The promise of returning light

Image by mbll from Pixabay


Saturday was Winter Solstice, or Yule. It’s the shortest day (in terms of daylight hours) of the year, meaning each day from now until Summer Solstice in June will have just a little more daylight. For those of us whose moods suffer in the absence of light, this is good news!

It was also the first day of Winter, which means we have several months of cold and snow and ice yet to get through before the sun’s increased hours brings enough warmth for Spring to arrive. For those of us who struggle with the cold, that’s not such good news.

The good news of the lengthening hours of daylight is one that I have to take on faith for the moment because the changes are so small day to day as to be unnoticeable. The promise of warmer days and re-birth of vegetation is but a seed within the good news of the lengthening days that won’t bear fruit for several months yet.

All I have to hold onto in this moment is the promise that light and warmth and life are returning. I know it will happen because I’ve seen it be so year after year.

We follow a similar pattern in life’s hard times, but the path and the timing are much less certain.

We encounter some loss or trauma in life that leaves part of our hearts or our health or our faith or our relationships broken, and we emotionally descend into darkness and cold of winter. Life feels barren and dead, and it’s hard to imagine that this broken place could ever be a place of beauty in our lives.

When we keep doing the hard work of healing that brokenness, the day eventually comes when the darkness begins to ease the slightest bit. Those first early days of increasing light are almost imperceptible. The cold still seeps into our bones, and the world around us looks just as barren as before.

Slowly, every so slowly, the light continues to increase, the warmth gradually returns, and we come fully back to life. Our wounds grow strong and, in sufficient time with continued healing, begin to shine like gold. There’s comes a day when we discover the beauty in that healing as we find ourselves to be a better person for having experienced the power of healing in our lives.

But in those very early days when the light is just beginning to return and healing is just started its work, it is hard to see the promise of what is to come. Unlike the Winter Solstice, that moment is not marked on any calendar and is not heralded with any fanfare. It can’t be measured by scientists nor is it listed in any handbook.

It is a quiet moment known only within—and often recognized only in retrospect—when we see that first hint of increased light. In those early days we must take the promise of healing on faith because the fullness of light and warmth and life are still far off, but it’s coming.

Just like the return of the long days each year, healing always comes to those who are willing to do the hard work to get there. It doesn’t always look the way we imagined it, and it never works on our preferred timing (which would be instantaneous!), but it does happen.

This time of year when everyone else is celebrating the return of light (either literally or figuratively or both, depending on one’s religious leanings), it can be hard to be one who is still sitting in the darkness of brokenness and pain. The darkness is a lonely enough place to be without being surrounded by those celebrating that they are not where you are.

If this is you, hold tight to the promise that the light will return, even when it doesn’t seem possible in the depths of the dark and cold. Healing may be slow, but it does come. Holding onto that promise in faith to whatever degree possible can ease the journey through the darkest places by reminding you that it is not forever.

If this is not you, be gentle with those around you as you celebrate this year. You never know who may be hurting and wounded and broken this year even in the midst of the celebrations. Your kindness may be what they need to find that first glimmer of returning light, so offer extra kindness whenever you can.

How have you held onto the faith that the light will return when you have journeyed through dark times?


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One thought on “The promise of returning light

  • December 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm
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    I don’t have the depth of despair that those that have true (clinical) depression. However, I dread the Yule season also with the combination of lack of light and cold. I leap for joy for those first warm days that allows me to get outside (and chase white balls across muddy fields) and enjoy the warmth of the sun. However, if there is a late winter/early spring storm, I find those situations to be a real drag. All of us should be sensitive to those who, while coming out of a dark period, can be negatively impacted by those ’late season storms’ that might return them once again to the depths.

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