My boys are five years apart in age but both of them, at the age of three, loved the book, Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? Little Bear is wide awake. He is afraid of the dark. He asks his daddy for a night light. Daddy bear brings a light, then another, and then another. With each lamp that is brought into Little Bear’s room Little Bear says, “But I can still see the dark.” Finally Daddy Bear takes Little Bear outside. As we turn the page the narrator tells us “and it was DARK.” My boys memorized the story. When we got to the part where Little Bear and Daddy Bear went outside, they would say along with me in a very spooky voice, “…and it was dark.” They knew instinctually as toddlers what all of us learn eventually: the world can be a dark and lonely place.
A few months after my grandfather died, I called my grandmother. I asked her, “Grandma, how are you?” I could tell she was smiling when she replied, “Oh grandson, I’m doing better now that I am talking to you.” I said, “I’m glad to hear you’re OK.” There was a pause, “Yes, I am. I do fine until night. The darkness is hard to endure.” She was 83 years old at the time. She experienced grief most intensely at night. Darkness intensifies the power of loneliness.
My grandmother loved the Bible. One of her favorite passages was Psalm 25. The psalmist’s words were hers too: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” This psalm is a lament, a cry in the gloom of sadness. The one writing knows what it feels like to be alone, to be at a loss, to feel utter desolation. He, too, is aware of the darkness.
Several years ago I was leading a Bible study here at Country Club Christian Church. We had just read the verse from Genesis 32, “Jacob was left alone.” I asked, as we pondered the idea of loneliness and fear, “Have you felt like you were alone, all alone, as though no one in the world had any clue about what it was like to be in your situation, to feel your pain, your fear?” Heads began to bob up and down all over the room. I said, “I could preach a series of sermons on this single verse, “Jacob was left alone.”
Perhaps the greatest news of the good news of Jesus is the simple fact that he too knows what it is like to face the darkness, to confront fear, to challenge grief. His story tells us that even God knows what this is like, that there is nowhere, not even the dark, where God will not go.
The words of the psalmist, the one who knows loneliness, can be our words too: “Oh my God, I trust in thee.”
Grace and peace to you,