As I write this, the first major eclipse in my part of the world in nearly 100 years is about to begin. Eclipses have fascinated and terrified us for millennia. The word itself, from the Greek ekleípō, means to “fail” or “abandon,” reminding us that throughout most of human history, eclipses have been viewed with horror as the sun’s “abandonment” of us, it’s “failure” to continue shining.
But eclipses are illusions. Not only is the sun still there, its image is obscured by a much smaller and relatively insignificant object. Not to dis our lovely, romantic moon, but it’s only a quarter the size of the earth, and a mere 400th the size of the sun. So how can it block our view?
In a word: Umbra. Because the moon is so near, its shadow (umbra) completely obscures our view of that much larger heavenly body. You can probably see me edging toward a metaphor here, so I’ll get to it.
I’m talking about fears. The things we fear are nearly always vastly smaller than they appear to be. If you hold your thumb up in front of your eyes, it can block anything from view: a skyscraper, a mountain range. It’s nowhere near as large as they are, but when it’s that close, it’s all you can see. Like giant thumbs, our fears are 10% real, and 90% illusion.
Jesus used the world ekleípō when he warned the Apostle Peter that he was about to face the greatest trial of his life, Jesus’s death and his own (Peter’s) betrayal: “I have prayed that your faith will not fail (be eclipsed by the illusion of abandonment),” Jesus says. “And when you have turned back (from that shadow upon your faith), strengthen others.” (Luke 22:32)
For the past few weeks, I have been struggling with health and financial issues that have obscured the unbroken light of God’s provision. I’m no newbie, so it’s only a penumbra (partial umbra). Nevertheless, I long—for myself and for those I love—to be completely free from shadows. But “count it all joy,” James encourages, because such trials, when faced with faith, make us stronger, they make us complete. (James 1:2-3)
Just as we moderns know that the sun has not failed us, I know my Creator has not failed me, and never will.
And I will never walk in darkness.
Companion piece: Unseen