How do we survive the longest night of the soul? To whom or what can we turn? What hope is there to latch onto when our lives feel battered, damaged beyond repair?
I pondered the longest nights of my soul the morning of the literal longest night of the year, December 21st, in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, the Winter Solstice, darkness envelops the Mid-South for more than 13 hours, while daylight consists of nearly 10 hours.
The following date – that is, the day when the Earth begins to gain daylight rather than lose it – is of significance to me. It is the anniversary of my return home in 1993. I was wounded. My parents and their faithful love was exactly what I needed.
For four years, I had lived in Jackson, Miss., about 250 miles from where I grew up. I’d fallen in love for the first time and hoped to marry. My widowed boyfriend had other ideas.
Deeply disappointed and wounded, I had decided to renew efforts to get back to Memphis, Tenn., to my destination newspaper. A few months later, I was hired. My first day would be Dec. 27. I packed up and prepared to leave.
I don’t recall how I spent that last, longest night in my rented home by the lake near Jackson, but I awoke on Dec. 22, supervised the movers, and then prepared to say goodbye to my love.
I hoped at the last minute he’d change his mind, realize he didn’t want to lose me. As I followed his vehicle away from my drive, his brake lights came on and he opened his door. I stopped breathing. Yes! He’s going to ask me to stay!
Instead, he told me if I ever needed him, contact him. It would not be our last goodbye, and I’d spend years hoping to win his heart from afar.
And then I learned he’d given his love to another. I’d thought leaving his proximity was a long night of the soul, but it wasn’t anything compared to the end of all hope.
However, another long night – what to this day I know to be the longest night of my soul – was to come. Breakups super suck, but there’s nothing – nothing – like death to grieve the soul.
I suffered a trifecta loss. My beloved father died, my mother was terminally ill and the second love of my life, the guy I’d pinned all hopes on, decided to pursue a younger woman.
But after every Dec. 21st, after every longest night, comes a Dec. 22nd. The days get longer. The light gets greater and greater. The brilliance overtakes the night. Joy overtakes grief.
I found the perfect guy in the middle of my all-time longest night. We got married. My mother died several weeks later, and I still mourn her, but I am so blessed to not be alone. I use all the longest nights now to encourage others, and to feed gratitude for growth and for life.
How do we survive the longest night of the soul?
Our night will end. One key way to get through the longest night is reminding ourselves that the intensity of our sorrow will subside. We will be happy again.
Be with our night. One thing I love about the night is it is the only time I can see the stars in their brilliance. And I feel grateful to be part of an awesome universe full of possibilities.
Join others in their night. While not ignoring our own needs, we find others suffering a night of the soul. Our souls find healing in befriending them and crying with them.
We see Light in our night. Jesus called himself “the light of the world.” Friends and family can serve as little lights, but Jesus is the Light. He’s like no other.
That fourth point is all important. Jesus is a companion like no other. He is healer. Protector. Guide. Comforter. Friend.
That does not mean life gets easy, but it can become easier. He offers to traverse the night with us and bring us into the light. To give us joy for mourning. Comfort for sorrow.
He is the Light in the darkest, longest night of the soul.
Will you offer your will, your hurt, your future to the Light today? Will you trust him to get you through the longest night of the soul?
Copyright © 2019 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com