There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time the Lord brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shone. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
I think this prophecy from the book of Isaiah, which is fulfilled in the person of Jesus, is pretty much the entirety of the Good News. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:2) This promise given hundreds of years before Jesus' birth is echoed through all of Scripture. The Old Testament is the story of a promise given, a light (the Messiah) is coming, and the New Testament is the story of promise fulfilled — Jesus is that light.
There is very little that I am sure of. I think I've been a believer for as long as I can remember, but I've been a doubter for just as long, maybe longer. I've always had a lot of questions. As time goes on I seem to collect more questions than answers. Why is life so unfair? How can a good and loving God allow such terrible things to happen? Why is there so much pain in the world? In my life? In my heart? In the midst of all these questions, I've held on tightly to the promise that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. I'm not sure about much, but I'm sure about this — when I really encountered Jesus and began to understand His love for me, for all of us, I saw a great light.
What I love so much about this promise is that it doesn't deny the darkness at all. It's kind of interesting. It's as if nothing changes and, at the same time, everything changes. The darkness is still there, but a light has entered the darkness. The circumstances I find myself in might not have changed, but I've been changed by the Light.
Throughout my life I've relied on other people to tell me this promise over and over again. One of the reasons I desperately need the Church, and by that I mean the community and presence of other believers in my life, is because it sometimes feels like I need other people to believe for me when I can't. Or rather, my weak belief needs to be bolstered by the belief of those around me. I'm very forgetful, so I think I need other people to remind me who God is, to remind me of His love and promises. I need them to point to the Light when I can't see it. And they have. They have told me the Gospel over and over again — through their words, their actions, their very lives, and their love. And I'm so grateful.
Yes, life is so incredibly difficult. There is so much darkness. But we have seen a great Light. We are loved and we are held — by both God and one another. Praise God. Thanks be to God.