Thinking about the Dark
Steve Brown April 18th, 2013
(If you're on the front page of the site, click "Read More" to see audio player options and listen to a clip from Steve on the tragedy in Boston as heard on stations across the country.)
It’s April 18 and, as you know, our country has had a very bad week. It started with the bombing in Boston—which had some existential implications for me, given my many years in Boston and friends who live there. Then yesterday, our president, a senator and an official in Mississippi received letters that tested positive for the poison ricin. Then as I drove in this morning, I heard the horrible news of an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas with up to 15 people killed.
How does one deal with those kinds of tragedies? What does one think? And more important, how does a Christian deal with tragedy and think about it differently than those who are not believers?
Our reaction isn't that different from anybody else who is human and normal. We are horrified, confused, afraid, angry and compassionate just like everybody else. It’s really dishonoring to Christ and our witness when we pretend to be “outsiders of the human race” walking on a level different than that of others. Stick a Christian with a pin and he or she will bleed just like everybody else.
But there is a difference. First, it is the fact that we aren't surprised.
Once we have calmed down and had an attack of sanity, we know that evil exists and that we live in a fallen world. Contrary to so many in our culture, we know that evil is real and scary. Jesus said that in the world we would have an abundance of tribulations and Peter said that we shouldn't be “surprised.” The Bible is crystal clear about the implications of human sin (their sin and ours) and the dark is sometimes very dark. We aren't Home yet and anybody who pretends that we are (“tiptoeing through the tulips with Jesus”) deserves the derision that we receive from unbelievers.
But there is more than that, of course. We also know and worship a God who is good and who is in charge of this mess. We don’t know the details, but everything is under his benevolent and sovereign control. We’re frightened, but feel better when we notice that there isn't any perspiration on God’s upper lip. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
There is also one other thing that is different and isn't just the realism and the knowledge of the truth. That’s cerebral and propositional. And no matter how true the propositions and how accurate the perception, that won’t “keep us warm at night.”
The most important thing is to run to Jesus who accepts and understands our fears, who gets our confusion, and who understands our pain. It is there and only there that we have a gift—it is him and his Spirit. People who aren't believers run away from the explosion and we do too…but we run to him and that makes all the difference in the world. There is in the quiet calm of his presence the experience of rest and peace that Jesus promised and the world can’t give.
So let’s pray for those who have been so devastated and hurt. Let’s also remember to tell our friends about the only One who can lead us through the dark. Maybe they will listen because “when it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.”
Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage in the third century, wrote great wisdom to his young friend, Donatus:
“This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines. But if I were to ascend some high mountain and looked out over the wide lands, you know very well what I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret…They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life…These people, Donatus, are Christians and I am one of them.”
He asked me to remind you.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 18th, 2013 at 1:16 pm and is filed under Bombing, Boston, Boston Marathon, Crisis, Evil, Explosion, God, God's Goodness, God's Love, God's Sovereignty, Grace, Hope, Pain and Suffering, Steve Brown, Tragedy, West Texas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.