Through the Darkness to God

Yael Eckstein  |  February 8, 2024

Dark clouds

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. — Exodus 20:20-21

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23.

I remember as a child watching in awe as my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, prayed. Wrapped in his prayer shawl, his eyes closed tightly, he prayed with such fervor. It was clear to me that my father talked to God as though God were his best friend. I wondered what his secret was, how my father developed such a genuine relationship with the Master of the Universe.

When I was older, and I learned about the difficulties my father faced building The Fellowship—from keeping our family financially afloat to facing painful criticism—I wondered if perhaps that was his secret. None of us wishes for adversity in our lives. However, as I’ve learned, nothing propels us toward the light like darkness does. Our hardships can often guide us right into the arms of God.

Through the Darkness to God

In this week’s Torah portion, we read that when God appeared to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, they became extremely frightened. Moses tried to encourage them, but they stayed fearful and “remained at a distance.” Moses, however, walked closer to God. The verse tells us that, “Moses approached the thick darkness…” He kept walking through darkness because he understood that the darkness was “where God was.”

We all go through dark times. For some of us it can be financial difficulties, for others it can be outright poverty. For some people it can be a seemingly irreparable marriage, and for others it can be a painful relationship with a family member. We might experience the loss of a loved one. We might experience illness—our own or that of someone we cherish. But what is our reaction to dark times? Do we keep our distance from God? Or do we get closer to Him?

Going through dark times can make us feel far from God and many people remain distant. But Moses teaches us an amazing lesson in these verses—God is in the darkness! Dark times are not the time to turn away from God—they are precisely the moment to draw closer to Him. And when we do, we can cultivate a profound relationship with God—one that we can count on and enjoy for the rest of our lives.

Your Turn:

Whether you are going through tough times or enjoying an easier season of life, take some extra time today to cultivate your relationship with God through heartfelt prayer, Bible study, or just being still with Him.