Depths of Darkness
By David Ramos
How deep can pain go? How dark can it get? I don’t want to know. How do people get caught in the riptides of depression or the crushing cycles and throes of desperation? There are a myriad of reasons that can send us descending into the depths of darkness. Darkness is a lonely place, a place of fear and loathing. Darkness is an exasperating place where one gasps for air like one who is drowning. Darkness feels like a prison cell, with walls that seem to close in on you. John of the Cross spoke about the dark night of the soul. In the dark the questions can abound: Does anybody care? Does anyone even notice? Does my life matter? Is life but a cruel illusion? How do I move on without my loved one? If God is love, why do I feel so lonely? Where is God in the darkness?
Throughout time humanity has sought solace from the darkness by seeking for God in times of crisis. However, God reality has a deceptive counterfeit—religion. Religion can often look like the real thing with one exception it can never truly fill our spirits. As people of faith we must ever be vigilant of this insidious counterfeit, we must be cognizant of our own praxis and subject it to the piercing critique of God’s word. Do we wrap everything up in religious language because it is acceptable, because it provides an auxiliary operative nomenclature to ward off the annihilating devastation of meaninglessness? Are we complicit in perpetuating illusionary cultures of empty calories that never nourish the soul? Are we guilty of the sins of omission as we stand by and never name how inauthentic and hallow our churches have become? How long can we go on singing songs and crafting our “feel good ambiance” while young men and women die in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, or slowly slip away under the numbing blips of the machines they are strapped to throughout our nation’s emergency rooms, hospices, and HIV/AIDS wards? Where does our faith touch the ground? How do we love our sisters and brothers in ways that matter to them? Are we satisfied with merely preaching the good news rather than living it? How do we sojourn with those who suffer?
Sometimes life seems like a grueling uphill climb that one neither has the energy nor the will to continue to struggle for. Yet there, in autopilot, one step at a time, we somehow miraculously make it through. Sometimes, when we least expect it, we encounter the angels of life, the messengers of faith, the gifts of God. These people and/or events would more than likely go unnoticed if it weren’t for the uncanny timing of these encounters. The laughter of a child, the kindness of a stranger, that soft cool breeze, a perceptible peace that somehow gently descends upon us for no apparent reason, the ability to laugh at ourselves, however ironically. Like in-flight refueling, God can grant us the strength, hope, and courage we need to face the challenges of life even while we agonizingly move forward. Where is God in the darkness? He is sitting crying with us in the ashes, holding us, loving us to life and turning the depths of our darkness into light.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me…You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” (II Samuel 22:7, 17—18, 29)