Hope is the Light in the Darkness

May 15, 2017

About a month ago, we went on a Cub Scout family campout.  In the middle of the night,  my three year old daughter needed to use the restroom.  Half awake, I pulled myself out of the sleeping-bag, stumbled my way to the door of the tent, and began fumbling for the zipper in total darkness.  Somehow I managed to get the zipper open, and we stepped out into the dewy grass.

I literally could not see my hand in front of me.  My eyes searched for the pavilion that housed the restroom, but the only thing that I could recognize was the loud song of the bullfrogs ringing in my ears.  I kept waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but nothing would come into focus.  For a few seconds, I felt afraid.  The darkness was overwhelming.  I thought to myself – I have no idea what or who is really out here.  I yearned to see a clear path.  I needed a safe passage in the darkness through the obstacle course of tents with their stakes and strings that created tripping hazards even in the middle of the day.

In my fogginess of being awoken in the middle of the night, I forgot the obvious – grab a flashlight.  It was Mary’s little voice that pulled me out of my fog and reminded me, “Mom, don’t we need a flash-light?”  She scrambled back into the tent and emerged holding her small Olaf (the snowman from Frozen) flashlight in hand.  She turned it on and reached for my hand.  I looked ahead and saw that the tiniest beacon of muted light, coming from my three year old’s hand, shattered the darkness in front of us.

With the beam only giving us a few feet of light in front of us, we made our way to the restroom and back, step by step.  Her flashlight didn’t illuminate the full path, but it got us there and back dodging tents, stepping over tent ropes and stakes, and shuffling our way through the leaves and sticks.

Hope is the light that scatters darkness:

At times life’s journey feels like stepping out of a tent in the middle of the night and being in total darkness.  Sometimes, the path is completely unclear or maybe I cannot even see the next right step to take.  I yearn for the tiniest bit of light to show me the way or just to show me  how and where to take the first step.

Hope is the light that scatters the darkness that surrounds us.  Like Mary eradicating the darkness that night with her muted beam from her Olaf flashlight, hope wells within us and assures us that there will be a way through and that we will get there and that we will ultimately be ok, even if we have to dodge a few obstacles along the way.

Who do we reach out to in the darkness?

Jesus clearly tells us that he is the one to reach out to:

I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness

(Jn 12:46) 

Jesus also told his disciples, “Where I am going you know the way.”   And when dear Thomas, who we are so like more than we want to admit questioned Jesus by saying, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him,“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:4-6)

How do we reach out to Jesus in the darkness?

First of all, rest assured that we are not the only ones wanting to pull ourselves out of darkness.  Jesus does not want us to remain in darkness.  The great gift of the Holy Spirit labors on our behalf to hope and pray for us.  Think of Romans 8: 22-26 that reminds that we are saved in hope.

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.  In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

The Holy Spirit aids us in our weakness when we do not know how to pray, or what to pray for, or when the darkness is so overwhelming it paralyzes us.

Second, we can cry out to God when we feel surrounded by darkness and unclear of a path:

  • Through offering a heart-felt prayer of help and need
  • By reaching out to a person who can serve as a beacon of light for us, like Mary was for me that night
  • By remembering a moment when God banished the darkness in our past and savoring it
  • By praying for clarity on what is the next right step

Third, we can be the beacon of light for someone else, which in turn, can help pull us out of our own darkness as we see the light of another’s path being illuminated.

Which do you feel called to lean into today to help make hope real for you?

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Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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1 Comment

  1. Richard Cole

    I think this is one of your best, Becky. Concrete, vivid and, well, enlightening. You’re doing good work on the earth.


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