Sunrise after Sorrow
By Darla Isackson

Last spring I visited the ocean! I arrived late afternoon and was able to watch the sun set and a big yellow moon rise to enchant the entire seascape. The next morning I awoke just before dawn and couldn’t go back to sleep. I crept quietly out of bed and stole out the back door where I could watch the sun rise over the ocean. The dark sky had begun to lighten and thin, in anticipation of the dawn. The moon was still visible, but fading. Silhouettes became etched with more and more detail as the light increased.

I watched in wonder as the clouds on the horizon took on an ever-increasing rosy hue. Suddenly the top arch of the sun leapt up above the water, bright, glowing, rosy orange. The sun grew steadily to become a flaming ball that transformed the sky and sea with rays of radiant light. The rosy orange faded into a glowing border as the main body of the sun shone a more and more brilliant yellow. The pink under the clouds burnt away to gray as the sun climbed higher in the sky. The glow around the sun grew increasingly bright and white; the light changed the ocean landscape from a mysterious blur to clear and crisp beauty.

I keep that sunrise filed in the archives of my memory for easy access when I need assurance that no matter how dark the night, the dawn always comes. The death of my son ushered me into a dark night of the soul, but the sun is rising again on my life. I’ve learned that life tends to come in cycles; my sunshiny days don’t last indefinitely.  Storms come, night descends, and dark clouds of trial or tragedy may obscure my view. But with every dark night there is promise of a dawn.

Light is Truth, Light is Christ

I think of words from Hymn #1: “The morning breaks, the shadows flee … The clouds of error disappear before the rays of truth divine.” Erroneous thinking about life’s happenings can cloud my thinking, keeping me in the dark. However, the truth brings dawn’s light. I’ve learned some basic truths about the brain dysfunction of major depression; I’ve learned the truth that choosing to self-medicate depression with alcohol and drugs can be a lethal combination because alcohol and some drugs are depressants in themselves, and in the aftermath of use tend to deepen depression. I’ve learned that untreated major depression is a primary cause of suicide. I’ve chosen to get treatment for my own depression, which has made it possible for me to discern more light. And I’ve learned all over again that the truth that brings unfailing light into my life is truth concerning the Savior and his atonement. In D& C 11:11 the Savior says, “I am the light which shineth in darkness.”

In D&C 88:7 we read, “Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. Verse 11 says, “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.”

No wonder I yearn for the dawn; no wonder I bask in the warmth of the sun’s rays; no wonder everything good in life can be compared to light, everything evil to darkness. I was born with the light of Christ; consequently I yearn to fill my life with that light. And since I’ve made covenants to take upon myself His name and always remember Him, any moment without His light is hard to bear.

Scriptural Formula to Dispel the Darkness of the Soul

Much of the darkness I’ve struggled with since Brian died has been brought on by “inner enemies of the soul” – such as discouragement as I try to adjust to this latest and most drastic detour from the perfectionistic “ideal path” I had laid out for myself.

I have long believed that the war stories in the Book of Mormon have application to inner battles against the darkness of the soul, and consequently would help me to bring dawn’s light back into my life. For instance, in the story of Helaman’s great battles to defend the Nephites against their Lamanite enemies, we come to a place where they were not receiving the provisions and additional strength to their forces that they badly needed. Helaman’s response provides me with an exact formula to follow.

In Alma 58:9-12 we read,  “The cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear … Therefore we did pour out our whole souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength …  Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurance that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. And we did take courage … and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies.”

Their dark night ended through the prayer of faith; their dawn came with assurance from the Lord.

Let’s look at this scripture more closely. First, Helaman said that not knowing the cause … grieved them and filled them with fear. Grief, fear, and ignorance are such common causes of darkness in our lives. Where did they turn? They poured out their whole souls in prayer for strength and deliverance. I look back over my life; how many times can I say that I have poured out my whole soul in prayer? Mostly when the night has been dark, when the dawn seemed far away, when I was totally humbled, totally aware that the Lord was my only source of comfort or peace. When my son’s death shattered my heart I learned more about this kind of prayer. Now, in the scripture above, notice that the Lord did not instantly deliver Helaman and his troops, but He gave them the assurance that he would deliver them. This assurance was all they needed. It brought them peace, faith, hope, courage, and a fixed determination to conquer.

The Lord’s Promises Are Sure

The Lord’s assurance means it is as good as done. God never lies. His promises are sure. And we can put our names on scriptural promises and claim them for ourselves because the Lord says, “What I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 93:49). Doubt and fear flee in the face of His assurance that the dawn is coming. And even though his timetable may be very different from ours, His dawns are never late. 

Sunday in Relief Society we sang the hymn “Sweet Is the Work.” The following words stood out to me: “My heart shall triumph in the Lord .. My inward foes shall all be slain, Nor Satan break my peace again.” The Lord promises over and over that in his strength, with His light we can triumph over the darkness of the soul.  Which reminds me of words in another favorite hymn: “The Lord is my light, the Lord is my strength. I know in His might, I’ll conquer at length.” (Hymn # 89) Conquering has been for me, not a one-time event, but more like a lifetime quest, a lifetime process. The law of opposition is in full effect, and we never seem to run out of inner enemies to conquer, or dark nights that leave us yearning for the light of dawn.

Sorrow Can Lead Us to the Light

One of Deanna Edward’s songs teaches us that to avoid sorrow, we’d “have to take the loving out of life.”  I accept the necessity of experiencing the bitter in order that I might prize the sweet. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, Eve said, “It is better for us to pass through sorrow …” There could be no sweet reunions without sad partings. There could be no resurrection without death. Joy and sorrow are so many times flip sides of the same coin, and choosing only one side of the coin is not an option.  One of life’s sweetest discoveries for me has been that I can count sorrow that leads us to a closer relationship with the Savior among life’s brightest sunrises. Alma 28:14 “And thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing – sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.” Every day I turn to him I renew my hope of the eternal sunrise of His light and love.