Candles in the dark


Many years ago, we took our three young children to see the famous Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. To show us what the cave must have looked like to the farmer who discovered them, the guide put out all the lights. That darkness was so thick I couldn’t see my hand in front of my eyes. There were probably about thirty people with me, and yet I could well have been alone.

At that point my eleven-year-old daughter said in a stage whisper to my youngest, “Don’t be scared David! The man has his finger on the light switch.”

Wow! What a blessed reminder!

  • Someone was in control.
  • Someone knew how to cancel the darkness.
  • Someone had his finger on the light switch.

After a few seconds, the man switched on a tiny light. It was only the equivalent to one small candle, but I could see outlines of the others in the cave and shadows of the stalactites and stalagmites.

Most important of all, I could see the guide once more.

Some years later, my life plunged into another type of deep thick darkness, the darkness of a cancer diagnosis. My surgeon gave me less than a year to live. (Over eighteen years ago!) A couple of days later, I received a phone call from a lady called Molly. “Shirley,” she said, “I wanted to tell you that I had your same diagnosis 35 years ago, and I’m still alive and well today.”

It was as if Molly had lit a candle for me. 35 years!

I learned to keep my eyes open for other candles that illuminated my path

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, I learned to keep my eyes open for other candles that illuminated my path. Eagles soaring overhead reminded me of the Scripture, “They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). A plane way up in the sky—I didn’t know anything about aerodynamics or how something so huge could fly—yet I knew someone was in control of it, and it would reach its destination.

Another candle. Another reminder. Someone was in control.

I received so much encouragement from people who had been there before me.

People who lit candles that helped me see the way. Friends gave me books and sent me cards. They shared time with me. Meals. Flowers. Chocolate. Especially chocolate! All these things said, “We believe in you. Here’s some light for your journey.”

Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light” (Luke 11:33).

If you are in the dark valley of cancer right now, look around for glimmers of light that remind you:

  • Someone is still in control.
  • Someone has His finger on the light switch.

And do what you can to light candles along the way for those coming behind you.

Shirley is the author of Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, a book of 90 encouraging messages based on Scripture and anecdotes from her own cancer journey. She is also the author of hundreds of inspirational articles published in print and online. She lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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2017-09-22T00:58:50+02:00 March 31st, 2016|Categories: Cancer, Testimony|Tags: , , |6 Comments


  1. Pam Laughton April 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    How very real Shirl. It is the small things in life that have the greatest impact. The little acts of love and caring.
    Beautifully written and so encouraging. Bless you.

    • Shirley Corder April 15, 2014 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pam. Try and get there next year. It was awesome.

    • Shirley Corder April 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pam. Yes, we tend to think it’s the big things — or that we have to wait until we’re over everything before we can help. Not true. If you’re in the dark, any little candle is a blessing.

  2. Judith Robl April 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    The source of the darkness doesn’t matter. It may be illness, death, financial woes, depression, PTSD, whatever. As long as God is in control there is light in the darkness. What a great reminder.

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