Hope in Light

We were recently at Meramec State Park, not far from Sullivan, MO about an hour from St. Louis. We enjoyed a Macy Family reunion with several activities. One of my favorite activities was a visit to a free cave not long from our cabin. My folks joined my husband and I and our two oldest adult children. I had a lot of thought processes since that visit and thought I’d share.

The cave was unguided, and a simple space without a lot of crawl through areas or twists and turns. We can basically walk straight back, with a flashlight. It’s such a simple cave you can’t even get lost. But it was wonderful. The tiny trail leading up to it is hidden in a set of trees. We had to have someone else point it out. We climbed up a little hill and the cave came in full view with a wide opening. Lush green ferns laced the entry way. Once we stepped into the cave and looked back, a large arch opening wide enough to fit my long living room framed a beautiful wooded area. My parents chose to wait while the rest of us went further in. As we explored the cave, I noticed two distinct rocky pathways in which sometime or another creeks flow through, out and down the hill. The coolness was refreshing and our voices echoed in nature’s giant megaphone.

I kept wanting to take photos, so lagged behind a bit while the rest of my family ventured further in. Their shining lights created their familiar silhouettes, and the lingering mist added an interesting mysterious effect. I enjoyed listening to their voices, yet found myself lost in my own thoughts. The space almost felt sacred, and church-like with just a few of us in there.

Taking my time, navigating slippery surfaces, I eventually caught up with Isaac who had the most brilliant flashlight. He pointed out interesting areas with his light, while I took more photos. There were several formations growing downward from the mineral deposits; unfortunately, many people apparently broke them off for souvenirs. When you walk far enough in, you might spot a bat or two hanging from the ceiling. Beaded water seemed to glitter like gold on the ceiling surfaces as it seeped gently through. A giant chandelier of thick stalactites hangs firmly in place, near the end giving me a feeling as though I’ve walked into an ancient ballroom. A smaller tunnel lead into a different room, in which later (in a second visit) many of my nieces, nephews, cousins and siblings crawled through as well as Isaac. I didn’t desire to stoop as low and my daughter and husband were already heading back.

In the meantime Isaac thought it would be fun to shut off the lights and see how dark it was. I have experienced this feeling in the past from toured guided caves. But when those lights went out, I instinctively waved my hand in front of me, knowing I wouldn’t see it. That darkness grips a person. You can almost feel it in a way unexplained, making me wonder what the Egyptians felt when the plague of darkness fell over them in the time of Moses. The Bible explains the darkness as a darkness that could be felt. Exodus 10:21-23 They could not move for three days! Can you imagine the fear, the uncertainty?

As I’ve reflected on that moment, I was reminded of a terrifying experience I had a few years ago. I woke up several nights in a row with a sense of dread, a sense of complete darkness that I could not explain. It was as if God himself had left me, and yet in my mind, I knew he surely hadn’t. I wonder if I was being tested. Would I trust his presence even if I felt this way? Or was I in a spiritual battle I could not comprehend?

I believe it was in that same season of life, my mind was doing some odd things. It all started one Sunday morning while I was trying to lead Sunday School. People were answering questions and I suddenly felt a strange wave over my brain. I couldn’t focus or think straight and the only way I could describe it was a feeling that I was about to have a seizure. I had to leave the class and found myself vulnerable and embarrassed. I was the teacher and had to tell others to take over!

My husband was away for the weekend and I had to have my then, twenty-year-old daughter drive me home. It was as if parts of my mind refused to work correctly. I couldn’t use any electronics. I could talk to someone on the phone, but phone app usage was out of the question. Watching any screen whether TV or the projector screen at church brought the same pre-seizure like feelings. I knew I wasn’t losing my mind, but I also knew I wasn’t functioning properly. Strange sensations filled my brain, with tingling and odd symptoms. I was frustrated as I tried to explain all this to my doctor or to anyone for that matter. We tried medications for seizure-like activity only to make the situation far worse. When I was in the doctor’s office with a clamor of activity around me, I couldn’t hardly think; but when she took me outside, I finally felt clear and able. My husband attempted to make sense of it all, while the doctor labeled it as “just” anxiety. I felt alone, accused and discouraged.

In reality, no matter how you judge it, my body was shutting down and telling me to rest. I took that entire summer off of everything, letting go of any volunteer work, simplifying my to-do list. My husband created a space of serenity on our deck with a canopy and chairs. I had space out there to breathe in fresh air, pray and simply rest. I took care of my garden and planted more flowers than usual. I enjoyed watching a family of sparrows build a nest inside a cedar house placed directly on our deck. I treasured the feedings and growth of tiny life as it blossomed into young adults who grew too fat to share their parental space. I understood that change. So much was changing in my own life. My own nest was disrupted. My husband had moved his business home and all the while, our adult children were making their way leaving the nest.

That summer turned out to be just as I needed. I spent hours and hours in the sunshine and fresh air. And yet I battled fears and lies that hammered my soul. An MRI and other tests were ordered, and I began to fear that something serious was happening to my brain. (The MIR showed nothing other than a lack of oxygen in one section of the brain near my previous surgery site years prior.) Though the weather was beautiful my heart was storming. I feared most of all that a project I sincerely felt God was calling me to, was lost forever. Would I ever complete it? Was God mad at me? I remember crying these questions over the phone with my best friend. I’m so appreciative of her friendship. She knew my heart and knew where I was at. She never judged me or treated me as crazy and only encouraged me forward.

Flash forward to my recent cave fun. When we turned out the lights, even though I couldn’t see my hand in front of me, I could see hope. We were far enough in, only a faint, almost grey glimmer of light could be seen in the distance. Life sometimes has a way of making us feel hopeless, as if the dark will close in on us and swallow us up, faith and all. But as children of God we can trust he is still hanging on to us, not letting us go. The light of the world lives in us and gives us what we need to press on. The enemy may shout all kinds of lies of dark doubt and uncertainty. It may feel as though God has left but it is farther from the truth.

   For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

It was that tiny glimmer of hope that kept me going that summer. It was that tiny bit of faith, granted by him that urged me on. I began to take thoughts captive by singing while watering the garden. I didn’t want to at first, and felt a bit timid by possible neighbors listening in, but I knew praising God gave me break-through in the past, and I needed to do it again. As I sang, the hope grew brighter. I confessed my doubts and trusted God more. All the while, the Lord spoke to my heart through nature. He showed me his love and he rejoiced over me with singing. I felt it through his creation, and I saw how creation praises him as well. I wrote poetry, lament and feeble prayers. I remembered his past goodness and trusted him to continue to be who he said he was. He never ever changes.

A book I read about a year ago finally voiced some of the feelings and thoughts I battled that summer. The Radiant Midnight * describes depression and other dark moments in life as a Christian whose hope is fully in Christ and yet battles sufferings that often aren’t expressed or mentioned in our churches. I found this book to be a relief, for there are valleys that I would certainly call a midnight or a dark night of the soul. These are places I can be grateful for as they lead me to look again and again at the hope I have in Christ.

A dark midnight of the soul may look different for you than it did me. But I hope we can all learn from each other to trust God in the darkness as well as in the light. There is a gift in even this kind of suffering if we can find it. The Lord is there to comfort us in all seasons and stretch our faith when we need stretched. Will we look toward the light, even so sparse? Will we walk toward it and let it shine brighter in our hearts so that we can be that light to others who need it?

As we all gathered again in the opening of the cave where my folks were waiting, my dad mentioned the acoustics which prompted me to sing. My family joined in chorus to How Great Thou Art, which caused my heart to swell in gratitude. Whether in sorrow or trouble or in rest and joy, it’s always so good to worship in thankfulness!

I hope you found encouragement in this article and will be strengthened in your own struggles. Have you had dark nights of the soul in which you battled doubts or discouragement? Do you see now where God carried you through? Can you praise him and rejoice in his greatness? Be blessed today and fill your heart with the hope that is already there in Christ.  (Always feel free to comment! I do not keep record of emails or other personal information at this time.)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭22‬-‭28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Eve Garrison

* I am not endorsed for any recommendation to any book or product. I only provide links in case you are interested in what I mention.

All photos including myself were taken by my daughter, Hannah.

2 thoughts on “Hope in Light

    • Eve says:

      Thank you so much for your response. I’m thankful it ministered to you. May the Lord strengthen your own faith journey with his Mighty Love.

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