The Beauty of Darkness

Originally published Tuesday, 09 March 2021.

I don’t know about you, but I am on the lookout for beauty these days. It feels like so many things are ugly, marred, broken, and difficult. I long for the perceived “easy” days of childhood, when my parents navigated the waters of adulthood and brought magic and beauty into our days with a simple “look at that flower God created, isn’t it beautiful?” Maybe I feel this way because I’m tired. I’m tired of the mess of the world, and beating a path to find beauty feels long, hard, and uphill. Maybe I feel this way because it’s winter here; around me the ground is brown and barren, the skies gray and heavy with rain, the plants still dormant and waiting for the warm spring sun. Maybe it’s because I’m forgetting what real beauty is and where to look for it.

I find that often beauty must be cultivated, tended, encouraged, and called out. The beautiful blooms of summer begin in the muddy soil of spring with its gray skies and days of rain. They don’t come without water, work, and weeding. With care, gentleness, and feeding, they sprout and grow. I’m reminded too, that the roots that feed the summer beauty mostly form in the darkness—in the cold of winter, away from sight. Unless they don’t. Sometimes the storms of winter rage and the roots don’t dive deep. You find those roots exposed, the plant withered and raw. The same can happen within our hearts. Our roots can grow deep in the dark seasons of hardship, trial, pain, and suffering; producing beauty and fruit in a time to come, or they can grow shallow, leaving our hearts exposed to the elements—unable to make sense of the world around us, conceding to chaos.

The past year had its share of difficulty, worries, uncertainty and if I’m honest, sometimes bareness, that I have felt deeply in my soul. Circumstances continue to whirl and sometimes I feel like Paul describes in Ephesians 4:4, “tossed about” by all of the opinions and craziness in the world. Lately, I have been reminded that I can either live in upheaval due to circumstances, bobbing in the waves of feelings that sometimes swamp me, pulling me into the sea of what-ifs, or I can run to the beauty of my Creator. I can rest in His character and glory that provoke my heart to worship. 

In Isaiah 40 we see a reminder of who God is, what He has done, all He has accomplished. When I read and remember, and recount the ways He alone is God, my heart stills. My striving ceases. The swirling slows. 

“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes rulers of the earth as emptiness.”

Isaiah 40:21-23

When I call to mind the things of God and look and meditate upon His beauty, my roots grow deep. The foundation for future flourishing is laid. Sometimes, it takes the winters; the long, dark, slow, cold days to drive my heart back into the Creator—back to His heart, where I may not see His hand but I can trust His steadiness. Ruth Chou Simons writes in Gracelaced: “Running behind and running on empty–sometimes we find our sense of hope trampled on the hardened earth of a winter season in our lives. God calls us to lay down our frantic striving and fears to discover what might be in store for us as we wait, trust, weep, and rest.” 

I’m learning, and maybe you are too, that I have a choice in the seasons of my soul that feel like winter.  I can grow shallow, choosing to let the feelings rule like waves of chaos, only to end up with my roots susceptible, and my foliage withering. Or I can grow stronger by pushing my roots deeper into my Savior, remembering His character and care, feeling the feelings, but not submitting to their frenzy. I can allow beauty to be born from the darkness, at the hand of my Creator, in His time.

These seasons, these long cold dark days, are a reminder for my soul. Beauty comes in many forms, and sometimes the darkness is a gift, one that doesn’t look beautiful now, but depending on how it is tended, can produce beautiful fruit in a later season. 1 Peter 3:4 says “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” This is the beauty I want highlighted in my life. A heart and soul set firmly on Christ, not blowing about in the whims of the world. It can only be true when I am gazing at the true beauty and character of the God that never changes, allowing Him to work His will and way in my life.

Laci Steed is a stay at home, homeschooling mom of two boys. She is passionate about motherhood, truth, and creating community around God’s Word. She serves in women’s ministry at her church and recently wrote her first book, a Christmas devotional, called Emmanuel: 25 Days of Anticipating Jesus. Laci enjoys doing house projects, reading, and finding ways to be creative in the chaos that is the little years of parenthood.