darkness, is not just an encouragement but also a challenge to move away from the darkness. So this has also meant looking at shedding the practices in my life that create darkness for me, or others. Now, as I set myself to read Job and Ecclesiastes, I see the benefits of not relying on circumstances, possessions or others to create meaning in my life but relying more on God.

This week, in one of the Pray as You Go sessions, a song, based on Psalm 62 was used: ‘In God alone is my soul at rest. God alone is my rock and strength’. So as a new year is getting less new, I am looking to move into the light, by spending more time in God’s presence, and looking for ways I can work my way out of the darkness imposed on me, and that I have created around me.

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