Light in the Darkness—How to Face Our Pain & Love Others
The pandemic has been hard for everyone. More and more, we saw the brokenness in ourselves and our world. We tried escaping through entertainment, pleasure, work, or school. Even in many places across the country where COVID restrictions are being lifted, and campuses are reopening soon, many things are still difficult with no easy solutions. We can’t avoid the darkness that surfaced in the last year and a half. It can feel overwhelming.
Face the Darkness in Our Hearts
Though it’s easier to ignore the truth about these challenging things, to just try to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). John also adds, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (Jn 1:5). Facing the truth about these dark places with Jesus allows us to powerfully experience his light and freedom.
During my college internship, my supervisor told me that I needed to be more assertive. I started crying right there, ashamed that I didn’t do everything “right.” Since then, God’s revealed to me countless shortcomings, and I’m so thankful for the good news that Jesus came for the sick and sinners (Mt 9:13).
If you are feeling the pain of injustice or sins, reach out to understanding friends in your chapter or church as well as family members who follow Jesus. Share how you’re feeling and ask them to pray with you. Stay in contact with others who love you and have faith so that you won’t be isolated. You can grieve together and share your hearts with God. He understands and wants to bring comfort and healing. I could never make it through these tough times without community.
Face the Darkness in Our World
I majored in Recreation and Leisure Studies. I wanted only to enjoy life, avoiding hard things. But as I grew in my relationship with Jesus, I realized that he cared deeply for those who suffer and experience injustice. He invited me to join him in bringing them his love. And God has given me a deeper, more fulfilling life since I joined him in caring for those who are hurting.
During this pandemic, racial injustice has been painfully exposed. It’s far easier to talk about love and unity without facing the pain and brokenness in our lives and collective history. It’s uncomfortable to enter into the darkness, hearing about historical, systemic injustice and painful stories about racism. We feel so helpless because there’s no quick solution.
As we also see the disparities in our economics, sexism, sexual abuse, and endless exploitation of people who are marginalized, it’s easier to stay in our small worlds, close our hearts, and talk about a simple answer. But our hearts will remain small. When we face the darkness and truth about difficult things, God’s love, light, and power can be poured out more powerfully.
Listen Deeply to Those in Pain
As I have entered into the pain of my Black, Latino/a, and Native brothers and sisters, I grieve. But I also know more of God’s heart and love and see his beautiful image in those communities.
For 17 years in InterVarsity Hawai`i, we’ve been entering into the Native Hawaiian activist community seeking to deeply listen to their struggles and pain. God has allowed us to mutually support one another, and deep relationships have developed.
Ask God to give you his love and compassion for those who suffer and who are different than you. He’s the one who gives us the supernatural ability to feel others’ pain, grieve, and confess our sins. Be willing to see injustice and systems of oppression now and throughout history. It takes both vulnerability and willingness to do this. Something powerful happens when we truly enter into other people’s stories. Our view of God and what it means to be a community grows. We are all created in the image of God and have gifts to offer.
If what you hear makes you feel defensive or want to shut down, especially when reaching out to someone across cultures, look for others in your ethnic group who are ahead of you in this journey. Ask them to pray with and mentor you.
Be Honest with God
When we are completely honest with God about our pain, he grieves with us. He has the power to bring healing to our lives. And when we personally experience his healing, we have greater hope for God’s healing in the world.
When Nehemiah heard the bad news about Jerusalem, he mourned for days. When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane before his death, he said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” (Mt 26:38). Jesus suffered and died. He knows the pain of unjust suffering. Jesus also felt anger. Many leaders in Scripture share their grief, pain, anger, and confusion with the Lord. God enters into our suffering if we let him.
Healing also comes as we confess our sins personally and in community. What is God calling you and your chapter or church to confess and repent of? Are there ways that you’ve participated in unjust behavior or systems? Some of my most powerful prayer times have been when we, as a multiethnic community, confess our sins together, grieve, and then receive God’s forgiveness, love, and power. When we can acknowledge our sins and systemic and historical injustice, God’s light begins to shine through.
Remember the End of the Story
In Revelation 21:3–4, John says
Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.
Our hope will be fully actualized in the next life, but while we struggle on earth, we long for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Receive God’s love and comfort in your pain. Ask God for a new heart and eyes to see and listen to others who are different than you. Pray for hearts to receive God’s good news and healing and for his justice to come.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and grateful oaks for his own glory.
Brenda has spent over 41 years leading, discipling, and developing InterVarsity students and staff in San Francisco and Hawai`i. You can support her ministry at https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#17.
When I spend time with my chapter, whether it’s a casual hangout or a large or small group, I am continually reminded of how fantastic my community is. They breathe so much more life into me than any Riverdale twist could.