Rise and Shine! (On Those in the Dark)
By Terrie C
*Please Note: The length of this article will be smaller than usual in honor of the High Holy Days we are in right now. During this time, our main focus and priority should be on God, and His plan unfolding. I sincerely hope this Sacred Season will be meaningful and rewarding for each of you!
The last time I posted, I went over some ways to shine God’s Light into the Darkest Hours that you and I have and will continue to have as long as we are still wearing these coats of flesh. If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll find it right here, on the Center for Tanakh Based Studies site at:
It is imperative that we first understand darkness according to our own experiences, and that we can successfully accept God’s Light there, on ourselves, before we endeavor to step into someone else’s darkness. To be effective and to not cast shadows where we want to shine Light, we must be securely connected to the source of Light, our Heavenly Father, through prayer and Scripture study. Once armed with information and experience, we can have a positive effect on those who are suffering through their darkest hours!
If you’ve ever experienced someone’s well meaning attempts to make you feel better in your own darkness that fell flat, you may already have some pointers on what NOT to do. Every person’s experience in the darkness is as unique as each person, but there is still common ground, and ways that we can be helpful. We should prayerfully consider what we know about the person we would like to comfort, and what we know of the situation into which we want to shine God’s Light. We should pray for wisdom and guidance to proceed. Then, we can tailor the following helpful hints accordingly:
- Affirm what the person is feeling: Darkness will most likely bring out the worst kinds of feelings. The person we want to comfort and shine God’s Light on may be angry, excessively sad, frustrated or even confused. Simple sentiments like, “How hard for you!” or “Your heart must be breaking!” are simple, yet profound affirmations for the one shrouded in darkness. “I hate that you have to go through this!” can be more effective than “I’m sorry.”
- Do NOT say, “I know how you feel”: No one but the one in darkness knows all of the mixed emotions they are experiencing. Each person’s reaction to darkness is tailor made through their perceptions and experiences. In the darkness, it’s hard for the hurt to see past the moment they are in right then. We must only share our own experience if we are asked to. There may be a time later on, but usually, in the midst of darkness, we should stay focused on the hurting one.
- Try to avoid cliches (especially spiritual ones): It’s hard sometimes to know just what to say when we are voyeurs to someone’s dark hours. Phrases like “God moves in mysterious ways” or “Don’t worry, God can bring good from this” are both true statements, but are often hard to believe by one who is drowning in darkness. Even devout believers occasionally encounter a life event that makes them question the sovereignty of God. Unless the hurting person is speaking with spiritual tones themselves, it would be wise for us not to give them “fix all” Scriptural advice, no matter how true it may be. If the hurt person is outwardly asking questions like “Why would God let this happen?” the best answer we can give is a simple “I don’t know”. Remember that trusting God is so much easier during a Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house than it is to trust Him when standing next to an open grave. We are there to shine His Light, not to force Him on the ones who need Him most.
- Ask how you can help. Be specific: When tragedy strikes or darkness falls, the one hurting may not be able to attend to their own needs, or to the needs of those in their charge. They also may be too upset to think of the tasks that must be accomplished. Darkness often drops a veil akin to confusion, we can shine a little Light through it. Depending on our relationship with the one we’re shining God’s Light on, there is almost always a need we can meet. In the dark, things like meals, bill paying, housekeeping and errand running may fall to the wayside. We can make specific offers to help, based on what we know of their situation. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” is too general. “Do you need someone to take the kids to soccer, make some phone calls, pick up the dry cleaning or _______________” (fill in the blank) is a much better approach.
- Be there: When all is said and done, the person who is enveloped in darkness holds the personal responsibility to “choose life” and pull up out of it. We are to shine that spark of light that tends to propel others toward it, toward God’s Light. We are not to get pulled, instead, into the darkness. And so, as long as our help is helping, we can be an excellent source of comfort, assistance and inspiration for those who have chosen to move past the dark season. In whatever way the relationship calls for, we can determine in our hearts to make that visit, phone call, or whatever avenue we can take to ensure that the one who is hurting knows they are not alone.
We can, indeed, make a profound difference in someone’s darkness! We CAN shine God’s Light and love into the shadows. It’s easy to recall, isn’t it, those who have done just that for us? God is faithful, so faithful! Seasons of dark will come for us, for our loved ones and friends, our coworkers, and for the strangers whom God places in our path. He is a “full circle” kind of God. We will both have the need light and be light for as long we live.
Until we meet again, Rise and Shine!