Five Ways to Make it Through the Darkness

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing this. Not even a few weeks ago. I’m glad I am. I’m glad I have the space to be open, and I’m glad knowing I’m not alone in this. This is a hard and deep post, and I won’t tie it up in a tidy little box for you or for me.

Within the past month, within two weeks of each other, dear friends and acquaintances of mine have lost their sons. First, it was our dear friends losing their 24 year old son very suddenly. Then 2 weeks later, our friends lost their 3 month old grandson and nephew within 48 hours after finding him unconscious during a nap.

It’s been a heavy and hard year and a half, and I’ve undergone many “why” moments in that time, but I never thought it’d be 2nd hand grief that would completely break me.

I sat at that first funeral of the month, staring at what seemed like the hundredth wooden casket, looked over to my weeping friends, and back to the casket, and it was then that something incredibly thin snapped inside me. 

Tears streamed down my cheeks as my heart cried out these eight words to God:
“I don’t know how to do this anymore.”

*THIS* was life. *THIS* was death. This. I don’t know how to live this anymore.

I wasn’t grieving for me, but I was grieving. I barely made it through the next week and a half, crying in the night, weeping in prayer, begging for comfort and mercies for my friends, and leaving myself quite out of the healing process that should accompany grief.

Only I wasn’t out of it. I was in it. In it and utterly unable to remove myself from it.

I went to a baseball game with my friend at the end of that unbearable week(s), only to have my friends lose their little 3 month old baby boy the very next morning.

I drove 7 hours to comfort my friends with hugs and tears, and no words; truly, there are no words in this kind of loss and pain. The wind fluttered pictures of his sweet life of 3 months that were hung up around the chairs of those who had gathered to celebrate his life. Onesies he would never wear again danced in the breeze; worship songs rang with hope we would not let go of. A monsoon sized storm darkened the skies and fittingly as we left it opened up and drenched the grass that held our tears.

So much deep loss, so much clinging to Jesus, so much pain, so much hurt, so much sorrow….the darkness has been deep and inescapable, and I recognize my footsteps in the valley that I’ve walked many times before. The days the darkness will not lift are the days you need Jesus the most, and yet I’ve been without a way to put words to the night.

Today was the first day in a month where I woke up and didn’t feel like I was dying. 
Unable to write or work or share my heart without bawling, today was the first day I didn’t feel like a hypocrite to share 5 ways to make it through the darkness.

So here we go:

#1. Stay in the Word however you can

Listen, I’m not here to tell you that every day you need to stick to a strict schedule of memorize the entire book of Psalms, but I am telling you that you need to stick to a committed schedule of, at the very least, opening the Bible once a day.

Why? Because when you’re dying, you need life. 

You aren’t going to gain LIFE back into your soul faster than dwelling on the words of God, Who is the fullness of Life. You need this more than air, more than water and food.

I’m calling you to dwell, not conquer. Often it’s the same verse for days. Over and over and over again, hundreds of times. Find what comforts, find what pierces, and dwell.

You are in pain, don’t deny yourself the medicine you need.

#2. Preach the Truth to your soul

You are in a battle between what you FEEL and what you KNOW. Constantly trusting either truth about the God you believe or what you see around you right now. When you’re surrounded in darkness and can’t see a way out or any glimmers of light, preach to your soul that there is a God Who loves you and is with you in the darkness.

The darkness might feel like the most pointless holding pattern and an empty desert that isn’t producing the fruit you feel like waiting should produce, and it might feel like a million losses that have piled up that are crushing you. You need something to hold onto. 

Make it Jesus. 

In the night, in the day, in the weeping, in the laughter, in the sorrow, in the loss. Come what may…..remind yourself that there is an answer to your pain, and it isn’t anything this earth can give you. It’s the One Who is trustworthy, the One Who is sovereign.

Don’t ground yourself in something that will not hold you forever secure. It will not comfort. C.S. Lewis writes this: “To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?” 

We are not strong enough to lift the darkness or tear the veil. Jesus is. Preach it to your soul.

#3. Reach out with both hands

Yesterday I shared openly and honestly with two dear friends and mentors about how everything seems completely overwhelming and I can’t do it anymore. Within a half hour, I was beating myself up for sharing my heart. Don’t do that. Reach out with both hands.

Text your friends. Be honest. Be specific. Be raw. Ask for prayer. Ask for lots of prayer. Ask for prayer that won’t have a tidy bow in a week and let them know that.

Let your community know your hurts and the darkness you see. There won’t be a lot that will be able to handle it without wanting to fix it, but there will be a few. They may be scattered in different places, but reach out and let them minister to you in this season.

Don’t weep alone when we’re called to weep together. Do not feel as though you must fix it before you share, because you can’t fix it, and neither can they. Only Jesus can.

On a practical note, realize that there WILL be something in the dark that brings joy. If it’s hymns/worship music, play those on repeat, if it’s being outdoors, go. If it’s the ocean: get there as often as you can, if it’s mountains: hike, if it’s creating beauty by hand on a rainy day, create. Find what heals, and DO IT. You are worth the healing. Reach for it.DCIM100GOPRO

#4. Don’t let go of Hope

Ohh, this one. Could there be something else so vital to life besides hope? I’m not sure there is. Don’t let go of Hope, no matter what you do. Don’t let yourself let go.

The Hope we have been given is an everlasting, never changing, never failing hope.
It lives in Jesus and His triumph over sin and death. It’s the hardest thing to do when you feel like you’re drowning in the dark, but there IS hope. There is always, always, always hope, because Jesus lives and reigns. Hope is alive even when you are hidden in the darkness and cannot see it.

Do not depend on your finite vision when you trust an infinite
and sovereign God with a Hope that will not be taken away from you. 

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” – Psalm 39:7

“For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” – Psalm 38:15

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” – Psalm 16:1

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” – Psalm 42:5

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” – Psalm 71:5

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” – Psalm 119:116

“I rise before the dawning of the morning and cry for help; I hope in Your word.” – Psalm 119:147

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” – Psalm 130:5

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the
presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
– 1 Thess. 2:19

#5. Trust the One Who brings light out of darkness

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” – Psalm 139:11-12

Once upon a time, the God Who made everything created light out of darkness. He spoke light into being: “Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.” {Genesis 1:3}

When sin brought darkness, He sent His Son to permanently shatter the darkness by His presence: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat
in the region and shadow of death LIGHT has dawned.” {Matthew 4:16} and “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” {Luke 1:79}

This is the same God Who is with you in your darkness. Do not equate the darkness with His absence. He is present. He has promised never to leave you and has given you the Holy Spirit as a promise. You are not alone. You never were. He is with you always.

The darkness cannot cover His light. The darkness cannot fully triumph where the Holy Spirit reigns. Yes, you may see it and feel it, but trust that the One Who has conquered this darkness once and for all LIVES IN YOU and has defeated that darkness already for you. Look to the sunshine of His countenance and trust that one day, that light will again dawn upon your face. Indeed, it shines in you even now, albeit weakly on hard days.

“He knows what is in the darkness and light dwells with Him.” – Daniel 2:22

“When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” – Micah 7:8

“Be of GOOD COURAGE, and He shall strengthen your heart, all You who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24View More: http://shannonashleyphotography.pass.us/wetlands-shoot

“O for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found,
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing You,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

And oh for love to trust some more, to fix my eyes on Heaven’s shore,
and for hope with every step, every word, my every breath,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

For Your life, I lose my home,’cause I’m not staying here, I’m moving on,
so give me strength to hold on tight through stormy gales ’till morning light.
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh, when it’s strong or when it falls through,

When it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know the answer is You.
Oh when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.”
– Brady Toops (2017)

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