For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. -2 Corinthians 4:6
Whenever I hear Biblical or liturgical language about light shining in the darkness, I think back to the difficult, dark nights of late 2015, when Evening Prayer was my lifeline. On November 5, 2015, my parents’ house that I had grown up in, and where my parents still lived, burned down in a fire. Mercifully, no one was home: my parents were out of the house, and my sibling and I were away at college. But the sudden change from worrying about a Music History term paper to wondering whether your cat is alive, and not knowing where your parents will sleep tonight tends to turn your life upside down. And it certainly shakes your faith.
Up until that point, my faith had centered a victorious God: from the songs that I sang to the prayers that I prayed, I had full confidence that God would protect me and those I loved as long as I remained faithful. But this certainly didn’t look like victory. I didn’t know how to pray anymore.
I “borrowed without asking” a prayer book from my college’s chapel (PSA: don’t try this at home, folks. I don’t want Deborah getting mad at me because you were inspired to steal prayer books from the Cathedral), and Evening Prayer became my lifeline, my words when I had none. The liturgy didn’t shy away from darkness. It didn’t try to pretend that “night” and all of the metaphorical difficulty that comes with it didn’t exist, or would be driven away if only we prayed the right way. The hope that it offered was not a shallow promise of perpetual happiness that it could not keep. Instead, the light of God shone like a candle in the darkness. It did not vanquish the darkness in a great flash, but it was something to hold on to. Morning was still far away, but it kept shining.
I imagine that for many of us, this season of instability, fear, and grief calls to mind other dark seasons of our lives. It’s a difficult, heavy time, and we have no idea when morning will finally come. Hope looks like something different when, at Easter, we will wake to a Resurrected Christ, but no gathering; an empty church that resembles the empty tomb. But I think Evening Prayer can help.
We don’t need to shoehorn ourselves into hollow celebration. There is no requirement that we carefully inspect our world for silver linings. Our light in the darkness is enough.
And the darkness has something beautiful to show us. The light that brightens our darkness–the light that stays with us until morning–is not just some impersonal force of hope or peace. It is the very presence of Jesus Christ that stays with us through the night. The most beautiful thing I learned in my season of darkness was the truth that Jesus suffers, not only for us, but with us. Before I rediscovered God amidst my darkness, I had only known God as triumphant. And yes, Jesus’ suffering means that death no longer gets the last word, but Jesus also suffered with us, in solidarity with all the pain and hardship we face.
One of my favorite lines from Evening Prayer is the collect, “Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy, defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.” In this season where every day feels like just another moment of this seemingly interminable night, let our suffering Savior be your light. Jesus is with you in the darkness, hold Him like a candle.