“God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:16-18, NRSV)
Light and darkness. Good and evil. Somewhere in history these two ideas were put together, so that when one thinks of light one thinks of goodness and vice versa. Along with this is a way of categorizing things that prefer light or darkness, including emotions. For example, joy and love are associated with light. Imagine a woman dressed in Victorian lace on a swing in a garden, giggling with the sun behind her while she’s being pushed by a gentleman in a tightly-fitted suit. The scene is sappy with goodness.
Darkness is reserved for moods like sadness and depression and anger. Imagine a woman in Goth make-up dressed in black clothes brooding over her diary by candlelight in a dark bedroom while she sips absinthe. A raven croaks from the window.
For further proof, have you ever noticed that it’s almost always raining during a breakup scene in a movie? Directors know that dark clouds and rain evoke sadness. And so when Rick reads his dear-john letter next to the last train leaving Paris before the Nazis arrive, we don’t just see the note. We see rain hitting the paper making the ink run. This helps the audience feel his pain, and so they will cut him some slack when he’s so mean to Ilsa when she just shows up at his gin joint in Casablanca.
The problem with this is that these emotions are not only associated with light and darkness but also with good and badness. To be happy is good. To be sad is bad.
I love how the writer of Genesis describes God placing lights in the dome—the sun, moon, and the stars, to govern the earth. In doing so, he notices that God separates the night from the day, the darkness from the light. And then as God steps back to evaluate what he has done, he has this to say.
“It was good.”
In other words, God created the day AND the night. The light AND the darkness. He then created a balance or a rhythm between the two. A dance if you will. And in the grand scheme of things, this is a good thing. How can you truly know happiness if you’ve never been sad?
I can’t imagine the writer had all this in mind when he penned these words, so I know I may be making more of this than I should. But it illustrates an observation I have about the human condition where sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are moody. We tend to think of one as good and the other as bad; but this can lead to unrealistic expectations that can really be unhealthy—that to be good is to be happy ALL the time. Put another way, God wants you to always have a smile on your face.
But darkness is good, too. In the darkness of soil, seeds germinate. In the womb, life begins. We find rest and restoration during the night as we sleep. And even emotions associated with darkness are good in that they are healthy and necessary. When someone we love leaves, it’s natural to be sad. When our favorite team loses the championship, it’s appropriate to be a little depressed. When people are mistreated, a little righteous anger is called for. And then, sometime there are simply going to be days when for no reason at all we are going to walk around in a funk.
Now, extremes are unhealthy. If we are depressed ninety percent of the time to the point where we can’t function, then it’s time to seek help.
But there is nothing bad or wrong with us when we have a dark day, or a dark week, or even a dark month. There may even be a dark season in life. Like the lights in the dome that dance from day to night to day, we are going to move from being happy to sad to happy.
One thing we can do to find balance between the two and to make the transitions go as smoothly as possible is simply to dance to the tune that’s being played deep within you. Sometime life calls for a dirge. And sometimes it demands a sock hop.
Or, going back to our creation analogy, when God set the universe in motion he designed it so that there would always be a cycle between night and day. Go along with it and don’t fight it. If the night seems eternal, don’t worry.
The sun will rise.