When Bright Paths Turn Dark

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash.com

Sometimes We Fake Confidence Until Hope Is Restored

by Eric Elkin

The people who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion: never shaken, lasting forever.
— Psalm 125: 1

The path connecting the Conference Center to the Staff House was wide and well worn. The restrictions camp placed on driving meant staff would often make four or five round-trips between the two buildings in a day. Thus, the staff knew every twist and turn in the route like the back of their hand. Having worked at the camp for almost seven years, I can still see every feature of the trail in my head.


During the day, it was a quiet, meditative walk through the woods. Mountain laurel and blueberry bushes covered the empty spaces on the forest floor. White pine, shaggy bark hickory, and oak trees filled the air above and blocked a view of the sky. The density of the forest radically changed the dynamic of the walk at night.


If you were assigned hosting duties in the Conference Center on a Friday or Saturday night, it meant you would walk home between 11 pm and midnight. In the darkness, the walk was not meditative, nor did the path feel so wide. The trees and bushes felt as though they were trying to grab you. A small bird jumping through leaves would sound like a charging wildebeest in your head.

All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure for us.
— Eugene Peterson

The shortest way to the Staff House was through the kitchen door in the back of the Conference Center. However, that was also where bear frequently attempted to break into the garbage shed. The presence of bear and bobcat in the woods reminded you, not every sound was a bird. 


I was never like Mount Zion when I walked that path, but I learned to fake confidence. When I could feel myself start to become shaken, I would sing. If the threat seemed bigger, like a bear, I would sing louder, stomp my feet and throw my hands up in the air, like an adult pretending to be a giant for a child.


Most of the time I would sing a chant from Taize, “The Lord is my light, my light, and salvation. In God, I trust, in God I trust.” Since I never walked with a flashlight in my hands, the song bore a certain truth beyond theological understanding.


The fact is, even the most faithful people become shaken. When our path through life becomes dark, our trust is not always lasting or nor forever. We pray the words of this psalm into our hearts, not because we always believe them or model them, but to fake confidence until hope is restored. They remind the shaken, God, not us, is like Mount Zion. God surrounds the people like mountains surround Jerusalem.


Click to read Psalm 125

Reflection Questions:

  • When was a time you felt shaken and afraid of your surroundings?
  • What do you do when your path turns dark?
  • How can faking confidence help restore hope?
  • What words help you find confidence?

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