I have been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. As a child, I begged for the nightlight to stay plugged into the wall in my room until middle school, and I would often sleep with my closet light on, even until my high school graduation. In college, I would avoid taking night classes or night shifts at my job simply because I didn’t want to have to walk home in the dark—and if I ever did have to brave the 10-minute walk across campus, I would call my parents and walk as fast as possible until I was safely in my dorm room. It’s a fear that I still hold today—I rarely do anything in the dark, and if I do, it’s not willingly!
This past July, I spent a week with a group of 8th graders in the mountains of West Virginia, and we had the opportunity to go caving one afternoon. I was picturing beautiful stalagmites, cool pools, the occasional bat or two…and full use of my headlamp the entire time. However, I was wrong. Our guides led us to a small room inside of a cave, and instructed us to turn off the headlamps that we were wearing. Further into the same cave, we once again were asked to turn our headlights off, but this time it was while we army crawled through a 20-foot opening to move from one room to another. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, partially because of the darkness and partially because of the unknown aspect of the entire situation.
I had never experienced true, complete, total darkness before, and I quickly felt lost without the small light from my headlamp. Even though we were not moving, it felt like the darkness was moving around us. Even though I knew that I was in the company of two guides and others from our group, without being able to see them, I felt very alone. Even though we only spent about five minutes in darkness, I will never shake those minutes from my memory. I knew what was around me and where I was, but without light, I almost forgot.
In my life, I am constantly looking for lights – whether it is a head lamp in a dark cave, the flashlight on my phone, or the lights on the outside of my home. Light makes me feel safe and secure, because it makes the things around me known and visible. Darkness is a natural thing for us to fear, because so much of it is unknown. In the dark, it’s hard to see the things that surround you and the things that lie ahead. In the dark, it’s hard to know where your next step might land, even in the most well-known locations.
But there are situations where a physical light does not do us much good. We have all experienced darkness in the emotional or spiritual sense—the death of a family member or friend, an unexpected illness, a mental health disorder, or a string of bad days. In those times, we long for a light just like we do when we are surrounded by visible darkness—we want a light to make things known and visible, to show us our surroundings, and to help us understand where we are.
As Christians, we are given a light to use in our darkness and darkest times. As the Psalmist reminds us here, we have Scripture to use as a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path.” As we read this Psalm, we are reminded that, even in suffering, God’s Word preserves. In times where hard decisions need to be made, we have a path laid out for us in Scripture. In the midst of our constantly changing lives, God’s Word does not change. In the darkest places of our lives, we have an infallible and perfect light to guide our steps in all things. Sometimes, it feels like we are stuck in a cave, with no light to be found, and it is difficult and frustrating. In those times, when we feel lost and forget what we have around us, we simply need to remember to turn our headlamps back on, dive into the Word, and rejoice in the light that is constantly guiding our way.