Waiting in Darkness

There are many beautiful and powerful passages in the Bible prophesying or promising God’s full reign on earth.  God will create “new heavens and a new earth.”  “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”  “They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”  “God will put God’s law within the people, and write it on their hearts.”  “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”

Some of us know the agony of waiting more than others.  A mother longs for her challenged child to be able to overcome his limitations and live a fulfilling life.  But she waits in the darkness, not knowing.  African-Americans wonder how long their dream of true freedom and equality will be deferred.  Waiting so long for the reality of the wellbeing promised, we face a number of temptations.  One is to assume that God simply does not exist, that solving the world’s problems (and ours) is all up to us.  Other responses are hopelessness, despair, anger, and self-righteousness, which tend to be self-destructive.  Instead how can we hold onto the beauty and comfort of these promises and find value in the waiting and darkness?

I believe that living in hope brings a better world than living in hopelessness.  I think we have glimpses or moments of knowing inwardly that the promises are true.  And our lives lived in the glow of those help us live more in the promises, making the world better.

I think our logical thinking does not get us to the world we long for, but rather tends to turn us in wrong directions and selfish pursuits.  I think, rather, that we are spiritually formed in the darkness.  Like a seed.  Spiritual growth comes in letting go and loving God inwardly and outwardly.  The waiting we do provides the time and conditions for this growth in grace and truth, allowing us to peer into the darkness and see the Light that is always there.  In the darkness we learn our true proportion; we cannot push God around.

Queries:

What helps you live in disappointment and unknowing?

What promises are meaningful to you?

Prayer:

Teach me your ways, O Holy One, and keep me on your path.

For further reference:

“The lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . .They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.” (See Isaiah 11: 6-9.)

“The kingdom is not coming with things that can be observed. . . For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (See Luke 17: 20-21.)

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Dryness

There are times in life when we feel dry.  Things that have been important to us lose their luster and don’t give us the good feelings they used to.  This certainly happens in the spiritual life.  Going to church, singing in the choir, being in the silence of Quaker meeting for worship, or practicing a habitual spiritual discipline—any of these can go dry and seem to lose their life. The same can happen in a work situation or in a marriage or other special relationship.

Where to find life in dry times will differ.  But I do think it can be a big mistake to jump too quickly out of the situation.  I’m convinced that, when the problem is dryness (and not some serious issue that is being ignored or missed), there is a lot to learn from staying put and inward searching.  Sometimes too much busyness or responsibility for too many things can cover and hide what is happening.

Perhaps, too, the dryness may be an opportunity to grow in love of God for God’s sake instead of for our own good feelings.  In that case staying put, continuing to show up and be faithful, for the good of the other (God, our co-workers, our partner or family)may be what gives life, whether we feel it or not.  Loving God is not about having warm fuzzy feelings, but about service.  Borrowing from a rabbinical idea, that service is to love the Lord our God with all that we are.  This means being faithful to our commitments even when our hearts are not warmed by doing so.  Dryness is not likely to last forever.

Queries:

What is your spiritual condition now?  And the condition of your work and relationships?

What is it for you to love God?

Prayer:

Get a blank, unlined piece of paper.  Quiet yourself.  Randomly write on the paper words that arise for you in your prayerfulness.  When you have enough, reflect on the words.  Link them together, in groups or as a whole.  What is the prayer that emerges?

For further reflection:

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42: 1-2a).”

“There are times of dryness in our individual lives, when [Quaker meeting for worship] may seem difficult or even worthless.  At such times one may be tempted not to go to meeting, but it may be better to go, prepared to offer as our contribution to the worship simply a sense of need.  In such a meeting one may not at the time realize what one has gained, but one will nevertheless come away helped” (Berks and Oxon Quarterly Meeting and Extension Committee, 1958).