How to Keep the Lights Burning When All Falls Dark

lightsburning (1)

Clothes, book-friends, essential stuffed animals.

In lieu of a more elaborate summer vacation, we packed our bags and took the girls away for a brief retreat in a hidden valley this week.

The weather on the day we arrived was perfect: warm but overcast, a merciful reprieve from a sun whose full mid-year countenance is too bright to behold. Little Jo and Lucy chased each other in circles through stone doorways, running off the strawberry-rhubarb hand pies of the early afternoon. We rambled under red rock spires and across lawns clipped close by big horn sheep.

I must have taken dozens of pictures of chocolate-smudged happy faces and of lampposts nestled between greening branches, but as the gloaming began to set in, I suddenly found myself waiting with the greatest expectancy for the evening view.

What I wanted most — perhaps because of recent uncertainties and anxieties — was to see the winking of illuminated windows, warm coruscations of light spilling out and pooling in the soft-shadowed dark.

When surroundings go dim, when the thick unknowing of waiting settles deep, how does one see when “all other lights go out”?

Overhead, framed by vast Tudor windows, small globes of gold gleamed outward.

Above the terrace hung threads of little, cheerfully glowing orbs.

They were tiny, like a candle in a farmhouse window on a sojourner’s night, like the flashing beacon of a lighthouse in the harbor.

When your surroundings grow dim…

[I]t is so important that you have in your heart some very simple, short biblical truths about God that you can declare to yourself. Long complex reasoning about God’s sovereignty and goodness won’t work in this situation, because the pain is too disorienting. It doesn’t allow the mind to work at full capacity.

What you need is this: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Period. “Christ gave himself for me.” Period. “I will never leave you.” Period. “Nothing is too hard for the Lord.” Period. “Everything works for good.” Period. These are like white stones with your name on them. And you hold them in your hand as you groan and wait.

So while you have the mental capacity and freedom from pain to do it, read your Bible with an eye searching for these kinds of treasures.

– John Piper, “Ten Lessons from My Hospital Bed.”

Sometimes pinpoints are all that can be managed in the night, and they are sufficient.

I am held is a mainstay here of late.

Ask Him anything is another.

He gave Himself for me undergirds them both.

They shine because of their connection to irrefutable truth, which weapons of unseen principalities cannot pierce, and furious storms of worry cannot obscure.

I write this, friends, with fingers made clumsy by recent health issues and a mind embattled by “what-if’s”, and it is slow going at the moment — but by mercy it is not impossible, and I am learning again to hold the lamp of the unshakable Word over my feet, and fix my eyes on the One who so faithfully leads.

Dear friend, if you too are acquainted with tenebrous travels: daylight will come again.

Until then, we can rest in the simplicity of faith made practical:

keeping the bright truths simple,

holding them close,

and knowing that He will not allow us to be extinguished — no; rather, it is in our thinnest places that the Light of movement and life in us can be most truly seen.




  1. In as much as I have just been “getting to know you” having only followed for a brief time, I have restrained myself from commenting. Your posts do have much substance that calls forth reflection. So please allow me just tp leave you a stranger’s tender hello. In God’s kingdom, strangers are only friends we haven’t met yet…and so this stranger wishes you well.

    1. Hello, Jeannette! I’ll go one further and say that within His kingdom, there’s new family to be found at all corners of the earth… so I’m very glad you stopped by. I hope things are well on your end too.