In the northern hemisphere, tomorrow is the shortest day of the year.
"I don't drive after dark."
"I never go out at night."
Remarks like these aren't uncommon, especially at this time of year. Darkness keeps a lot of people from useful, happy evening activities.
Darkness also sometimes brings fear. Things that are obvious in the daytime become mysterious at night. If in the daytime a tree branch brushes our head or we hear footsteps behind us, we may well give these events no more heed. But the same things happening in the dark of night can conjure up equally dark imaginings.
A couple of Bible verses can help us deal with the dark. After describing how impossible it is for us to get outside of God's presence, Psalm 139 continues: "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee" (verses 11 and 12). Darkness is the mere absence of light. But the light of God, or Truth, is never absent. It knows no darkness. It allows no darkness.
A woman I knew must have grasped something of this fact, for she enjoyed walking home from evening activities - a distance of about a mile. Her most direct route went through a lovely park, part of which was densely wooded and quite dark.
On one occasion, she had something extra to contend with on her walk home. Before she entered the park, she became aware she was being followed. The footsteps would continue along the street, she hoped, when she turned into the park. But they didn't. Instead, they followed. She was more than afraid.
This woman really loved the Bible, and read it every day. She knew many Bible passages by heart. These were constant companions she could turn to for help wherever she went.
She prayed for God to send her the right idea that would help her get through this threatening situation. What came to her was a well-known verse from another Psalm: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Ps. 23:6).
If God's goodness and mercy were following her, she thought, then evil intent couldn't possibly be. God created all that is real, and evil has no more place in God's creation than darkness has in light. She became engrossed in the thought of being followed by God's goodness and mercy, and not by evil. And she no longer thought about the footsteps. She was consciously "dwelling," as it were, "in the house of the Lord" - in the thoughts God was giving.
Soon she realized the person had stopped following her, and she was home safely.
Just what is this "house of the Lord" where my friend found release from terror? Consider something Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Monitor in 1908, wrote. After quoting the 23rd Psalm in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she amplified the meaning by substituting for the term Lord another biblical name for God - Love. As divine Love, God is universal, impartial, all-encompassing. The Psalm's last statement - "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" - is rendered, "I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever" (pg. 578). When understood to be the consciousness of divine Love, this house is a safe haven for each one of us, at any time, in any circumstance.
But how do you get into that consciousness of Love and truly dwell there? It's something that you can grow to do, step by step, each time you are aware in some degree of the totality and omnipotence of God as Love.
Whenever we identify ourselves and everyone else as actually the children of Love, instead of as the limited or frightened mortals we may seem to be, we're praying. Whenever we recognize that each one of us is permanently embraced in and protected by Love's irresistible power, we're praying. The more we pray consistently, the more consistently we'll find ourselves in the light - whether or not the sun is shining.
You can read in-depth articles about God in a monthly magazine called The Christian Science Journal.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society