The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We were away for the weekend, tagging along with my husband on a work trip to Ocean City, Maryland. Since it was mid-October, we didn’t expect a typical summer beach day; but we were pleasantly surprised with a glorious sunny day when we arrived. The sky was blue. The waves were mesmerizing. The beach was practically empty too. We sat on the beach, looked out at the waves, and took it all in.
While my family enjoyed sleeping in, I woke up early. I never missed an ocean sunrise. In the summer months, I took my blanket and walked down to the beach for a front row seat of God’s first masterpiece of the day. When we were there off-season, I sat on the balcony and watched the sunrise, wrapped up in a blanket.
The early morning sky was cloudy. The horizon was fuzzy and I could barely make out the line between the sky and the water. Disappointed because I knew the weather would hamper the spectacular views I loved, I still sat on the balcony, listened to the waves, and felt the ocean breeze on my face. I loved the ocean. I loved the sound, the smell, and the feeling I got when I was looked across the waves.
I prayed and talked to God about the things going on in my life and in the lives around me. I struggled to stay afloat some days as I navigated the rough seas of living with cancer and managed being a wife, mom, daughter, and friend. I was working on myself, trying to be a better person, and trying to be more of who God intended me to be. I was a work in progress; but lately, I was in a stagnant place and needed God to help me move forward. I felt deeply about the suffering around me. So much grief, loss, anxiety, family issues, broken families, broken hearts. My prayer list was growing longer each day.
As an empathetic and ultra-sensitive person, I carried the burdens of others. When I spoke to someone going through a difficult time; I felt their pain, and I felt their brokenness. And that broke me. I watched people going through trial after trial. I watched people suffer unimaginable grief and loss. I watched families fall apart. I watched sickness take away mothers and fathers and children. It was too much sometimes.
I knew God was walking alongside me. He was faithful through every step of my cancer. He showed me time and time again that He was right there with me, even in the hard times. Yet, lately, I hadn’t felt His presence. I prayed and prayed, and I called out to God; but I started to wonder if He heard me. I started to wonder if He took a step back, if He moved on to other things. When I thought about all the strife in this world, I started to think that I was just one person among so many, and others were suffering so much more. I struggled with a million little things, and maybe those little things weren’t that important to Him, especially with everything else going on in the world.
Who was I to expect God to be there for me all the time, to be at my beck and call?
I continued to be faithful. I figured God was busy right now and He would get to me later. I prayed and prayed some more. I asked Him to heal and to comfort friends and strangers suffering with illness and going through difficult times. I asked Him to protect my family and bring us closer together as this world tried to pull us apart. I asked Him to protect my heart and to show me the people who I could count on, help me let go of those I couldn’t, and to make me more of the person God created me to be.
I sent prayers and thanked God for all He provided. I tried to be faithful and to be a good person; and I asked God’s forgiveness when I fell short. I was doing all He asked of me, but I felt a distance in my heart.
I felt a darkness.
I wasn’t sure what that meant. I knew God was still with me. I knew He had it covered, and maybe He was reminding me that I was doing fine on my own. Maybe He wanted me to just keep going. Maybe He was telling me not to worry, because it was going to be okay.
So, that is what I did.
There were days when I wanted to ask God for a sign, to reveal Himself to me in a way that I knew He was still there. I often talked to God and shared how completely clueless I was about something, how inept I was at handling a situation, how desperate I was to fix things, or to help someone. I put it in His hands. I asked Him to take it from me, because I didn’t know what to do. If He would give me the guidance, or the direction, or an audible or visible sign; I would do whatever He asked of me. I heard people say all the time that God spoke to them. I had moments of clarity and feelings in my heart that I knew came from God, but I had never heard God speak to me in an audible voice. In the Old Testament, God spoke to people from Heaven. Could you imagine that? He told them what He wanted of them, what to do, where to go.
I wished that God could do that for me.
Just as all my worries and thoughts about God were jumbled in my head, I looked out at that horizon. It was still dark. It was cool and thick clouds hid the horizon and I thought surely they would hide my sunrise too. I was feeling a little sorry for myself and grumbling in my head about how it was too dark and dreary and the clouds were too full of rain to even see the sunrise, the highlight of every day when I came to the beach. I closed my eyes to say a prayer. I thanked God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me and my family. I asked for Him to bless the many people suffering on my prayer list. I pleaded for Him to help me be strong enough, smart enough, patient enough…JUST enough to be who He wanted me to be, and to be a blessing to others. I asked Him to use me however He chose so that I could be a light to others. I said, “Amen”, then opened my eyes and looked out over the balcony railing at the horizon.
That is when I saw it.
The smallest speck of the sun appeared on the horizon. A glowing pinpoint of light broke through the darkness. I saw where the water ended and the sky began. The clouds tried to contain the light of the sun, but the sun broke through.
That is when I heard it.
A notification pinged on my phone. I looked down. My daily Bible app was displaying the day’s verse…
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Wow. I had to hold back tears. I grabbed my phone and took a picture of the penetrating sunlight.
The light shines in the darkness…
The darkness has not overcome it….
Wow. Just then, I felt that call on my heart. I felt that peace in my soul. All that praying … and begging and pleading. All those times when I wondered if God was still there, if He was somewhere among all this darkness that had been following me, if He was still there with me. All those times when I longed for His voice, or a feeling, or a sign..
I can’t think of a sweeter way for God to answer my prayers. I was actually sitting in the darkness, praying about the darkness in the lives of others and my own, and that was when the light broke through. The clouds could not overcome it. My heart was instantly lighter. Some might think I was crazy, but I took that as a direct answer to my prayers. God didn’t shout at me with a big mighty voice like He did with Moses, but I couldn’t think of a more personal or intentional way to reach me. Sunrises and sunsets were two of my favorite things. When I looked into that beautiful sky, I always felt a connection to God. I was overwhelmed by the beauty in the heavens and humbled that this masterpiece was made for me. It made sense that God would use that time to reassure me.
Just a quick moment later, that little spot of the sun was gone. The clouds took over the horizon again, but that was okay. I was sure that little spot of sunshine was just for me. I was sure that God was answering my prayer and giving me that sign I was hesitant to ask for just moments before.
Darkness was always going to be in this world, and in my little part of it too. Darkness was going to hide the horizon from me from time to time. Darkness was going to swallow me up sometimes. Even when the darkness seemed overwhelming, I had to remember that I would never be overcome by it.
Even when I couldn’t see Him, He was still there; and when I needed Him, He would shine a light for me to see.