The Gift of Darkness

“Even in the darkest darkness, hope was a lifeline, though sometimes as thin as a thread.”
– Dean Koontz, The Silent Corner, pg. 85

Eighteen years ago today, I quit smoking cigarettes. Only nine months prior to that, I had my last drink of alcohol and surrendered my food addiction to God. Reflecting on all of those things today, I sit in an enormous amount of gratitude. Yet, I would be remiss if I did not also share my gratitude for the darkness that came before it, and the thin thread of hope that God always wove throughout that darkness.

Too often, I believe, we fail to recognize the gifts that come in our darkest days. Most of us just want to get past the pain and feel better. While in the darkness, we struggle to understand why it is so dark, and we strive to fix what we think is wrong. Whether our darkness is emotional, physical, spiritual or a combination of the three, we wring our hands and worry that we will never ever feel better again. We cannot picture a day when our hearts will once again find peace. So we run from the darkness, instead of taking the time to meditate on what lies within it – our place to find hope.

As I look back on the darkest periods throughout my life, I see desperation, loneliness, fear, struggle, pain and sadness. Most people would not refer to these things as gifts, but today, I do. Without these gifts, I never would have turned away from that which was killing me in a slow suicidal way. Without these gifts, I never would have opened my heart and mind to trying life in a different way. Without these gifts, I never would have been blessed with the life I have today. Most importantly, without these gifts, I may never have been able to recognize the hope that was always present, propelling me forward, keeping me from killing myself.

A friend once told me that H.O.P.E. stands for “Hold On, Pain Ends.” In typing those words now, I see that statement in the teacher who took interest in my poetry, the coach who encouraged me to play field hockey in college, the big sister who always let me tag along whenever she went anywhere, the beauty I have always found in nature, the cat whose presence was all I needed to stay alive, and the list goes on and on. Everywhere I look throughout my past there are thin – and sometimes very thick – threads of hope. God was weaving – always weaving!

Recently, I have been reading much about the contemplative task of waiting. Not a concept I could have accepted or even pretended to like in my past, waiting is now something I have grown quite fond of. In the waiting, I am given so many opportunities to appreciate God’s messages, and His threading of hope throughout my days.

It is difficult to explain, but I believe that the period of waiting I experienced between being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, and undergoing double mastectomy surgery in March 2016, was one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me. I do not believe God caused my cancer, but I do believe He gave me the ability to wait. Even in – and probably most in – my inability to pray during that time, God gave me dignity, self-respect, patience and a peaceful heart. Perhaps, in my inability to pray, He prayed for me. Perhaps, the hope in that time was simply the quiet mornings. Few birds tweet their songs of praise in mid-winter. Windows are shut up tight from the stormy elements of snow, wind and freezing temperatures. After the coffee is brewed and the cat is fed, there is no noise to be heard. In just the flickering light of the candle on my desk, I waited while God prayed. What a joyous thread of hope to have sewn in my heart as the awareness of that spreads throughout my soul today.


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