I don’t know why God allows suffering to happen. I don’t know why He allowed some of the challenges I’ve encountered this year. But I do know this: He isn’t going to leave me where I am.
Have you ever experienced complete, utter darkness? A darkness so whole that there is absolutely no light source to remove it? I hadn’t until yesterday, when I went caving for the first time. Along with a group of other students (and experienced cavers!) I explored Bear Cave, which is along the C&O Canal. After crawling, squeezing through tight spaces, climbing, and clamoring over rocks, we reached the deepest part of the cave, where we turned our headlamps off, and experienced a darkness so complete that I could not see my own hand held right up to my face. I’d never been in a place so dark, but surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid. I knew that the dark was only temporary, that soon I’d emerge from the cave. Even though there was absolutely no light entering the cave, I knew that it was there, and that I would find my way to it soon with the guidance of the trip leaders.
Reflecting on the experience has made me consider what I do when I am faced with darkness in my life. I think it’s fair to say that this year has been the toughest I’ve experienced so far, and I’ve had a lot of personal challenges. When I’m at my lowest, do I panic, despair that relief will never come, and wallow in the darkness? Or do I find peace in the dark, knowing that soon I will be in the light? Even when I was at the lowest, darkest place in the cave, I felt peaceful because I knew that I would not be in this place forever. When I trusted that I would soon emerge from the cave, I felt free to explore my surroundings. Likewise, when I trust that the burdens I bear are temporary, I am able to meet my challenges head on instead of panicking and running away from them. If I had panicked in the cave and tried to run away, separating myself from the group, I would have never found my way out. I had to trust that my leaders would lead me out of the cave. Even though all I could see was darkness, and I could not find the path to the light on my own, I was not afraid because I knew that the leaders knew the way out, and they would take me there. They would never take me to the deepest part of the cave and leave me there.
I don’t know why God allows suffering to happen. I don’t know why He allowed some of the challenges I’ve encountered this year. But I do know this: He isn’t going to leave me where I am. If I follow Him, He will lead me through all the twists and turns and through the small spaces and over the slippery rocks and out into the light. I may not know how to overcome all of my challenges on my own, but I don’t have to—all I have to do is follow Him, taking it one step at a time, and trusting that He will lead me out of my cave. And one more thing: in caving, we are told that we are responsible for the person behind us. We have to make sure that whoever is following us doesn’t get too far behind, we point out all the slippery spots, and we show them how to maneuver through the rocks. As I’m being guided, I’m also called to guide. Just as I am relying on God and others to help me overcome my challenges, I can reach back and provide hope to someone else who is in darkness, just like me. Then they will look back and support whoever is behind them. And together, we will all make it out of the dark and into the light.