light at end of tunnel

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid,

There is an old saying that “it is always darkest before the dawn.” It has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand what this saying truly implies. It is almost as if the only way to experience hope and serenity is to first experience despair. Perhaps we experience serenity at other times, but unless we also experience despair, we may be unaware of and take for granted such serenity.  I used to resent older and wiser individuals telling me “you can’t be happy unless you have been sad because you have no point of comparison.”

I’m still not sure that is right, at least for me. I do know from personal experience that I can be so accustomed to being in a dark place that I am totally unaware that I have been stuck in the dark until a light is turned on. This last statement has meaning for me in two ways. First, quite literally, many is the time a parent or colleague has come upon me happily reading in the growing darkness and turned a light on so that I might more easily see what I was working on or reading. Secondly, “being stuck in the dark” can also mean being so stuck in a miserable routine totally centered on meeting the needs of another (person, place or thing)——-to the point that you have no self-awareness and you neglect  your own needs and well being.  Sometimes, it is not until the “parasite other” (person, place, or thing) we have allowed to suck us dry is gone that we can begin to notice how peaceful things are when that person, place,  or thing is no longer part of our lives, how much more relaxed we can be, and how, for the first time in a long time,  we start to realize we can have “our life” back and enjoy living again.

Richard Rohr has written:

“Until we walk with personal issues of despair, we will never uncover the Real Hope on the other side of that despair. Until we allow the crash and crush of our images, we will never discover the Real Life beyond what only seems like death. Remember  death is an imaginary loss of an imaginary self,  which is going to pass anyway.”

Rohr, R. (2013). “The Heart of the Matter,” p. 307, (adapted from Near Occasions of Grace, p. 100), Yes, and…..Daily Mediations. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media.

Many in recovery are familiar with “personal issues of despair”—–and many tell stories of “hitting bottom” before they can start to build a new life in recovery.  In recovery, many discover that their old imagined image was far from the truth—–they were not wonderful and all powerful when drinking or using, and neither were they a shameful disgrace to their maker because of their poor choices. The spiritual journey at the core of recovery teaches them they are actually beloved children of God.

What I get from Rohr’s quote is that despair is often part of the human condition. Period. And, thankfully,  despair can offer each and every one of us a doorway into a new and better way of existing. Please comment and share your thoughts about despair and hope . May God bless and keep you.