Scott Miller, dean of the BYU College of Humanities and professor of Asian & Near Eastern Languages, spoke at Tuesday’s devotional about having faith through times of darkness and uncertainty.
Miller began by comparing life to a student’s time at college. The student may face difficult exams and wish to give up, but those uncertain experiences help the student learn.
“Life is a complex system designed by loving heavenly parents to make us into better people and to prepare us to confront an eternity of expanding opportunities,” he said.
He then shared two examples of difficult, uncertain times from literature.
Finding beauty in the dark
The first example Miller shared was from Kajii Motojiro’s “A Picture Scroll of the Dark.” In this essay, Kajii tries to make peace with the darkness by walking through it at night without a lantern. In one scene, he encounters a fellow passenger and realizes that he does not walk in the darkness alone.
Many people (such as Moses, Lehi and Brigham Young) have walked in darkness—have been commanded to leave the light and comfort of their current situations to walk through new and uncertain ones, said Miller. We, too, should confront our own doubts and venture forward into the darkness.
“Our fear of the dark, or our bias against it, can blind us to a whole world of new and edifying experiences,” he said.
The darkness of God
The next example from literature Miller shared was T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker.” Eliot’s poem describes searching for God in the darkness. Eliot suggests that the darkness of God is not an empty void, but rather a place of possibility.
“Some of our greatest learning opportunities happen in our darkest times. Rather than stand frozen in our fear, we may reach out and discover God in those dark moments,” said Miller.
Crises of uncertainty
These fears from darkness described by Kajii and Eliot stem from uncertainty and doubt, said Miller. He outlined three kinds of doubt:
- Dropout doubt, which causes us to remove ourselves from opportunities to grow
“When we doubt because our unique spiritual journey is different from that of others…we may exit too soon, abandoning our faith and the personal growth it brings,” said Miller.
- Denial doubt, which avoids acknowledging any uncertainty
“Faith only materializes when we act upon it, move forward into the darkness, one step at a time, relying upon the momentum and trajectory our faith sets for us. When we pretend to have no doubt, our very fear of it keeps us from growing spiritually,” said Miller.
- Faithful doubt, which proceeds from humility and expands our souls
“It is when we combine humility about the limits of our own knowledge with honest questions about life’s perplexities that we demonstrate the kind of humble uncertainty that will expand our souls,” said Miller.
Miller concluded by saying, “We miss opportunities for discovery when we focus only on the light of what we know and are afraid to explore what lies beyond that familiarity.”
“The end of the lighted path marks the beginning of our spiritual journey. To make progress is to face the darkness.”