What to do if you feel like you are in a “dark” place.

I think that all of us have a story from our childhood of being really, really scared. I was probably around 6 or 7 when we were on a Family Holiday and we went to the Cango Caves (See picture) in the Eastern Cape. My mother, who suffered with claustrophobia never went into the massive underground caves, but waited outside where my father, my brother and I went on the guided tour.

At first it was thrilling seeing these massive underground caverns with the stalagmites and other rock formations. They were beautifully lit and very inviting. But as the tour progressed, the passages between the caves became smaller and the caverns themselves also became smaller.

We finally reached a point where we had to make a decision. Do we go up this tiny tunnel and work ourselves through to another exit? Or do we go back the way we came with another guide? My father, brother and I were a little undecided. So we took the narrow, tiny tunnel option. Our four-legged crawl changed to a “slide on your back through the dark tunnel” mode, and I became both frightened and claustrophobic. Because we were the last to enter the tunnel, my father suggested we go back. Thankfully we did – but as we re-entered the cavern we had come from it was in total darkness.

My anxiety and fear just went up a few more notches. Stories of being lost underground in the dark, damp caves began to flood my mind as we sat in the silent, pitch-blackness. After about 20 minutes, which felt like a lifetime, the next tour group came through with the guide turning on the lights and all was well.

I write this because sometimes we as leaders, in a moment of indecision, can find ourselves in the dark. We retrace our steps and wait for what feels like a lifetime until the “lights come back on”.

Over the last while I have watched a few friends of mine experience the “lights going off”, leaving them a little vulnerable and afraid. Some are still waiting for the lights to come on.

What does one do in this situation? Here are some thoughts:

  • Deal with the fear. Fear is nasty companion. It has a tendency to play out scenarios that probably will never happen.
  • Find a secure “waiting” place. Don’t rush around, but try find something you can “hold onto” while you wait for clarity and the next step.
  • Seek the voice/presence of your Father. For me being in the dark cave with my father helped me overcome. Let God be close to you.
  • Recall other times you have been in tight situations and gain courage from there.

Hope the light comes on soon!

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