Editors note: This is a Guest Post in response to my 10th Anniversary request for you to join the party. Thanks to Donna and all those who have responded. I still gladly welcome all submittals.
I have a confession: I’m afraid of the dark. Most people outgrow that childish fear, but I still have it.
Without going into all the reasons why, the year 2020 was especially dark in many ways.
I was afraid.
Then in the middle the disaster that was 2020, our family added an out-of-state move—the third in five years—to a place with new challenges and to a new and surprisingly stressful role as full-time caregiver to my aged mother.
The darkness inside me increased. And it seemed that no matter what I did, it only got darker.
As the saints of God starting looking for—and finding—silver linings in their life, such as how much closer their family is as a result of sheltering in place together, and how much closer to God they felt, I realized that I was feeling farther away from my family and from God than I had in years. Others’ lights were growing bright, but I felt lost and alone in the dark. I had entered a new level of depression, and nothing I did seemed to help.
What do we do when we enter a dark room? We can either stumble around in darkness, or we can turn on the light.
Well, the answer to that is similar to what do we do when we enter a condition that feels dark to our spirits. We can either stumble around in darkness, or turn on the light.
What is this metaphorical light? Or rather, who is light?
Quite simply, Jesus is the light of the world.
Jesus said, “I am the light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”
Before the Savior was born to Mary, the Jews existed in darkness. They lived under the occupation of the Romans who cared little or nothing of the Jewish people, culture, and religion.
They also lived under the domination of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who controlled everything from who could worship in the synagogues to how many steps they could walk on the Sabbath.
Into this darkness came a very special infant. A bright star heralded his birth. Angels in all their brightness and glory announced His arrival. And Jesus himself was the brightest light. He lights the path for all of us who stand in darkness.
In John 8:12, we read: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
That means no matter how hard it tries, the darkness cannot put out His light. Ever. We can trust that His light will be there for us always.
As we follow the Savior Jesus Christ, we will go to places of light.
Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency: “If you feel that the beacon of your testimony is sputtering and darkness is closing in, take courage. Keep your promises to God.” (Link)
President Russell M. Nelson said the key to reconnecting to the power of Jesus Christ when our own light is flickering is to simply: “make and keep sacred covenants. … It is not a complicated way…Make Christ the center of your life.”
The more we turn to the Savior, the more light He shines on us.
As we go to those places of light, we can be a light to others.
Up until a few months ago, I had been making a point of avoiding social media, except for the very barest of uses for marketing purposes, because it had become a place of hostility and hatred, with people lashing out at each other, with no desire to consider or even hear differing opinions.
Then a wonderful thing happened: our beloved prophet, President Nelson, issued a challenge to post Gratitude Posts. And a transformation occurred. Where there had been anger and contention was now gratitude—for family, friends, neighbors, animals, the beauties of the earth, sunrises, music, personal testimonies, and so forth. Every day my social media newsfeed filled up with joy and light.
This outpouring of gratitude and positivity lifted my spirits in a way I never would have expected. And an additional blessing occurred. I felt less alone as people who share my faith instantly obeyed the prophet’s challenge. It reminded me that others are out there with my beliefs and my convictions. As they rushed to follow the prophet’s inspired counsel, they were a light to others—to me!
Sister Eubank also said: “It’s hard to get the lights back on by yourself. We need friends. We need each other.”
In this time when we are social distancing, reaching out may need to be done by phone or by video chat, but reaching out to family, friends, and leaders really does help turn on the light. One thing that helped me was listening to past conference talks each morning when I got ready for the day. Those talks gave me encouragement and reminded me about course corrections I need to make to be a better disciple of our Savior Jesus Christ.
President James E. Faust said: “Discipleship brings purpose to our lives so that rather than wandering aimlessly, we walk steadily on that strait and narrow way that leads us back to our Heavenly Father. Discipleship brings us comfort in times of sorrow, peace of conscience, and joy in service. Through discipleship of the Savior, we come to know and believe in our hearts and minds the saving principles and ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We [can] come to enjoy His promise of “peace in this world,” with contentment, happiness, and fulfillment. Through our discipleship, we are able to receive the spiritual strength that we need to deal with the challenges of life.” (link)
Unfortunately, following Jesus will not remove our trials and heartaches. There are those problems that drive us to our knees and sometimes flat on our faces. Mortality has no mercy for the righteous, and sometimes it seems like that bad guys always win. But the Lord never promised us as his disciples an absence of heartbreak. He promised us many blessings: purpose, comfort, peace of conscience, joy in service, the saving principles and ordinances that give us eternal families, peace in this world, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, and spiritual strength if we will only follow His example and keep His commandments.
The more we turn to Him who is the source of all Light, the more He pours down on us those blessings money cannot buy.
By keeping His commandments to the best of our ability, and especially by reading the scriptures, earnestly praying, and keeping our temple covenants, we can see by His light.
President Nelson said in a recent General conference talk: “Because you have been baptized by one who has authority from Jesus Christ and have been confirmed a member of His Church, you can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. He will guide and protect you. It means you will never be left comfortless or without access to the power of God to help you. It means that priesthood power can bless you as you receive essential ordinances and make covenants with God and keep them. What an anchor to our souls are these truths, especially during these times when the tempest is raging.” (Link)
I think no one would dispute that multiple tempests have raged in the past year, which means we need God more than ever.
Stephen W. Owen, the Young Men General President gave this counsel, “There will be times when the path ahead seems dark, but keep following the Savior. He knows the way; in fact, He is the way. The more earnestly you come unto Christ, the more deeply you will desire to help others experience what you have experienced. Another word for this feeling is charity, ‘which [the Father] hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.’ Then you will find that in the very act of following Christ, you are also leading others to Him, for in the words of President Thomas S. Monson, “As we follow that Man of Galilee—even the Lord Jesus Christ—our personal influence will be felt for good wherever we are, whatever our callings.” (link)
When we follow Jesus, or emulate what He did, one of the blessing He promises is rest in our souls.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The problem was, though I believed the scriptures, I was in such darkness that I couldn’t even feel my way to Him. Praying, reading the scriptures and serving didn’t help. What was wrong with me? Finally, I followed a repeated prompting and went to a doctor. She helped me see that I needed counseling, self-care, and connecting with others—in addition to seeking more sources of light—to find my way out of the darkness of depression that had enshrouded my soul. Combined with these other resources, immersing myself in His light through more earnest prayer, more frequent searching of scriptures, both ancient and modern, and seeking out other disciples of Christ who were shining their light, helped me to improve.
Continuing with Sister Eubank’s talk: “I testify you are beloved. The Lord knows how hard you are trying. You are making progress. Keep going. He sees all your hidden sacrifices, and counts them to your good and the good of those you love. Your work is not in vain. You are not alone. His very name, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” He is surely with you.
Take a few more steps on the covenant path, even if it’s too dark to see very far. The lights will come back on. I testify of the truth in Jesus’s words, and they are filled with light “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (link)
Now that I’m finally in a lighter place, I’m no longer lost and alone and afraid. With the light of God’s love, I can see enough to navigate the turbulent waters of mortality and even to shine a light for others. I know that God loves us. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is with us whether or not we are aware of Him, and He will always be the source of truth, hope, and light.
About Donna: Multi-award-winning author of more than twenty best-selling Regency Historical Romances, Donna Hatch is a hopeful romantic and an adventurer at heart. Each book she writes is filled with wit and heart and plenty of swoon-worthy romance. Donna sings, plays the harp, uses any excuse to dress in costumes, and loves to dance–ballroom and hula are her favorites. A native of Arizona, Donna and her family, including six children, have moved more than they ever thought they should. But no matter where they live, she and her husband of over twenty years are proof that there truly is a happily ever after.