I was in the deepest darkness I had ever experienced. I called it the dark room. I felt trapped within myself, the walls pressing against me on each side, no light to be seen. I believed there was no way to escape, that I was to remain there, without feeling and without hope, for the rest of my life. I was sixteen, and using every ounce of faith I had to believe God still loved me, when every voice in my head was telling me He had left me to myself.
It was November, the middle of the night. Sleep wouldn’t come to meet me. I silently sobbed in my bed, staring at the dark ceiling, praying what little I could muster. And I remembered when I was first beginning to feel the walls press in around me. It had been March and snow had fallen heavily overnight, and my soul took an unexplainable deep breath that day before being suffocated again.
“Please… can you send snow?” I prayed now, in a tear-laden whisper. “Please. I just want snow. If it snows, I’ll know you’re still here.”
The next morning I awoke, not remembering my desperate request. I drudged my way to the kitchen, then eventually to my homework at the table. My body physically felt heavy from the dark pressing on me.
My brother pointed toward the window, to the tiny flakes of frozen grace falling from the gray sky. And laughter bubbled out of me like a volcano that had been dormant for centuries. I walked out onto the porch and stood in falling snow, staring straight up at where it was coming from. I had been heard. I was still loved by Him. No matter what the cowardly voices said.
I lived this story quite a few years ago now. I recently found something in which I had recorded it, and I felt my heart expand as I remembered what it was like.
I was despairingly depressed. I would be for over a year after that; it was only the beginning. But Jesus was always faithful to reveal Himself to me when I was losing hope. I couldn’t feel Him. But I could see what He was doing to communicate with me anyway. Although at the time it didn’t feel like reality to me, He never left me to live in the darkness alone. I look at that time, and I see Him there.
One of my deepest fears during that time was that the dark room was my home. That I wouldn’t be able to leave it for as long as I lived. I would ask Him for a different fate daily. I remember that now, and wish I could take younger Tessa by the shoulders and look into her watery eyes and tell her:
“This isn’t your home. It’s temporary.”
Younger Tessa… she didn’t know that everything is temporary. Even at the beginning of this year, I didn’t quite understand. But I’ve been learning about time. I’ve begun to grasp that the eternal things I invest in here– love, compassion, kindness, joy, service– those don’t go away. They are my treasures in the kingdom, and I get to keep them. I’ll be able to live in them again someday, when I don’t call this body home anymore. But that’s the other thing: I’ve also been discovering that circumstances are temporary. That means two things, and both need to be expressed together or they lose a bit of meaning:
- The darkest times, times where I see no hope, no light, and feel completely abandoned– they don’t last forever. Better things are always going to come for me. I get to wait in expectation of them.
- The brightest times, times where I giggle at the small things and my heart soars and I get to live in dreams– they don’t last forever, either. They are expressions of grace. I must live in them as passionately and as fully as I am capable of doing, while I can. Time doesn’t stop moving.
Things being temporary could sadden me. But instead, I choose to let it give me a greater desire to truly live my life, in all circumstances, with all that’s inside me. We get to climb mountains before we reach the level ground we are promised. And it’s a journey marked with beauty as well as difficulty. That’s what makes the end so glorious: we saw both, and we get to see that beauty wins out.
The darkness is not your home. He is. And He’s there with you, no matter what you can or can’t feel. Trust Him more than your own heart. The darkness is real– but it’s not all there is. You must remember this.
The light is in you. And although your best times are not your home, either, they are in it. He keeps what you love and treasure about them safe for you, and you’ll have them again. Forever, this time.
The kingdom and what it’s full of is forever. All else is temporary. Don’t fear, and don’t miss it.