A few weeks ago I took my sweet wife on a winter photo shoot. The night was bitter cold and the earth was covered in a fresh blanket of fluffy snow. Mitch would have been entranced by the quiet beauty of it all. I never go anywhere that I don’t take my little son with me in my mind and heart.

When we arrived at the secluded wood I handed my wife a lantern made of twigs I discovered several months prior. I then placed a light in the heart of the lamp. As Natalie began to walk through a darkened, wintry forest I shot what was in my mind and heart. It was a metaphor for something I was feeling and I had to get it out of me. Everything went as I had hoped.

We didn’t take long as it was cold and dark outside and we were anxious to be home with our children. Before we left I hung my lantern on the broken trunk of a fallen tree. The light from the lamp was warm and beautiful against the backdrop of a frigid, wintry night. 

I thought deeply that evening about what it means to be alone in the dark; how we must often walk by the dim lamp of faith and hope as we journey through our own wilderness of hardship and struggle. 

It is easy to talk of faith in the abstract, from a pulpit, citing other people’s words. But when life requires us to walk that dark mile, alone ... there is often a breathless silence. When it is our turn to truly suffer, and then take those first few steps into the pitch of night, faith takes on a different, more exacting meaning. 

Surely we may have people around us cheering us on, offering love and support. But they cannot bear the burden of the sufferer. They don't know, nor can they know, the horrors of the sufferers heart. And when the night comes, when we lay down to sleep, that is when the unfiltered horrors of loss and sorrow are ours and ours alone. As I wrote in an earlier post, "After all is said and done, the journey of grief is traveled by one." In my experience, going to sleep or waking up was when I was most alone in the dark.

Yet during my darkest moments … when I felt I was drowning in a rising tide of grief and sorrow, I would have subtle impressions and feelings of peace that defied my own understanding and soothed my weary soul. They didn’t take away my sorrow; they only gave me a measure of understanding and just enough strength to carry on a little further. 

I am no fanatic, but I believe that when this life is behind us, we will look back on our mortal moments of darkness and realize we were never truly alone in the dark … but that we were surrounded by beings of light we cannot yet see. We will come to know what ancient Elisha knew, “they that be with us” are far more than we realize. And were our eyes truly opened, we would see the mountains we once thought barren were in fact full. Helping us. Soothing us. Offering help and direction.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” The same could be said of spiritual light. We must carry it with us, however dimly, or we will see it not.