Sitting in Darkness
So December has sucked. A death in the family two days before Christmas, one of my favorite coworkers getting a job far away, and two of my dear friends waiting to hear the news that cancer has taken their loved one, far before even the most pessimistic doctors thought. Pain is crushing in its inevitability.
Christmas is usually my favorite time of year, precisely because it marks God’s great intervention into our pain, and into our condition. And I know all the right answers: We have this pain because of our own sin, God doesn’t have to do anything for us, yet He sent His Son for us, etc…but still. I’m wrestling with this God Who is good, all-powerful, and lets life happen this way. One of those three seems not to fit. I’m usually pretty good at soldiering on, at sewing up the wound just enough to fake a smile through another day, another church service, etc. But right now I’m out. Spent. My faith is no comfort to me; it just is.
And I guess that’s a blessing. This hasn’t made me doubt God’s existence so much as His character, His trustworthiness. At least I know there’s still someone running the universe and keeping the Sun from exploding. I even think He’s probably doing good things for a lot of other people. But for me? There’s no comfort in it at all right now. All the things I’m given to believe are ultimately not enough to answer my question, the one I think I’ve carried my whole life, perhaps from the first time I realized that my home was not going to be a safe place for me: “Is it going to be okay?” Is someone going to come for me? Fight for me? Let me be fallen and not turn away?
As I said, Christmas is usually good for me, and mostly because it seems that it answers all these questions with a resounding “Yes!” Yes, I have come for you. Yes, I will fight for you. Yes, I will-finally-make all of this okay. “…the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness.” (Luke 1:78-79) But it’s been a long time since Christmas. A long time since love came down, and we killed it for being so incomprehensible. A long time since love got up out of the grave and promised to come back.
And for all that, for all the cosmic import of that event, it still seems the world spins madly on, with us hurting each other, ourselves, and the God Who started it all. We are back to sitting in darkness again. So we wait for the second advent, the second and final time when all will be made right. Even that, though, is hard. I get that in some cosmic, eternal sense, once Jesus comes back it’ll all be okay. But until then? Is it just this darkness all the time? And even at that, when we talk about Jesus making it okay, we usually do so in terms of “Well, then none of this will matter.” Is that really in Scripture? Is that even human? “Just live your life, waiting for that glorious day when it all becomes futile and you realize none of it was all that important, so you really shouldn’t be upset about it now.” I need something now. Something for today, for tomorrow. I can’t just soldier on anymore.
I’ve been reading Psalm 88 a lot lately. I love it, because it’s the one place in Christianity I’m aware of where there’s just pain without someone trying to put a stupid bandaid on it. No “God has someone for you,” no “It’ll all be okay in the end,” just an honest human screaming at their distant and incomprehensible God. Well, perhaps Psalm 88 and Mark 15:34. Just sitting in darkness, with no platitudes or escape hatches, hoping against hope that God is coming to set all this right.
I’ve heard the Psalms described as a lover’s quarrel, and I think there’s some truth to that. There’s something of faith in a God who can hear such painful things, and certainly, no one shouts at a God they don’t believe exists. I think He’s there; I just can’t understand what He’s doing.
So here I am, with all the faith and doubt I have right now, which somehow both seem more real for the presence of the other:
Are You really for us? Do You really care? Because it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it, and meanwhile, hell is feeling much more sure.
We are sitting in darkness. Are You coming?