How often have you heard the phrase “the light at the end of the tunnel” lately? How often have you said it? I have used this phrase when looking forward to the passing of a difficult season, such as this global pandemic, which has created all sorts of frustrations and anxiety. I would just like it to end.
Some seasons are dark. Like a tunnel, they are dim and restrictive with an overwhelming sense of confinement. And some tunnels are long—or, at the very least, they feel 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. I don’t recall much of the trip, but the tunnel remains vivid in my memory.
Unlike most tunnels, this one was well-lit. It’s just shy of a mile and not the longest one I’ve ever been in, but it was the first. At the time, I felt trapped. This tunnel, though a major passage between two countries, was just a single lane in each direction. It felt narrow and cramped on a hot summer day. When you’re enclosed like that, you can only see what is in the tunnel with you. My vision was limited to the other cars and pick-up trucks alongside my family’s station wagon.
Lately, the pandemic has me feeling like I’m stuck in another tunnel. I’d like out. I’ve had enough. I’m ready for the open road and the clear, blue sky above. I’d like to worship in person with my church family, work at a real desk, and buy groceries without wearing a mask that fogs my glasses and irritates my allergies. I want my parents to be free from danger when leave their home. I’d like my friends to find jobs so they can pay bills. I feel boxed in, and I long for the Lord to set my feet in a spacious place (Ps. 31:8).
Reading Psalms has helped me to realize how short-sighted my prayers have been. So often, I focus only on asking God to deliver me from the tunnel. Speed up the passage, Lord! Please just spit me out on the other side already!
Longing for a trial to end is not necessarily sinful. The psalmists repeatedly show us how to pour out our hearts to God. I’m grateful for how God has used the psalmists’ prayers to remind me that I, too, can be honest and cry out to him in the darkness. Yet, my prayers don’t need to end there.
Where Should I Look for Light?
Instead of looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, I can ask for more light in the tunnel. In other words, I can ask God to raise my sights—to fix my eyes more on him. I can pray for a clear focus on God’s presence, as one of my favorite hymns instructs:
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.1
The question is: how do I see the light when darkness surrounds me?
1. Look to God’s Word
Psalm 112:4 says, “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright.” And Psalm 119 reminds me that God’s word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105) and that “the unfolding of [God’s] words gives light” (v. 130). There is light in the darkness, and I need only open my Bible to find it. God’s Word is a light.
2. Look to God’s Son
The light is also a person. John talks about Jesus being the light of men that shines in the darkness. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4). Jesus proclaims about himself, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). As a follower of Jesus, I have the light.
3. Live in the Light
In Psalm 139, when King David wonders where he can possibly go that God’s Spirit would not follow, he acknowledges, “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” And 1 John 1:5 gives me a similar encouragement: “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
These truths changed me from a person who lived in darkness to one who now lives in the light. When I placed my faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, I received his Spirit. This means the light of Christ is in me, no matter what dark situation I am in. Like King David, there is nowhere 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!
While I believe the truth of God’s Word, it doesn’t always feel true. These long, dark seasons of life have a way of moving my eyes from eternal truth to temporary circumstances. When this happens, I need to rehearse these Bible promises. I also need to respond to them in faith.
Romans 13:12 urges us “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 been given gear to guard me from despair, and there is a particular manner with which I should now walk. Why? Because I don’t just have the light, I have become a light in this world to those watching. Matthew 5:14-16 declares this amazing truth:
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.
We have not yet reached the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, and we don’t know how long God will keep us going through it. The coronavirus situation is improving in some ways, but the trial hasn’t passed. Like the child in that Detroit-Windsor tunnel, I am tempted to look at only what surrounds me in this passageway. But God’s Word redirects my vision and transforms my prayers. I am now asking less for the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, I can pray, “Lord, give me eyes to see you. Let me be a disciple who beholds and reflects the light I have, even in the midst of darkness.” Praise God for the light found in his Word and in his Son, and for the power of his Spirit to help me act in faith.
1. Mary E. Byrne (translator), “Be Thou My Vision”, Trinity Psalter Hymnal, #446, 1919.