My feet pound the pavement as the night deepens. Thump thump thump thump. The last rays from the sunset peek over the trees for just a few more moments before they disappear completely, and I am left in darkness. The darkness is disorienting. I can barely see my feet in front of me, much less what’s around the next corner.
Luckily, I'm only a few blocks from home and I know these streets like the back of my hand. So I place one foot in front of the other—thump thump thump thump—my weary legs carrying my aching body through dark streets until suddenly I’ve made it. I knew the way back home.
We don’t always know the way though, do we? There are many times in life when we can be disoriented by what’s to come. Instead of answers, we’re faced with a dark void. Instead of a clear path, we’re grasping at straws trying to put together a plan for the future. In these moments we might not know what the next step is. We can become paralyzed by indecision or fear of the unknown.
I’m very familiar with these seasons of life. First it was the looming void after college graduation as I (and everyone around me) asked, “What’s next?” Then it was the unanswered questions after grad school: “Okay, now really. What’s next?” Then it was more unknowns, each more weighty than the last. Which job do I take? Who do I marry? Which state should we move to? When should we start a family?
It’s almost natural for my mind to spiral out of control in these situations. “What am I going to do? I have no idea what’s next. How do I move forward?”As each day passes without clarity or direction, it gets harder to rightly orient myself. In the waiting I start to lose hope that anything will work out.
But I’ve noticed something about these periods of life—these dark and looming seasons where answers are far and the future appears dim. It’s in these times—when we’re facing unknowns—that traits of immense value are being cultivated in us.
You see, when the future is clear and the answers are easy, we have no need to really look deeply inside ourselves and rely on our inner strength. We have no need to practice patience, endurance, and discernment—characteristics that will serve us in a myriad of ways for the rest of our lives. We have no need to lean into our friendships and families for wisdom, counsel, and direction.
During those seasons of unknowns, though we might feel like we’re floundering, something is growing in us. With each passing day—if we allow it and embrace it—we’re being shaped into a person who is a little stronger, a little more adaptable, a little more resilient in the face of the looming darkness.
So while we might not know the destination or the answers, we can muster up the strength to take the very next step. We can do the next right thing. We can have the tenacity to wake up again tomorrow, to try again, and to know that no matter what happens, we’re going to be okay.