There seems to be a common sentiment on social media among many of my friends:  2017 was a difficult year. I would count myself among those who affirm such an assessment. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually I have found myself driven to deep and dark places – secret places that are noticeably absent of “this way out” signs. For the first time in 19 years of being on a church staff, my mind wandered to the dangerous land of “ministry isn’t worth it” and I acquired a greater appreciation for those alarming statistics of pastors who call it quits.

And then, of course, guilt piles on top of guilt. That’s what guilt does, you know. It is never satisfied to be left alone. I thought of the endless blessings I enjoy every day. Of my church that is healthy and growing and loving. Of my family who is a daily reminder of God’s goodness. And then I think, how could I possibly be so weak and sinful that I would reach a place of darkness so quickly when others have it so much worse? Guilt on top of guilt.

All of this brings me back to the truth I know so well I tend to forget it so often. God never stops with darkness. He keeps speaking. Always.

There was darkness at creation. God kept speaking. Then there was light.
Abraham fell into a dreadful and deep darkness. God kept speaking. Then there was light.
Egypt was filled with darkness for three days. God kept speaking. Then there was light.
Nicodemus visited Jesus in the darkness. God kept speaking. Then there was light.
Jesus was crucified and the land fell into darkness. God kept speaking. Then there was light.
I was living in the domain of darkness. God kept speaking. Then there was light.

God speaks in darkness. The beauty and brilliance of the light wouldn’t shine near as bright without it. So all of this brings me to this summary of 2017…

It was a difficult year with dark paths. And for that reason, it has been an important year. God isn’t through speaking. As my life marches on and I reflect back on 2017, I imagine I will consider the darkness and worship God with even greater zeal because of the light.

God, I’m not thankful for darkness, but I am eternally thankful that you keep speaking in it. I imagine I could watch 2017 fade away with gratitude for it simply being gone. But I think, God, I will do something different. I think I will watch it fade away with gratitude for having experienced it. For in it and through it, you have revealed and are revealing to me who you are all over again. And I love who you are. I love that you bring light out of darkness. I love that I could never appreciate the light if I did not experience the darkness. So, thank you. I’ll talk to you in the morning. And whatever you have in store for me and my family in 2018, here I am, Lord. Do to me as you will. I love you. Help me to love you more. I believe. Help my unbelief. I trust you. Help me to trust you more. All for your glory. Forever. Amen.