Faith in a Dark World

candles-224565_640

I see the sun for about twenty seconds on a given weekday. I fall in its’ path as I pull up on the rising freeway on my way to work. I watch it pour and sparkle across the snow shrouded homes and rows of trees until it comes on my face as I stare longingly into it. It gets dark very early now, so I know I won’t see the sun until this time tomorrow.

 

I’m in a darkness I do not understand. Winter, for me, always arrives in different degrees of intensity. Some seasons are very hard, then others, I can manage. Consistently, though, the darkness seems to play into some inner angst: I come swimming into the winter, working my way toward wellness, and I am at once hit by wave after wave of bitter cold wind and shorter and sharper days, but this winter is somehow different.

 

This winter, I know who I am and I love myself. All things inside are chirping away happily. All things considered, I have a clean bill of emotional health.

 

So maybe I should count it a blessing that this winter, I am not so inwardly focused. I am staring out. Eyes are wide open. Maybe I would, maybe I could, count blessings, if I wasn’t pinned on my back by the dark of the world.  It is a fallen wall on top me. The whole world is groaning. I hear it, I see it and I cannot stop.

 

I felt it first in the force of a six-year-olds’ anger: a small boy who tells me he likes to hurt people, whispers death threats on his teachers, and says red is favorite color because of blood. No matter how much I affirm him as good and kind inside, his haunting words keep coming out. And I can’t help, but wonder if God is asleep at the wheel with this boy.

 

The dark floods in again with the News and my inbox, suddenly filled with real stories of sexual abuse. And it is such heavy dark.

 

Two people stood on the church stage the other night, both recovering addicts, both telling their stories of failed suicide attempts. For one, the rope broke. For the other, the gun jammed. We stood in applause at the God that surely intervened, shoving them away from the abyss, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those for whom the rope held strong, the gun didn’t jam. Those in violent neighborhoods with bullets flying into their house. The family in Syria there, then gone. The unpredictable dark that keeps torpedoing all around us, and we’re so selective in how we question it.

 

It’s enough to make faith feel foolish.

 

It doesn’t help me when I hear one pastor (just the other night) launch into an exhortation about how “if you’re praying to Allah, you’re in trouble. If you’re praying to Buddha, you’re in trouble. We all have to bow down to the one true King.” There are other less toxic expressions, like God is God, and I am limited, and He’s Got a Purpose, but all in all, it’s the same rug covering of the hard questions no one wants to ask.

 

Because what about the Muslims? The Buddhists? Those raised to believe in something else entirely? What about those non-believers departed in successful suicides? What about the abused? The refugees crawling toward the border? The very old one suffering endlessly in a nursing home, ready for this all to be done?

 

What about the six-year-old boy becoming one with the darkness?

 

I am confused. I am looking up, like Sarah Bessey, asking, “where are you? Wake up! Take over! Heal! Be!

 

I am looking still.

 

I am waiting in the grief of longing. Of wanting my faith to fit in this world that is densely dark. I am letting Advent come to me, try and prove me wrong. I am hanging on to the early sight of sun. I am clutching my pouch of mustard seeds. I am trying and waiting and hoping, not in the impossible answers to arrive, but in some kind of real peace. The one that isn’t trite, that isn’t phony, that is not a rug. The one that sails this faith into the deep of the darkness and remains unaffected, floating, strong.

 

  • Anna

    Such a well done piece, thank you for sharing. I don’t know your struggle, but I’m sure many can identify with the feelings and emotions. With wanting the wrongs to be righted. With brokenness in ourselves and others. With “waiting in the grief of longing”… such a powerful thought. Praying today that you experience Hope and enjoy His mercy and grace.

  • Kathy Arnold

    I feel your discouragement and have often wrestled with these thoughts too because we have been taught “you live one life and then the judgement” which conjures up a foreboding image of everyone but believers in this life being lost. Yet I wonder what is really going to take place when we all meet God the Father face to face. Jesus is there beside Him and Jesus is the one who is able to intervene. The questions of abuse, suicide, mental illness and unbelievers will be raised and all hearts revealed. I have often day dreamed about masses of people being saved on judgement day. What a lovely act of grace that would be! So I am holding on to a perception of God as desiring mercy and Jesus as our Redeemer. I can’t say that I am not shaken from time to time but I do keep coming back this thought of mercy and redemption being offered equally to all. I hope you will find more peace in your thoughts as time goes on.

  • Aidan Bird

    Thank you for writing this. That dark place you describe so well has been where I’ve been for years now. I’m still struggling to find any substance to the tattered remains of my faith. That question of “Where are you?” I’ve cried out so many times with no answer. So many Christian denominations in American have become something other than a source of love, and instead are sources of condemnation, and so I’ve learned to avoid those places out of protection for my own well-being. I’ve become the wanderer, the lost soul, who seeks a route home but has yet to find it. I very much understand and can relate to everything you write here.

    I can’t say that things ever get better, and I don’t try to tell that to people anymore. All you can do is know that it’s okay to feel pain. It’s okay to feel suffering. That it’s okay. Take the time you need to listen, to heal, and/or to be with those in need and with yourself. Society tries so often to hide suffering and to shame those who suffer, but that’s a falsehood that needs to be broken down – there’s nothing inherently wrong with suffering. Many people who suffer aren’t suffering because they’ve committed horrible sins and are being punished by God — that sort of thinking only leads to more condemnation and hatred that adds to the suffering. Instead, we need to approach it more like you state here: with your hands full of mustard seeds, seeking answers, listening and seeing people as they are. Acknowledging that’s where they are right now, and hoping, praying that goodness and love will spring forth, even in the darkest spots.

    For if there’s one thing I cling to in my dark times is that one verse in 1 John: God is love. And Love is the fulfillment of the law. So wherever there is love — true love that accepts and holds great empathy toward the other person — then there is God. And sometimes it’s hard to see that love because it’s hidden by all the darkness and pain. It’s like a candle hidden under a bush, the light so dim we barely see it. But the light is there. It’s always there. Just that with some people, they need help and time and a safe place to let that light come out and shine.