Faith in the Dark

Sometimes it feels like you are close to God and you can clearly see the way ahead. Other times, it feels like God switches out the lights. Not only can you not see the way ahead, you cannot see God or feel God or touch God. All you have is darkness. Sometimes God switches out the lights at the worst possible time, when you could really do with some clarity.

So what do you do? What do you do when your faith-walk is shrouded in darkness and you don’t know where you’re going?

To answer this, I need to tell you about cave diving. My son’s favourite program is Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, so I feel like I know a fair bit about this. Scuba diving is risky at the best of times, but diving in a cave is all the more risky. To be honest, I feel a little claustrophobic at the very thought of it. They have to go slowly, making sure they don’t burst their oxygen tanks on the rocks. They have to time it right so that they can get out of the cave before they run out of oxygen. They have all the gear – the masks, the tanks, the flippers, the suit, the torches to provide the light so they can see their way. But if the gear fails, and they find themselves in the cave in the dark, the only way out is a simple one.

In cave diving, they always have a rope at the side of the cave. It’s like a diver’s code – they always have a rope set up for other divers. In an emergency, that’s what you do – you grab onto the rope and follow it out.

For me, this is what liturgy is. It is the guide-rope of centuries of Christian voices who whisper to future generations – this is the way out of the dark. Just hang on and follow it out.

Whenever I am in the dark, when I feel like I am abandoned in a cave and I don’t know how long my oxygen will last, I look for the rope. I listen to and repeat the holy words that have been said for centuries.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

In the dark, when I have no words to pray, I repeat the prayers of others, and trust that they will be lifted up to God. I say the words, and sometimes they feel real, and sometimes they don’t, but I say them anyway.

Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
for the night is at hand and the day is now past.

I recite scripture, even if it feels dead. I just keep hanging onto the rope, and follow it along, and trust that it will lead me out again.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79, from Common Worship, 2005)

The darkness never wins. There is always light in the end. But in between, there’s no heroics, nothing much you can do to make the darkness go. You cannot conjure your own light. You just have to keep hanging on to the rope, inching your way out of the darkness. Just keep hanging on. The light will come.

As the night watch looks for the morning
so do we look for you, O Christ.

[quotes are taken from Compline and morning prayer, Common Worship, 2005]

I’m currently fighting a weird flu virus so haven’t been capable of very much at all in the past few weeks, but I really wanted to join in with Addie Zierman’s synchroblog to celebrate the release of her new book. Addie Zierman writes the books I wish I could write, and I am very grateful for her. Check out the other synchroblog entries here (they’re really good) and this wonderful trailer for her book here.


'In the dark, when I have no words to pray, I repeat the prayers of others.' NEW post: Click To Tweet 'What do you do when your faith-walk is shrouded in darkness?' NEW post - Faith in the Dark: Click To Tweet

'The darkness never wins. There is always light in the end.' NEW post - Faith in the Dark: Click To Tweet
Over to you: 

  • What keeps you going during a ‘dark night of the soul’?

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10 Responses to Faith in the Dark

  1. Addie Zierman 21st March, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    This is so beautiful, Tanya, and it has been true for me too. Follow the rope. So simply and perfectly put. Thanks so much for joining here and adding your insight. xo

  2. Ashley Hales 18th March, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

    Lovely post, Tanya. I love the liturgy is our rope. Oh, I’m going to hang on to that phrase. We all need a way out. Getting out my Book of Common Prayer.

  3. Alina 18th March, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    I do love liturgy! I love, too, the image of a lifeline. Beautiful words are a balm to the soul.

  4. Monika Bucher 17th March, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    Dear Tanya, again you use such a good example to explain that lifeline we can hold onto, when we are too tired or lack our own words to pray. Filling our hearts with these words from Liturgy, Scripture passages or Hymns, as Rachel also mentioned, can be so soothing in the darkness and brings new light. I wish you a good recovery from that flu and hope you will beable to enjoy a blessed Easter with your dear family!

  5. Pippa 17th March, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    This resonates with me; I am part of a leadership team in a small church with charismatic evangelical house church roots so no ‘liturgy’ other than of our own unintended variety! In the last couple of years however I have ‘found’ and used the Common Prayer book that you quote from, and it has sustained my spiritual life more helpfully than any system or effort to pray that I have tried previously. I also sometimes use Shane Claiborne’s ‘Prayer Book for Ordinary Radicals’ which has a more contemporary twist. I reached these via reading ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard Foster and listening to a Brian Zahnd podcast about the need for us to learn to pray.

  6. S 17th March, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    This was such a good reminder – and as a lover of visual images as memory prompts, I won’t forget the cave and the rope. Keep holding on x

  7. Rachel 16th March, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    Hi Tanya,
    What a beautiful testimony of faith in the dark. I love how you explain how liturgy can be helpful at some times. My current church doesn’t tend to use liturgy, but I think you do a great job of explaining why it can be helpful and not just a senseless repetition of words as some may think. Sometimes, it’s just hard to find the words, isn’t it? And to use the powerful words that have been used by others for centuries is something special. Perhaps there are times, as you say, when we repeat the words even when they don’t feel real. But repeating something that’s true has to be better than holding on to our own thoughts, which often are not true.

    For me, faith in the dark means reading the Bible when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes, words jump off the page at me and I feel God speaking. Other times, I just feel silence. But at least I know that what I’m reading is life giving. And I seek that life. I have found solace in liturgy at times too. I’m particularly drawn to some of the hymns- again not used much in my current church. Those hymn writers had a powerful way with words and some of them were amazing poets! I love how we can continue to use their words centuries after they were written.

    I hope you get over that flu soon Tanya. It’s bad enough living with chronic illness, without flu coming to do its bit too.


  8. Lisa Bartelt 16th March, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    I love this picture of liturgy being a lifeline. I discovered the beauty of it later in my Christian journey, but I sure do love it.

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