The witness of many people who have survived unimaginable suffering suggests that light does eventually dawn even within the darkness of the most paralyzing pain.

The light may never fully dispel the darkness. But the space carved out in a broken heart will gradually grow big enough to make room for the light and the dark to exist again side by side.

The writer of the Gospel of John saw that

the light shines in the darkness.

This light does not entirely eliminate the dark. At the edge of the brightness darkness remains. The light does not insulate anyone against the possibility that the night shadows may again so encroach upon life that the light seems almost imperceptible.

We do not get to live in a world where it is light all the time. But it is the darkness that makes the light visible. We cannot have the one without the other. Both darkness and light are inextricable components in any truly human life.

Unless we are determined, by some strategy of death, to shut our hearts into a prison of self-protection, we will confront the inevitable reality that this painful mix of light and dark is the reality of this fragile material time-bound realm we inhabit.

But John the Gospel writer had one more thing to say about this darkness that surrounds the light on every side. The darkness may not be entirely banished by the light, but John holds firm to the faith that, no matter how dark it may at times appear, the darkness has “not overcome” the light. (John 1:5)

This is not some trite panacea for pain John offers here.

John knew the painful story he was going to tell in his Gospel narrative. He knew the troubling terrain Jesus was going to traverse. John was familiar with the dark lonely path of suffering through which Jesus must somehow find his way.

But John clung stubbornly to the truth he saw in Jesus’ life. Love cannot be defeated. There is a steady stream of life at the heart of the universe. It dwells, if imperceptibly at times, in the heart of every human being. Light does shine even when obscured by the most desperate darkness.

John faced with absolute honesty, the Via Dolorosa, “the way of grief”, Jesus was caused to walk. John did not flinch; he refused to look away. But he understood that the street upon which Jesus dragged his cruel cross did not end ultimately in a tomb; it led finally to a garden. It was the path of indestructible life Jesus walked on his way to Golgotha. There remains a path through pain. The suffering may never entirely end; but life continues. Love is reborn.

It is surely one of the enduring miracles of life that again and again people who have been beaten down by the greatest tragedy, somehow find within themselves a power even greater that enables them to get up and go on. They choose to live even in the face of the darkest realities imaginable. They turn back from the gaping abyss of death and embrace again the possibility of life.

How do those who hurt so deeply manage to turn towards the tiny shards of light they are still able to perceive? What is this power that day after day gets people out of bed in their darkest hour to to put one foot in front of the other and carry on?

This is the power that lives in the deepest recesses of every human being. Sometimes it is buried so deep behind the broken realities that it is almost impossible to perceive. But the force of life is always present. It is the power of life and it rises every day. Resurrection is not a one-time, long-ago event locked away in history. It is the journey of the human spirit. Resurrection is the embodiment of the transcendent power of love that will not be defeated.

So, no matter how frail life may feel, we can hold open our tender hearts to the pulse of life. Suffering and death are real and deeply painful. But if we allow the hurt to do its work we discover that suffering has the power to break open our hearts to a deeper awareness of the light present in even the darkest corner of life.