For a majority of fairytales, the ending is often the same, “they lived happily ever after.”As the story comes to its end, the couple now joined together in their love are swept away into a life of everlasting happiness. At least, this is how the story is told. Yet, most of us probably have concluded that this is why these stories are called “fairytales.” We know that in the real world, happily ever after is not a reality. While we may share in happy moments and days, they don’t last forever. We can go from a mountaintop peak of happiness at one moment only to find ourselves trudging through a valley of despair the next. As much as we wish for a perfect world of happiness, we realize that it just does not exist.
Gilda Radner, one of the first cast members of Saturday Night Live, died from cancer at the early age of 43. She provided some of the hilarious characters on the show. She once wrote, “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.”Indeed, life can be messy at times. Life doesn’t always fall into place like we had hope. Instead, we encounter disappointments, disillusionment, and defeat.
Throughout the book of Psalms, we read the prayers of people who faced times of trial and tribulation. In these readings, we see real people facing real struggles. Some have suggested that Psalm 88 might be the saddest. It ends this way, “You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18) For the writer, when they considered the closes person to them, it was darkness.
At some point in each of our lives, darkness becomes a close neighbor. It moves in next door. Soon we find ourselves struggling with the new neighbor. How long will they be with us? How long will we be with them? There are no easy answers to such questions. Darkness can linger longer than we would like.
However, darkness is not forever after. God’s light is eternal. And God’s light shines forth with the good news of hope. Hope can dispel the darkness and bring light into our most difficult days. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus steps into our lives as our neighbor, our friend. Jesus is our friend in the darkness. And in our darkness, Jesus’light can lead us through and out of the darkness. It may not happen instantaneously or quickly, but it will happen. Light will ultimately have the final word. Light will finally be ever after, and true joy will follow.
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is often a result of external events. Joy originates from an inner confidence of faith and trust that sees the bigger picture of God working in our lives. The scriptures teach that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Psalm 28:7) We can live in joy, even when the external circumstances are not producing happiness. God’s joy gives us the strength to press forward through our current situation that God will bring us to a better day.