While at college in Provo, Utah, I sometimes drove to the Latter-day Saint temple in the early morning. During the summer months, I loved to watch the sun rise over the quiet mountains, fringing the oaks and maples with gold and forcing me to squint through the windshield on my eastward drive to the temple. However, I always reached a point along my route where I crossed into the shadow of the mountains and into a part of town where the sun had not yet risen and where the dull, green trees shivered in the remaining malaise of the night before. Driving in the shade seemed to dampen my enthusiasm just a little, and it always amazed me that, in a matter of a few minutes, I could drive from a vision of a glorious sunrise to a disquieting place where the new day did not yet exist.
It might seem silly that I had any emotional reaction at all to driving through the morning shade, but I’ve started to recognize that my experiences on those morning drives parallel experiences that I’ve had with my faith. That is to say, I have experienced times when I stood, as it were, in the bright light of the rising sun, confident in my faith, in my God, and in myself—and I have also experienced times when I have found myself in shadow, confident in very little. Often in times of transition—placing myself in new situations, facing new challenges, or chasing new opportunities—the light that illuminated the way before me vanished, becoming abruptly and inexplicably absent. At times such as those, I have passed into the shadows of mountains, into the shadows of doubt, where it seemed that the once-bright light of faith could only have been a dream or a delusion.
Experience, though, has taught me that that darkness is never the final destination. Speaking to those who pass through the very real and sometimes terrifying shadows of life, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf declared, “God’s light is real. It is available to all!” He then went on to promise, “The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul. The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to dawn, the light will come.” In other words, we may not always see the light that inspired our faith, but that doesn’t mean that the light is gone. Once we begin again to look for it and to trust in it, God’s light will illuminate our lives once more.
It would have been ridiculous for me to assume, once I had driven into the shadow of the mountains, that the sun had disappeared, that morning had changed its mind and decided not to come: the sun wasn’t gone. It was still there and still rising. The only thing that had changed was that I had moved. Even though I had gone east for a good reason, moving put me in a place where I could no longer see the sun or its light. Of course, I knew that the sun still existed, and I was never surprised to find that the it had risen the rest of the way by the time that I left the temple.
For some reason, though, it seems much easier to discount our personal faith and beliefs when life obscures their brilliance. When difficulties arise, it might not take very much for us to abandon our faith as something outmoded, imaginary, or useless—but I know that surrendering faith in any degree can be a dangerous, discouraging thing to do. I’ve found my faith to be an essential component of my happiness, and I know that God’s light is as constant as the sun’s. Sometimes, we move—even for very good reasons—to places where we cannot see His light, but that does not mean that it is gone. Just as the sun always finished rising over the Utah mountains, God’s light will always rise over the opposition we face in this life.
In the coming weeks, I hope to discuss different ways in which our faith can be challenged and to highlight ways in which we can always decide to trust in God’s light even when it isn’t readily visible. Regardless of our circumstances, no matter how tall the obscuring mountains or how dark the shadows of doubt, we can always choose faith. And we must choose faith because faith alone is the source of that hope which “maketh an anchor” to all our souls (Ether 12:4).