This past summer, most mornings I waited and watched as the sun made its slow ascent over the hill behind our farm, streaming light through the enormous Douglas firs of our forest and illuminating my little corner of the world with its warmth. Sunrise and Coffee became part of the liturgy of my summer days.
One of the common graces God gives to all His creation is the dependable daily rising and setting of the sun. In every corner of the world, no matter the time of year, it is known which minute of the day these commonplace events will occur. Darkness and light are daily reminders of God’s faithfulness to us.
On Tuesday, September 8th, Oregonians awoke to our state ablaze. Fires had raged all night, and on this morning it seemed the sun would not rise. By 9 am we were still in such darkness that my rooster, usually a dependable 5 am wake-up call, remained silent. All day ash snowed down and the sky refused to lighten. By 5 pm it glowed an eerie red, the crickets chirped their night-song, and the chickens put themselves to bed. It was one of the most unsettling days I can remember. This unexpected darkness directed my gaze to the heavens to search, to question, to pray.
Darkness does not have its own defining properties. It is nothing in and of itself. It is simply the absence of light. We only experience it as loss, a negative space, where light should be. For nearly two weeks the darkness resulting from the fires was tangible and oppressive. A thick, cindered smoke shrouded our valley, trapping us indoors, and constantly reminding me to pray for the firefighters, for the people who had lost homes and loved ones, and for my own heart that grieved the devastation.
Most times though, the darkness we experience is not a physical reality, but a trial or heartbreak in life that brings darkness to the soul: a crushing medical diagnosis, pain and suffering, loss, depression, unfulfilled dreams, consequences of our sin, or consequences of others’ sin. All of these things can cause darkness to press in on us so that the light, God’s presence, is obscured.
Of course, on the day of the fires when it felt like the sun didn’t rise, it had actually still risen at its appointed time and place. It was just imperceivable through the smoke. In the same way, when our soul faces darkness, God is still there, awash in the goodness and light that defines Him. The darkness we feel during these times is true. But there is a truer story still.
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5
He is there waiting for us to draw near to Him, to penetrate our pain with His loving light, for there is no light apart from Him and darkness cannot exist with Him. The darkness reveals our need for Him, our dependence on Him, our desperate longing for Him.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.Psalm 139:11-12
The euphoric feeling I felt when, on day twelve, I caught my first glimpse of the actual sun and a sliver of blue sky, seems disproportionate to the ordinary event itself. But I had come to realize that clear skies and streaming light are actually everyday miracles that I never fully appreciated until living in unexpected, aberrant darkness. I took a picture of it. I put on my tennis shoes and headed out on a much-needed walk. And I thanked God that light always overcomes darkness.
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.