Meeting Jesus in Dark Places

Into the Darkness 

It’s nearly noon on Good Friday, the time when Luke records that “darkness came over the whole land…while the sun’s light failed.” (Luke 23:44-45)  

There’s no escaping it.  The only way to experience what happened at the cross is to enter into the darkness; darkness like the darkness before creation which James Weldon Johnson described in his poem, “The Creation”, as “blacker than a hundred midnights/Down in a cypress swamp.”

Mother Teresa was no stranger to that darkness.  She wrote, “When I walk through the slums or enter the dark holes–there Our Lord is always really present.”  Her friend and commentator said that “the ‘dark holes’ had become the privileged meeting place with Him.”  (“Mother Teresa: Come By My Light,” p. 168)

Henri Nouwen experienced the presence of Christ in the dark places, too.  In “Genius Born of Anguish,” Nouwen’s biographers write:

He came to understand near the end of his life that the woundedness of others, as well as his own woundedness, were not simply existential realities to be recorded, analyzed, probed and exorcized, but a summons to intense and authentic living.  He came to appreciate that his wounds were not so much ‘gaping abysses’ but ‘gateways to new life.”  (p. 42)

Most of us most of the time don’t want to go there.  Who really wants to be in a dark hole? We prefer the spiritual pretense of always living in the light rather than entering into the darkness in our own lives and in the lives of others.  We’d like to pretend that every day is Easter without Good Friday.

But it won’t work.  It didn’t work that way for Mother Theresa or Henri Nouwen.  It didn’t work that way for Jesus.  It won’t work that way for us.

Through Darkness to Hope 

But we do not enter the darkness alone.  We go into the darkness with Jesus.  And we do not face the darkness without hope.

Samuel Wesley, like his son Charles, was a hymn-writer.  One of the few relics that were left in the Epworth parsonage after the fire in 1709 was the text of a hymn for Good Friday.  I’m deeply moved by the honesty with which he faces the darkness of Good Friday and the way he points toward the hope of  the resurrection.

Behold the Savior of mankind
Nailed to the shameful tree!
How vast the love that Him inclined
To bleed and die for thee!

Hark, how He groans, while nature shakes,
And earth’s strong pillars bend;
The temple’s veil in sunder breaks,
The solid marbles rend.

’Tis done! The precious ransom’s paid,
Receive My soul, He cries!
See where He bows His sacred head!
He bows His head, and dies!

But soon He’ll break death’s envious chain,
And in full glory shine:
O Lamb of God! was ever pain,
Was ever love, like Thine?

The hour of darkness comes for every one of us.  It’s the dark hole in which we know the presence of the suffering, dying Jesus.  But we face the darkness in the assurance that Easter will come.

Grace and peace,


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7 thoughts on “Meeting Jesus in Dark Places

  1. Jim, I always appreciate your thoughts, reflections and inspirations.
    Thanks for taking the time to write them down for us.

    love to you and Marcia,

  2. Deeply moving, indeed!

    Thank you, Jim.

    Grace and peace,


  3. Jim, your post on Good Friday was particularly meaningful to me. As you know, I struggle with depression and getting through the dark places is very real to me. But then there is Easter! Every time! Thank God!

    With gratitude to you and God for helping me to understand that dark places aren’t the end, but opportunities to move on to Easter—again and again.

    Susan Howard

    PS I think I forgot to write to you all about the delightful visit I had with your mom on Tuesday. Lots of laughing!


  4. Thanks, Jim, for these beautiful medtations

  5. Hard typing on my IPhone in the backseat of a Buick on Good Friday, but I loved your meditations. En route with son & niece to Final Four, reminding me of Tampa 1999 when Bishops Minnick & Stockton insisted I go with to Early Worship for Palm Sunday where I first met you! God really does work in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. May this first post-Hyde Park UMC Easter be a blessed, happy one for you.


  6. Jim, I always appreciate your gift at being able to get to the heart of the matter. Darkness does come to everyone of our lives. It can be overwhelming, frightening, paralyzing. But knowing that we are not alone, that there is hope, and that our Easter will come makes all the difference! Thanks for the beautiful reminder!

  7. Reminds me of Roger’s sermon tonight on the tsunamis of our lives. I still have a black whole in my heart for Greg, and I meet God there- not once in a while, not sometimes- all the time. It’s an ok place to be only because of Him. As my Pastor, you stood there with us that dark night and reminded us that God was right there beside us, too. He was quiet then but is much louder now as I know Him better and better thru scripture and partly because I am watching and waiting for Him. Good Friday’s are always melancholy- a mixed blessing of sadness and thankfulness……just like Greg.
    I’m so looking forward to the brightness of Easter hope and promises on Sunday.
    May you and Marsha have a joyous Resurrection Day!

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