Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.
It starts as subtle glow around the edges so that dark appears darker with contrast that wasn’t there before. Illumination slowly reveals the hidden niches. As it progresses, more details stand out in relief, creating both portrait and landscape. Then the color flows, emerging and submerging, encompassing and enveloping.
What was murky and undefined is now revealed with backlighting, and brightly adorned.
What was depths of tomb and grave is now opened and freed.
From gloaming to dawning, our souls rise as well.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand—
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains…
Joel 2: 1b-2a
How can we prepare for the darkness of what is coming? It is so close at hand. We know our death is inevitable, that our return to dust is a given, yet we tremble in fear at that awareness. Even God Himself, praying in the Garden before His arrest, faced the inevitability of His death with painful anguish. As one of us, locked in our flesh, His heart beating and bleeding, He experienced doubt, acknowledged abandonment, knew betrayal. God forsaken of God.
Overwhelmed by the army of locusts descending in the cloud as described in this Chapter of Joel, our darkness has become His darkness.
Only one who knows that suffering can lead us out of the gloom into the dawn of a new day, into a new life.
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart and not your garments.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
How often do we walk in total darkness? As little as possible. It is petrifying to try to find one’s way around when the power goes out on a moonless stormy night, trying to find where the candles are stored, or the flashlight that isn’t where it is supposed to be. Toes get stubbed, knees get bruised, heads get bonked. It is a feeling of complete vulnerability to navigate without light.
The darkest place on earth may well be underground in a cavern with no light source. There is no sun, no moon, no stars. You can’t see your hand right in front of your face. It is what the blind experience day and night, but one minute of that blackness can be overwhelming to the sighted who plead for the lights to be turned back on.
And so we long for light to illuminate the dark pathways of our life, to plunge the shadow of death into the dawn.
The light will rise, bringing us with it.