I live on a busy corner in West Omaha. It worked great when starting a church. I gave people two familiar streets and they could easily find the meeting or the small group. These days I take two giant dogs out one last time around ten or eleven at night. The light pollution obstructs most the planets and the stars. The moon, Leo and the Big Dipper, and Venus are all pretty easy to find. Beyond that it is pretty hit or miss.
I don’t go to rural places much anymore. My little hometown in northwest Iowa is the usual destination. This week it is southwest Missouri. David and I were out fishing the other night. A little solar light on the dock across the lake was about the extent of the light pollution at this secluded cove in the remote lake. I looked up and the sky was black. Much different than the city view.
Jupiter dangled from the sky like a chandelier in a dining room. Mars wasn’t quite Husker red. But it was red. Venus was second in brightness to the young, expanding moon. The black sky was the canvas of the Creator. The famous constellations proudly shined in their respective places. Thousands of other stars from east to west and north to south all added to the cosmic beauty. And then there was the meteor shower. Better than the grand finale to an amazing fireworks show.
And so it is with life. The world is not best seen in the bright lights of prosperity and blessing. The world is most visible during the days and nights of darkness. Recovery, hope, formation, healing, forgiveness, and salvation—they mean something totally different in the darkness than they do in the light.
Van Gogh painted the sky one night. Along with da Vinci’s Mona Lisaand Munch’s Scream, the Dutchman’s Starry Night is known as one of the three great paintings in human history. Van Gogh’s world was not filled with light—it was filled with darkness and his darkness was depression. He wished his life was different. A life polluted with light and laughter and love. But it wasn’t. His was a world of darkness and emptiness and tears and loneliness. The masterpiece wasn’t created in prosperity. It was created in pain. At the center of the painting, you don’t find this unless you look for it, is Christ’s Church. The light in the darkness.
Life is best lived in the light. I can walk the dogs at night and don’t have to worry about stumbling. Milk and eggs are two minutes away if I need them. Days of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Nights of community with others and with God.
But darkness happens. Dysfunction in our friendships. Disease in our bodies. Distance from God. Depression. Depletion. Debt. It is in our darkness the beauty and benevolence of God is most evident. And it is in our darkness, with God’s help, you will create your greatest masterpiece.