We invite you to take a peek inside our weekly Light for the Way devotional series provided for staff.
By Chaplain Steve Richards, Optage Hospice
"The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." — Exodus 20:21, NIV
I find the image of Moses walking into the darkness to meet God striking.
Often when I think of places where I meet God, I imagine bright and light-filled spaces. For example, heaven is said to be a place where there will be no need for lamps or the sun, for God will be the only source of light (see Revelation 22:5). In church, I also imagine the presence of God to inspire a feeling of lightness, joyfulness, praise and worship.
Yet here in Exodus 20, we find the opposite. For as the people gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, it is said that God was present on top of the mountain, in the darkness, and as Moses approached “the thick darkness where God was,” the people looked on and “trembled with fear.”
The darkness — hardly suggestive of God’s loving presence.
I wrestled a lot with what to say in this Light for the Way. The words have not come easy. Part of this is because in talking about Moses finding God in the darkness, I am reminded of the many ways in which I, too, have met God in the darkness of my own life. The struggle to find the words is simply about how much to talk about this — how much to talk about my specific life.
For example, I have met God in the darkness of atheism, the darkness of depression and anxiety, and the darkness of failed relationships, to name a few places. I have also met God in the darkness of others I once demonised, pushed away, and treated as “other.” It is easy to turn people out of our life when we treat them as those in which God’s Spirit does not dwell.
Fear creates boundaries, yet when it comes to God, the Psalmist reminds us that there is no place where God is not: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).
God also invites us to go into the darkness because, and as the Psalmist continues, “the darkness will not be dark to [God].” God’s invitation is to become curious and to trust that God is always present with us: “I will never leave you or forsake you” and “even though you walk through the darkest places,” I, God, will always be with you (see Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 23).
In the darkness, We Will find God.
Right now, it feels our world is gripped by fear and things can appear very dark. The fear of COVID, the fear of mass-shootings, the fear of not having enough money or possessions.... Some also face the fear of simply being who they are — the fear of violence and rejection. Such people are often cast out into the darkness.
What would it look like if we walked into the darkness to find God? What if instead of rejecting others, we became curious about them? What if instead of judging and condemning, we became loving and compassionate?
And, what if sitting with someone in the darkness becomes a new way for us to understand and connect with God through them? What if going into the dark places becomes the catalyst for the change we want to see in the world? What if those things we reject in others, are the very things we grow to accept in ourselves?
The invitation is this: Go into the darkness where God is and connect with the Divine source of Love. It’s difficult work and it’s messy, but we are assured that if we do, God will most definitely be there.
Chaplain Steve Richards has been working with Optage Hospice since 2019, first as an intern and then as a PHS employee in 2021. Prior to that, he was a stay-at-home dad to his two children and previously worked as a high school teacher in England where he taught religion and philosophy. He grew up in London, England (UK), and has been living in the USA since May 2005. He moved here to be with his wife. He is grateful for the privilege of working with PHS as it helps him live out the spiritual truth: "This is how love is made complete amongst us... in this world we are like Jesus" (1 John 4:17).
The Light for the Way series provides staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.
Find more in the Light for the Way series:
Think on that
Finding God in the real-life stories of others
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series
In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website.