Trials, hardships, sadness, fear, things that makes us feel hopeless, are all symbolized by darkness. Light is a symbol for hope. That power that pushes back darkness and helps us keep going. Hope is not the same as wishful thinking. Hope comes with knowledge, confidence, and love.
When I was a new missionary, I felt overwhelmed and scared. God gave me hope. Whenever I most need it, when darkness once again surrounds me, God reminds me of this lesson and gives me light.
For an unrelated reason, our Zone Leader came to give my trainer and I priesthood blessings. In mine, I was counseled to be bold. I had already been studying boldness in the scriptures but was not really getting anywhere. I was getting frustrated and discouraged.
Later that day, my missionary trainer and I were scheduled to teach a lesson with the help of a sister in the ward. I called her to confirm, but she said she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to go with us. My trainer told me to call someone else, but the Spirit told me to call back the original sister. I thought that sounded pretty rude considering she just told me she wasn’t feeling well. Then i thought of that priesthood blessing from earlier. Ok, I thought, I guess I’ll be bold.
I called her back and asked her if we could bring her some soup. Apparently I wasn’t ready yet to be fully bold. Luckily for me, when I called sh said that she realized she wasn’t sick but down in the dumps and decided that going with the missionaries was the best way to pick herself up. I thought that was a miracle on its own! The Spirit gave me a prompting but also took care of it so that I would be successful even with minimal effort on my part. Hallelujah!
When we met up with this sister, she asked if we could quickly put some flowers on her mother’s grave on our way. There are many small cemeteries scattered around the country areas of Georgia and Tennessee. This should not have added any time to our trip.
However, when we first pulled into the graveyard, there was a van parked in front of the grave and a man was collapsed next to it. Due to poor cell reception, the sister driving us needed to leave to call for an ambulance. I got out of the car with the full intention of helping, trying to remember first aid, and then froze.
My mind went completely blank, paralyzed by a sudden and intense fear. Not the fear of physical violence, that had already been done, but fear of palpable darkness. As I stood there, it seemed as though someone was laughing at me. I was ashamed that I could not move, embarrassed at my own weakness, and someone thought that was hilarious. Unseen fingers slick with a heavy oil sought to cover my skin and seep into my pores. My companion kept calling for me to come over to her until I finally moved. More to run away from the darkness than anything else.
The man, now lying on his back, was fatally injured. We wrapped the wound as best we could, but there wasn’t much to be done. We prayed, spoke with him for as long as he was able, sang hymns, and then kept silent. While we sat with him, we were surrounded by a light that shielded us from the darkness. The fear was gone, I felt completely calm. My lungs expanded without constriction, my mind took in not only our conversation and his condition but also the light filtering through the trees and the beauty of the place. The beauty of the whole world astounded me. I felt blessed beyond measure with the love of Heavenly Father.
We remained with the injured man in this state for about half an hour until he passed away. With that final breath, the light began to recede. A couple of minutes later when the emergency vehicle arrived and the EMT began her work, I became aware again of the darkness. This time, however, the presence was farther from me. Those fingers that before were taunting and pushing were now clenched in rage, but they could not touch me.
Even so, the feeling of that much rage directed at me brought back doubt of my own strength. I cried to God asking why I was sent there when I was unable to do anything of any use. The man had died. I had not helped him. I thought a Priesthood holder would have been more effective: the Zone Leader, the District Leader, a man from the ward that lived in the area, so many choices other than me. I felt useless and powerless.
In answer there came to my mind a picture of myself wearing the mantle of a missionary and emanating light. There also came the knowledge that I had fulfilled that which was asked of me. I pushed back the darkness. That was my purpose as a missionary. Where ever I stood, darkness could not.
The light that shone from around me was brilliant and powerful. I understood at that moment that I had made covenants to my Heavenly Father and with those covenants came the ability to call upon the accompanying blessings at any time and the assurance that my call would be answered. I would be able to fulfill all that God asked me to do because He would enable me to do it with all the light and power of heaven.
In the middle of my intense trials and darkness years later, this is what I wanted to be again. Full of light. A light for my family. Sure of my own power to conquer the darkness. When this memory returned to me, I felt the same hope. I wasn’t there yet, but I knew that I could get there because the light of heaven is still promised to me, and heaven always answers.