What do you do when it seems that life has gotten just too hard? You’ve done everything right, or so you think; you’ve been honest – well mostly. You’ve worked hard, you’ve been a ‘good’ citizen, but as you stand there looking around you, the only thought in your mind is, “Why? For what purpose?”
What if everything you’ve believed up to this point turns out to be a lie? There’s no one listening to you when you pray. There is no such thing as peace. There is no rest after life. You won’t ever escape the rat race. You don’t really have a purpose.
What if you could close your eyes right now and never wake up? Would you?
Such dark thoughts. Does this mean you’re suicidal? Teetering on the edge of depression? What happens when your mind is overflowing with dark thoughts and there seems no end to it? What do you do?
What if these thoughts were perfectly natural?
There’s a thought milling around in my mind. It’s been there for a while – God is the darkness. He is not light. He cannot be light, as it was He who created light. How can the creator be his creation? Science and religion have taught me that darkness was there in the beginning; the void always existed, it is everything and nothing. It is always there. Light creates a pathway through it. Faith has taught me that light is an aid for us to see but is not always necessary.
I reflect on my life and think – when have I encountered God? What were my most profound lessons? And I see, that it was in the darkness I experienced the magnificence of God. It was there my faith was tested and nurtured. Light was my reward. And I think, had there always been light how would I have recognised the illumination?
Even so, there are times when I am overwhelmed, when the financial strain of living seeks to suffocate me, when the world around me seems lost in a maze of mindless hate and no place escapes tragedy. And my eyes are wide open, and I cannot see. And a whisper from within reminds me of the Psalmist who wrote, “He is clothed in clouds and darkness.” And a tiny light appears.
In his book, Thank God for Evolution, Michael Dowd quotes a New York Times article by William J. Broad, ‘Deadly and Yet Necessary Quakes Renew the Planet’ – January 11, 2005:
“It’s hard to find something uplifting about 150,000 lives being lost,” said Dr Donald J. dePaolo, a geochemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “But the type of geological process that caused the earthquake and the tsunami is an essential characteristic of the earth. As far as we know, it doesn’t occur on any other planetary body and has something very directly to do with the fact that the earth is a habitable planet. “Having plate tectonics complete the cycle is absolutely essential to maintaining stable climate conditions on earth” Dr William H. Schlesinger said. “Otherwise, all the carbon dioxide would disappear and the planet would turn into a frozen ball.”
What if navigating the darkest periods of our life was “absolutely essential” to our growth and learning, to maintaining our humanity? Would you then embrace them?
I love science and one of my favorite scientists is the astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. When asked what he thought was the most astounding fact in the universe, he responded, “The most astounding fact, the most astounding fact, is the knowledge that the atoms which comprise life on earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core, under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy, guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condensed, collapsed, formed the next generation of solar systems – stars with orbiting planets – and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So, when I look up at the night sky, I know that, yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”
Yes! The fact is, we are connected to everything and everything is a part of us. All of nature, all of the universe, existing together in a growth dance – dying and renewing and ever expanding; “under extreme temperatures and pressures,” growing and learning and learning and growing.
So, is it possible to get through life without experiencing periods of real darkness? Is it possible to get through life without pain? I look at the universe for my answer. If I am connected to it all, to the very beginning of it all, why will I be any different? There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to be sick and a time to be healed. A time for pain and a time for laughter. A time to collapse and a time to be renewed. A time to live and a time to die. Wouldn’t attempting to live otherwise be like attempting to disrupt the very flow of time?
I have dark thoughts, periods of deep sadness, but like time, like the universe, they must flow. I don’t hold on to them, I don’t ignore them. And when I embrace them, I see that the deluge brings with it seeds for new growth. And if I allow it, like the earth I will be renewed and like the universe I will expand, as my new thoughts and new ideas bring new life and add to all of creation.
And so, I give thanks. And I discover that Love embraces my soul in that “absolutely essential” place. And in the darkness, even when I cannot see, there is illumination.