The days are shorter – much shorter all of a sudden – and it’s been a dark week.
I’ve helped a family bury a loving father, another woman mourn a beloved stepfather, remembered the horrors of Kristallnacht and everything that followed, and paid tribute to the sacrifices of war veterans.
The darkness is wearing on me.
And yet when I picked up this week’s Torah portion, which begins at nightfall, I felt lighter. Because I knew the story that would unfold: When Jacob lay down on the ground, used a rock for a pillow, and dreamed of angels going up and down a ladder.
When he awoke he said, “God was in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)
In my dark times, I hope that God is in this place too. I’m not always certain. God often feels elusive to me, sometimes here, sometimes not.
Dispelling the darkness of the soul and of the heart isn’t as easy as dispelling the darkness of the night. For those who are most susceptible to this kind of darkness, they can turn on every light in their home and still feel the weight of an internal night. Day or night, it doesn’t matter.
So how do we find God in the dark times? Better still, how do we hang onto God in those times?
I don’t have the answer for anyone but myself. I think the search for God is intensely personal. But I can tell you what I do when God feels out of reach. If I can summon the strength to reach out, I write God a letter.
The first letter I wrote to God, some seven or eight years ago, began: “Dear God, I don’t believe in you.”
When I finish writing the letter, I turn the page over and write God’s letter back to me. Sound silly? I thought so too, but I am always surprised by what comes out in the letter from God.
In Jacob’s dream, God stood at the foot of the ladder and told him, “Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God’s promise: “I am with you… I will not leave you” is the promise we all crave. Like my letters from God, Jacob’s dream was the message that he craved. It was enough to reassure him, to help him continue with his journey.
May we each be blessed to receive such a message, one that can help us drive away the darkness and encourage us as we journey through our own lives.