I've used the phrase "the light at the end of the tunnel" frequently in my life, but probably never so much as over the past six-seven months. I've used the phrase in varying degrees of frustration sometimes preceding it with "Where is..." in question form all the way to "I can see..." with a sense of renewed hope that the season is almost over.
Some seasons are dark. Like a tunnel they are dim and restrictive with an overwhelming sense of being confined. And some tunnels are long.
Very, very long.
I remember driving through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel into Canada on a family vacation when I was a kid. I couldn't have been more than nine or ten years old. I don't recall much of that trip, but two things have stayed in my memory; the Canadian phone booth (no cell phones in the 70's) with it's funny coin that looked nothing like our dime (it was also cheap to call people in the 70's) and this tunnel.
This particular tunnel was well lit. It had to be - it was a highway for transportation. But it was long, or at least it felt long to me then. It was just shy of a mile. Even in a well lit tunnel you can feel confined because you can only see what's in the tunnel with you. Your vision is limited.
My daughter Maggie is a little claustrophobic. She hates elevators. She has no affection for tight, closed off spaces. They make her feel boxed in. Like being in a tunnel.
I've been experiencing a similar situation at work during a season of being short staffed. My boss and I (more my boss) have been working in multiple areas to provide as much coverage as possible. It was always intended to be temporary but you know how it is...there are days when it felt like it would never end and I wondered, "Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?"
Because I wanted out. I'd had enough. I was ready for the open road and the clear blue sky above. Like my daughter in the elevator, I felt boxed in.
As I've neared the end of this particular tunnel it finally occurred to me how short-sighted some of my prayers have been. Because they have mostly focused on delivering me from the tunnel. Speeding up the passage. Please Lord, just spit me out on the other side already!
These aren't necessarily bad prayers. King David cried out to God in all manners of desperation which are vividly recorded in the Psalms. I believe they are there to remind us God wants to hear our prayers even when we aren't mincing words. But there was a better prayer to pray. Instead of asking for the light at the end of the tunnel I wish I had asked for more of the light in the tunnel. I wish I had asked for God to raise my sights. To fix my eyes more on Him. Or as one of my favorite hymns goes, I wish I'd prayed...
"Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light"
Psalm 112:4 says "Light dawns in the darkness for the upright." That's an image of God's guidance making clear the right path for those seeking Him. Psalm 119 reminds me "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (verse 105) and "The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple" (verse 130). It's a call to be in God's Word - the Bible. There is light there, in the midst of darkness. When I read these passages I am seeing the light.
The light is also in a person. The Gospel of John talks about Jesus being the light of men that shines in the darkness. In John 8:12 Jesus proclaims "I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." When I follow Jesus I see the light.
When King David is speculating in Psalm 139 where he can possibly go that God's Spirit would not follow, he acknowledges to God, "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." And then there's one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture in 1 John 1:5 "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all."
So if God is light and by placing my faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior I have the Spirit of God now living in me...that means I have the light. In whatever situation I am in. Like King David, there is no where I can go and NOT be in His light. The deepest, longest tunnel cannot dim God's light because even the darkness is as light to Him!
But it doesn't always feel like that. Those long, dark, dry and scary seasons of life have a way of moving my eyes from this eternal truth to my temporary circumstances. When this happens, I have to remember there is light IN the tunnel with me. I have to rehearse those Bible passages and cling to those promises. Even then, it's not enough to know it. God calls me to act on it.
Romans 13:12 urges us to "cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." Ephesians 5:8 instructs "now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." I have gear to put on so I don't despair in the season. There is a demeanor in which I should walk. Because, most stunningly, I don't just have the light. By placing His own light in me, I become the light in this world to those watching.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16.
The season isn't over yet for me. The situation, though improving, is not gone. But I'm not focused as much on the light at the end of the tunnel because I'm beginning to realize how bright the light is in it.