Faith and Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

A few weeks ago Leslie and I spent some time in the Shenandoah National Forest in northern Virginia enjoying cooler weather and, of course, the mountains. I love all mountains. They're nature's way of declaring what it can do with a combination of time, pressure, heat, and pure muscle. The Rockies are jagged and young, geologically speaking. Precambrian adolescents at best. The Appalachians beat them by 400 million years or so. The Rockies are brash and tall and full of boasts. The Appalachians were once as tall, but their high peaks long ago washed into the lush valleys that surround and wind their way through the chain.

The Rockies thrill with a majestic energy. The Appalachians whisper a gentle wisdom that the same nature that pushed them up will eventually wear them down. They are accepting of the fact that even the earth recycles. The Rockies offer a powerful thrill. The Appalachians whisper serenity. At this stage in my life, I'm more into serenity.

You can probably tell that I'm an Appalachian type of guy. Stepping under the canopy of hardwoods seems like coming home to me. Leslie and I spent our vacation hiking the trails, touring the caverns, wading in the streams, and taking time to drink in a green so lush it seems to glow.

One stop was at the Grand Caverns. Leslie has done some real life, wild cave, spelunking. I just take tours. The Grand Caverns were splendid, with some of the caverns, well, grand. One of the "rooms" was hundreds of feet long and about 80 feet tall.

Now every cave tour guide is contractually obligated at some point to turn off the lights to demonstrate how complete the darkness is. Our guide turned out the lights and let the darkness settle on us like a thick shroud. Then he lit a candle, and once again my favorite illustration of faith came to light.

Faith is like a candle in a world of darkness. It doesn't have to be especially bright. That little halo of light in the cavern is enough to safely walk out. And no amount of darkness, no matter how complete, can snuff out the light. Light wins. It always wins.

What struck me this time around was that faith has a social aspect to it. Let me explain.

I have faced some dark times in my life, times when my little light went out. I was sitting in the darkness or wandering aimlessly, feeling hopeless and often simply feeling sorry for myself. But I held onto the candle. I never lost faith that God was there.

Then people of faith came to me, with their candles lit. Their light encouraged me. It reminded me. It helped me see. My faith was still a lightless stub, but the good souls around me brought a glow that helped, comforted, and challenged me.

Never underestimate the warm effect of your faith. It doesn't have to burn like a bonfire to encourage someone else. Besides, bonfires only last a short time, and you can't carry one around with you. Nary a bonfire illuminated my darkness. They were all candles of caring from brothers and sisters in Christ.

One other way faith is social. I held onto my candle long enough for my candle to be kindled by another. God almost always uses other people to bless and help me. In fact, I'm not sure He done anything for me that He hasn't used someone else as the agent of His will. God, who in His very nature is social, wants our faith to be social as well.

Each one of us has a candle. If yours is lit, then enjoy that little light. It's all you need to make it through a dark world. And let your light shine. It may help someone else, and God may use it to rekindle the faith of someone you know.


Dr. Terry Ellis
August 16, 2015