Hello. This entry began being typed over a somber week in our nations history. Several weeks ago on a Sunday morning a lone gunman entered an Orlando Nightclub, produced a firearm, pulled the trigger, and 50 people lost their lives before his own life was ended after police entered the building.. Just over a year ago, another lone gunman walked into a Charleston, South Carolina church, sat in the congregation during a weekly Bible study and then opened fire killing 9 souls. Even more recently, in the last two days, two African American men were shot and killed by police even though current evidence indicates allegedly that no crimes were committed. When events like this occur in life, we see nothing but a looming darkness. We ask, where is God? Where is justice? We ask the question people have been asking since the dawn of time. One simple word. WHY?
We watch the news, scan the internet and wonder why the unthinkable happens in our world. Some say it's because the nation doesn't have enough gun control laws. Opinions range from a government conspiracy to racially motivated shootings to the cost of sin and the damage done from the break up of the family. The bottom line is that lives have been lost and families and friends are left to grieve and attempt to pick up the pieces.
In my experience both at my former job at ARC, current responsibilities role a a foster dad and my internship as a counselor, I have been exposed to much darkness. I have met people who have experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence and humiliation either as a victim or perpetrator. My internship has brought me into contact with people who have committed harm to others and themselves. Anger and depression are rooted deep in their life. But even deeper are beliefs about themselves such as unlovable, inconvenient, worthless, and hopeless.
I met one client who lost her faith in God after her baby was stillborn. Another struggles to trust God when her family was broken up and she feels like she has no one. Privately she blames God and feels totally alone. Whether it is a person experiencing trials and tribulations or a community effected by evil, the question remains, persists and resonates with a loud, "WHY?"
So here are a few ideas from some pretty wise folks.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." -- Helen Keller
"If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete." Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
As cold as everything looks in winter, the sun has not forsaken us. He has only drawn away for a little, for good reasons, one of which is that we may learn that we cannot do without him. --George MacDonald
It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of Heaven. --The Apostle Paul
In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. --Jesus Christ
As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I can appreciate the honesty of Jesus. He says we will experience tribulation. If you follow the basis that because of sin, we live in a fallen world. So evil, hardship and suffering are part of the package, When the unthinkable occurs, we usually fall into two camps.
1. We run to God and cry out for His strength and help.
2. We cry out to God in anger, curse Him and run far away from him.
Over 20 years ago, I was in a community theater production. One of the actors, a wonderful older man asked me how God could allow the holocaust to happen? He was Jewish but I think he had lost the uniqueness of his faith. My reply was just something I was trying to grapple with. I explained that man's action is the result of us having free will. We have the power to choose and that means the power to inflict evil and harm on others. The power of choice comes at a cost. Just like I have the power to choose to have a relationship with God, I have the same power to choose to reject that relationship.
Sometimes we are persuaded in our choices by stirring words or charismatic people. In the case of the Holocaust the influence of one was vastly underestimated.
So now, when the unthinkable happens, we wonder why and how did we get to this point. I believe that since we are in a fallen world of sin and disbelief, it is here that the ultimate deceiver and tempter of our faith and life, Satan strikes by masquerading with a hidden agenda. The evil one is patient, diabolical and is described in the Bible as the thief who has come to kill, steal, and destroy. He doesn't care who he wipes out to or how many people have to hurt or suffer. He is thrilled when someone rejects God.
Jesus puts himself on the opposite end and says in response, that He has come so that we can have life and life to the fullest. But sometimes finding our life and living to the fullest comes through hardship and being in darkness.
He is our answer to helping us through the suffering, evil and pain of this world. When the tragedy of 911 happened, there was a sense of unity when people went to God for prayer. The congress of the United States stood on the Capital steps and sang God Bless America.
That is also the power of choice. It can be demoralizing when we see such darkness in our world. But I am thankful that even though I have experienced some dark times in my life, I have also seen light.
I have heard that it is often the darkest before the dawn. The earliest and perhaps most proper phrasing comes from English Theologian Thomas Fuller. His quote is, "It is always darkest before the day dawneth." The process that people have in darkness is usually something like this. "The phrase "darkest before dawn" has a great deal of meaning in describing human behavior. Action follows reaction; the more intense the reaction (the darker the hour), the more likely enlightenment will occur."
So as we have been looking at darkness in human behavior, what kind of impact if we allow it does light have?
This depends on the person. This person could have known light, but was smothered by darkness such as actions taken against them or by them. For example, in our experience with foster kids, some of them know only darkness because of the actions done against them. So they react and despite their best efforts, without help, continue to live in darkness because that is what they know. That is normal to them. When another way or "light" attempts to break through that darkness, it can becomes more terrifying for them then the darkness that they know. The light to them represents abnormality. A foreign concept. A functional person can see that light represents hope, love, wisdom and experience. It's represents a fundamental shift in how to live and how to handle the darkness. For someone that has lived a depressive life, it may take years to see the benefits of what this light can bring to them.
Let light be your guide:
If you find yourself struggling and wondering how to use God's light in your own darkness or the worlds, then perhaps these verses can help you. I believe it is also Gods light that can help us find hope even when we ask that question, "Why?"
1. Psalm 119: 105- "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
2. Matthew 4: 16 (Speaking about Jesus), "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
3. John 8:12: "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Thoughts to ponder and see if these verses can be of comfort and help to you in your spiritual journey. I started this post nearly 3 months ago when the Orlando shootings occured. Finally I am trying to wrap this up and say that at least from one perspective, this is an attempt to explain the dark actions of others and how light can overcome even the darkest of deeds. Is that wishful thinking? Perhaps it is to someone that deny's the light and the truth it brings. But for those that cling to it, the light is our very hope found in our savior Jesus Christ.
Lastly, I want to close with a few quotes from some famous people on what they think that light brings to this world. Thanks for reading and next time, a tribute to my father, George French. He passed away 2 weeks ago and I want to share some things about him and the lessons I have learned from him.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
Martin Luthor King, Jr.