Human beings have always looked for solace in troubled times. When we feel discouraged, or overcome with sadness, we say we’re in a dark place, and all we want is to be released from it.
Yes, it’s very painful. But enlightened beings across the ages have told us that there is more goodness in the darkness than we realize. In our darkest hour — in fact, because we are in our darkest hour — we have a unique opportunity to discover “the light that dwells in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (New Testament)
Life does bring us many trials, and even our own thoughts can plunge us into unhappiness. But sometimes, it is only in the depths of that darkness that we can see that beyond our own thoughts and solutions, there is a greater meaning and intelligence to life. By aligning ourselves with that higher purpose we touch an unexpected beauty, and our hearts are lifted out of despair.
As an example, here is some of the gentle wisdom that has helped countless aching hearts…
Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
— Fra Giovanni Giocondo (1435)
In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.
— Francis Bacon (1561)
The eternal stars shine out as soon as it is dark enough.
— Thomas Carlyle (1795)
Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.
— Henry David Thoreau (1817)
In a Dark time, the Eye Begins to See.
— Theodore Roethke (1908)
And it is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.
— Thomas Merton (1915)
Finally, here’s an enlightening poem by OneJourney founder Guy Finley…
Consider him most free
Who has learned to see
Even in adversity…
The Good: whose unfailing Light
Shines on… in the darkest night.
— Guy Finley (1949)
Let in the Healing Light of Life’s Lessons
Sometimes it can be difficult to see the healing power in a dark moment. To help you learn how to grow from difficult times instead of being crushed by them, Guy Finley shares with you some encouraging wisdom:
When we recall the turning points in our lives, the times where we had no choice but to go through those wrenching self changes that come with personal crisis, it shouldn’t be hard to remember how sure we were that these same trials heralded our doom. But behind each of these seeming impossible moments stands an unseen (at the time) purpose: to bring us to a certain realization or experience of the truth about our self. And while this medicine may be bitter, it also heals us. How?
For starters, we realize (in hindsight!) that what has transpired was not only a gift in disguise, but that we are much better off for having worked our way through its challenging wrapping! Now we understand, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that we couldn’t begin the next level of our life journey until we had completed these lessons now behind us. In other words, it’s clear to us that what we first fought so hard to avoid was really a truth come to rescue us from self-ignorance — a truth that not only explained why our lives were as they were, thus freeing us from a mistaken sense of self, but in the same moment set the stage for our further self-development.
This means that in the middle of any unwanted experience, waiting there all along for us to realize it, is the truth that liberates and lifts us above our former limited understanding responsible for that very experience. In other words, our experiences revolve around, and are actually created to reveal, certain life lessons yet to be learned. This discovery reveals the unimaginable: There exists behind these life lessons a timeless truth — one that has not only perceived what we need before we do, but that somehow actively arranges our life experiences for the sole purpose of revealing itself to our soul.
We have set before us evidence of a completely compassionate, purposeful Intelligence — a Living Truth whose silent operation not only reveals the meaning of our existence but serves in this capacity as seed, nourishment, and fruition of our incredibly diverse life-experiences. To grasp, even in the smallest way, that a Wisdom revealed to us as Truth (call it what you will) is the secret fabric of our lives, is to begin realizing a whole new order of self-victory. Here we come upon a success that has no opposite. Failure ceases to exist as a fear. The painful idea of loss, of falling down and losing our way, forever loses its sting because in the light of our new understanding we see now that the universe itself not only wants us to be victorious individuals, but actually wills this special victory.
Do you have a favorite quote from your own tradition that urges people to find the healing light in the darkness? If so, please click here to submit it to the OneJourney Living Book. The truth you share might be just the words someone in pain is waiting to hear.
Dr. Ellen Dickstein
The OneJourney Project