When the darkness sweeps in

“1 dead, 19 injured after crash”

This is the sort of news that is becoming routine in our world today.  Here, a car barreled into non-violent protesters. We would link it to a terror attack, except this is not. It happened in the US of A – the land of the free and brave.

Some say it is getting darker. Most deplore the darkness. Some evil seem so obvious, like ISIS.

Many are eager to expect others to condemn and speak up. We look to leaders, spiritual and political to hand out answers and police the situations. But the news essentially never changes.

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We need to keep praying for courageous leaders to emerge. Power is an attractive thing, and the good are often not drawn to it.

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Other influencers, educated, powerful men and women, can become blind to the darkness in their hearts so that the darkness in each connects and coagulates and becomes a huge blob that snuffs out sense and light.

We need to pray for philosophies and practices that are driven by greed and fear to dismantle.

But it isn’t just the folks who rule. 

Each of us is a little kingdom to our self, and we each have influence, often greater than we ever considered.

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The Bible tells us that darkness lurks in all our hearts. With the speed of information spread today, and little time for journalists to do deep research, many of us are agreeing too quickly on shaky facts, and often we are adding to the vitriol. Much of it seem harmless: voicing our opinions, defending our positions, highlighting our preferences.

This is why any teaching that does not call each of us to account for our thoughts and deeds is far from the truth, and will never enable us to grow into our calling to be peacemakers.

From systemic darkness to personal demons, there is a way to understand this:

“…the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient…gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” ~ Ephesians 2v2-3
It is personal.

There is a personality behind darkness.

This is the personality of actual human leaders. It is also the personality of a sinister and strong force that is against all that is light, good, truth, hope.

It is an opportunistic being that weighs in on our human ambition, the desire for revenge, payback for injustice suffered, our need for recognition and applause…. riding on what seems reasonable, the darkness embeds into our souls. When given time to grow beneath the surface, it can erupt as rage, murder, rampage, genocide.

We under-estimate the reality of darkness and ignore the forces of evil that lurk beyond our physical senses, to our peril.

The Bible does not whitewash this harsh reality. It refers to moments and a cataclysmic time:
“when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” ~ Ephesians 6v13
Has a day of evil come upon you?
There will be dark and incredibly difficult days ahead.

Thankfully, we are asked to do what we can: stand.

There are days when evil can come suddenly to plow us down.

At such times, all that is required of us is to stay standing.

Recently I was at a passing out parade of several platoons of soldiers. The parade wasn’t very long, but I remember my own days when I loved to march as a member of the Girls’ Brigade. The pride of marching however, dissipated quickly when the sun beat down, we felt thirsty, our stomachs growl and our legs begin to buckle. Only two things kept us standing: knowing we could not walk away, and trusting that we can actually do this or the officers would not require it of us.

Will we walk away when it gets hard?
Do we trust that the tough times are still a part of God’s good and perfect will?

It seems to me, as old songs have a tendency to float back into my consciousness unbidden these days, that we took these challenges far more seriously in the past. We had songs like “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through”. But some of our luxuriant homes and lifetsyles (pastors included) makes me wonder if we have not sold our passport to heaven coz’ it’s just got so good here on earth.

Sir Glubb’s* prescient essay about the rise and fall of great nations names ‘the good times’ as that which undermines our ability to stand and stay true, and so to give way. Wealth and ease weaken us.

God actually has a strategy for this, which we need to recapture in our homes and churches.

1] Accountability for personal growth: unless we will be open and vulnerable, we cannot help shine light and dispel darkness. How many are feeling lost, lonely, afraid. far from God – even as they may go through the motions of faith?

2] Contemplation for spiritual resilience: unless we fill our hearts and minds with things above, all of our senses will hold us hostage. How many are battling emotions and thoughts that weigh them down and cause confusion and a loss of vision for life?

3] Encourage each other: this is not merely gathering together to reinforce our platitudes such as “God is good, all the time”. It is a serious effort to share our possessions and resources so that we can together enjoy God’s bounty towards our needs. How many are struggling to make ends meet and wondering if God has chosen not to bless them?

This A.C.E. strategy is very hard to teach and implement. Yet it is also really very simple and powerful. The best place to start is to live it ourselves, in increasing measure.

And then, we must pray for our leaders in all fields, so that we may live our lives with godliness and dignity.

Sir Glubb’s essay as referenced on Today paper

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