Light and Darkness

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by Cheryl

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s one of those sun lamps. You know, the ones that bring sunshine into the house during the winter months?”

I already knew what it was.

“Are you saying I need this to be happy!?” I was angry with my well-intentioned husband. I was offended that he thought something like light could “fix” me.

He didn’t say anything, but turned from me and started taking the lamp out of the package. My anger dissipated. After a few minutes of logical thinking I said, “Yeah, I do need this to be happy. It’ll help. Thanks.” 

In 3 Nephi we learn about a darkness that enveloped the American continent after the death of Christ. For three days “there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all; And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.”

The darkness of depression is overwhelming, all-encompassing, consuming, even horrifying. During my darkest days, I close the blinds, huddle up on the couch, and stay still. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to talk to anybody. Light is painful. I want dark. I want to cower into myself and disappear. 

Can you imagine the pain and fear the Nephites and Lamanites were feeling in that vapor of darkness? Not only had they experienced some of the most physically terrifying events in their lives –the volcanos, earthquakes, fires, floods –but they had lost many friends and family. Death was all around them, fear, destruction; and then to top it off, there was darkness. So much so, they couldn’t bury their dead, they couldn’t search for lost loved-ones, they couldn’t find shelter or food. The despair must have been excruciating!

But then a voice came.

“Cheryl, it’s like your arm has been cut off. Literally. And you’re walking around the place, saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay. Don’t mind the blood!’ Depression is real and hard. You are bleeding. You are injured! This is an emergency! Your arm is gone!! You have to take care of it. You can’t ignore this!”

My dear friend was right, along with my mother-in-law, my therapist, my husband: I needed to do something. I had allowed a mental illness to take over.  I had been wandering in the darkness for far too long.  

When Christ spoke to those Ancient Americans in the darkness, they were “astonished.” Could they feel His light in the darkness? Did they hear and feel the truth of His words? Was the darkness of their minds and hearts fleeing even as they sat in literal darkness?

When Christ came to them, He descended in white. He said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world… I am the light and the life of the world…”

I read it again, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” I ruminated upon this thought daily. In the darkness, I saw His light, drawing me towards healing. It would take medication, therapy, prayer, service, understanding companions and church leaders, but the light started to take over the darkness.

Immediately, He began to illuminate their minds with doctrine. He taught them for days, blessed them, wept with them, cared for them. He gave them truth; He gave them light. From the very source of all truth and goodness, they were given the greatest source of light the world had ever known. Imagine their joy! How opposite were their feelings from just a few weeks earlier! Despair had given way and the darkness fled before the Light of the World.

During my happiest days, I want light! I am outside and I want sunshine and air; I want people around me. I throw open the blinds and invite the light inside. Light illuminates everything around me and I find peace in it.

At one point, Jesus prepared to leave the people, but “he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.” How they wanted Him to stay! Such Light they had never before encountered. Couldn’t He stay with them? And He did. He stayed and blessed their sick and their children. He expounded more doctrine. He gave them of Himself in sacrament and what they learned would sustain them for hundreds of years…

When I find myself in darkness again, it only takes a small portion of light to see my way out. An inspired phone call from a friend. Remembering my responsibility to my children. Walking outside in fresh air and sunlight. Laughing with my eternal companion. Attending Church. Bearing my testimony. In truth, by allowing Jesus Christ into my life, I am filled with His light. 

It’s not always easy. Darkness has a way of creeping in, but with His help, I can flee the darkness –I can turn my face heavenward and feel the warmth of true Light.

Beloved young men and young women of the Church, we are engaged in a battle between the forces of light and darkness. If it were not for the Light of Jesus Christ and His gospel, we would be doomed to the destruction of darkness. But the Savior said, “I am come a light into the world.” “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

The Lord is our light and, literally, our salvation. Like the sacred fire that encircled the children in 3 Nephi, His light will form a protective shield between you and the darkness of the adversary as you live worthy of it. You need that light. We need that light.(Elder Robert D. Hales, Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light, General Conference, April 2002).

  • How have you allowed the light of Christ into your life?
  • Have you seen the contrast between such light and darkness?

Images courtesy LDS Media Library

About Cheryl

Cheryl has been blogging for many years about --but not limited to --her children (there are six), her husband (there is one), her depression (not fun), her travels (very fun!), her religion (loves it), and anything else that strikes her fancy. Right now she's probably reading a book or changing a diaper, maybe at the same time...

2 Responses to Light and Darkness

  1. Anne says:

    I have fought the good fight against depression more than once, so I really understand what you’re talking about! Light is so wonderful–physical, mental, spiritual–I want to embrace all forms of light and keep the darkness at bay.

  2. Paul says:

    You’ve done a remarkable job of pointing us all toward the light, whether we live with depression or not. A symptom of clinical depression I’ve observed in my family is that those who suffer may not recognize it for some time. The same is true, I believe, when we are absent the spiritual light of the Savior. For some time we may not realize we’re stumbling along in the darkness.
    Thanks for, er, shining a light on the subject.

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