Dec. 22 is the winter solstice in Indiana. Sunrise (8:03 a.m.) to sunset (5:24 p.m.) on this shortest day of 2015 will give us only 9 hours, 21 minutes of light.
For many people, short winter days with little sunlight lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can cause major depression problems; according to Wikipedia, it affects from 1.4 percent of people in Florida to 9.9 percent of people in Alaska.
My friends who live in Bethel, Alaska, have confirmed that almost all 5,000 residents of Bethel have sunlamps in their homes to help them avoid illnesses caused by months of winter sun deprivation.
In this Christmas season, I am reminded regularly that there is another type of “SAD” illness that is even more common and more destructive. It is “Son Absent Disorder” and is very common in Greenfield. Symptoms include alcoholism, drug abuse, child neglect, sexual promiscuity, marriage failures, suicide, hopelessness and broken lives.
Seasonal affective disorder can often be cured with sun lamp treatments. Son Absent Disorder grows within a human heart and requires spiritual healing that only Jesus, the Son of God, can give.
My recent conversation with a Greenfield store clerk reminded me that God has provided hope for Son Absent Disorder if we desire to be healed.
The clerk was 30 years old and had experienced three failed marriages. I asked what she had learned from these failures. Her immediate response was that she had great difficulty trusting men.
Time and her work responsibilities did not permit us to talk more in depth, but my immediate diagnosis was clear. This articulate young woman had experienced deep personal darkness and needed Son Light in her life.
Two promises from the lips of Jesus carry profound implications for every person who has experienced or will experience personal darkness.
First, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He did not promise that darkness would never come. He did promise that living in the Son’s light would make us stronger and more resilient when we face the darkness, and we will have light to walk out of it.
In 1991, I came face to face with the darkness of life-threatening cancer. I was 45 when my doctor simply said, “You have Stage 3 cancer and will be dead in six months without treatment.” His words may seem harsh, but I had asked him for the truth.
During major surgery and months of chemotherapy, I often thought back to 1965. That summer I had knelt in wood chips at a Christian camp altar in South Georgia and committed my life to following the Son of God no matter what happened.
The cancer became a John 8:12 experience of new life for me. I walked through shadows of deep darkness, but the Son light of Christ never left or faded.
John also records that Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)
This is perhaps an even greater promise than John 8:12. A person does not need to take up permanent residence in people, places or events of darkness. Son light leads us and opens doors of hope.
Probably the most inspirational person I have heard speak is Nick Vujicic. He was born in 1982 with no arms or legs. It would have been easy to sink into darkness and despair.
Instead, Nick focused his life on Jesus and sharing Christ with any persons he could reach. He now travels the world reaching thousands with a message of light and hope. Nick recently said, “I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but he does make miracles. I am one. You are, too.” (lifewithoutlimbs.org)
Tuesday will be the shortest day of 2015, but Wednesday begins a steady increase in sunlight up to the longest day of 2016 on June 20.
God has promised in the Bible that our darkest day will become light if we will come to the Son. The first step begins today.
Dr. Mike Hopper is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.