A leaden and snow-flecked sky drifts by outside my window tonight, as I ponder a question I feel compelled to put to you. It may be simple, but profoundly so: What will you do when the darkness wins? This question resides in all of us, but does the answer? Trust me, times will come, and have already, when the darkness will win. The forces of wrong that amass themselves against us will claim victories along the road of life. Light has vowed the last victory, but evil has it’s golden age now, and there are times in life when we feel it’s breath down our necks. When hope dwindles and our eyes grow dim because of the turmoil, within and without. What will be our response? What will be your response?
When the dryad maidens brought news of Aslan’s death, Peter was faced with a decision. To fall, to crumble, to concede, or to fight on, overthrowing the mountains of self-doubt and clouds of fear. The rabbit warrior, Picket, when crushed by guilt and torn by grief, believing himself incapable of pressing on, needed to be reminded of where his allegiance lay. These plights resonate with us because we all know the sting of heartache, loss or defeat. Everyone has felt the cold clench of grief or fear. But we as Christians should be exercising our ability to see what is on the other side of all the pain. If only “through a glass darkly,” we can still foresee with expectation the “end of the story.” A compass that points due hope. A needle that hovers over what our response to darkness must be.
Though not yet a parent, I look forward to exhibiting for my future children, the virtue of perseverance. Yes, all creation may be screaming at us to capitulate, but “greater is He that is in us, than he who is in the world.” So when night falls, and the battle is all but lost, our children should know, should see modeled in us, an attitude of victory despite the present sense of defeat. No matter how dark the midnight may be, morning has never failed to follow. If we will only have faith.
I say faith because the great reserves of strength we often need are not found solely in the recesses of our own resilience. A greater power must often intercede to heal our scars and pull us from the carnage of the battlefield. Gleaning hope and support from Christ Himself is crucial to victory in the evilest hours. When darkness appears to have the upper hand, it is then that Christ works his greatest plans. I have found that on the brink of despair itself, when life seems to have it out for me, God’s Word has been to me a lighthouse on a rock-bound coast. If not for His intervention in my seasons of turbulence, I would still be withering in the crossfire, wondering why I should even press on. But because of His strength in my weakest moments, I have never perished under starless skies.
Not only have I survived, but I believe the Lord has brought me out of the forests a stronger person for having been in the shadows. He has also used stories, both true and fictional, to buoy me up through those dark forests. I remember the first time I read A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach when the thieves throw Tree-ear’s precious pottery over the cliff. All of Tree-ear’s past, present, and future, are wrapped up in those two pieces of pottery, that now lie in hundreds of pieces on the river bed below. The flame of hope seems to be put out for good, but with a splutter and a flickering tongue it comes back to life and warms the air. Tree-ear has so little to hinge his hopes on, yet his resolve grows with every step. In that moment, when Tree-ear decides giving up is not an option, something in me exhales. If he could push through the hopelessness of his situations, so can I. I realize now that there is a Tree-ear in all of us. A voice that tells us to keep fighting, keep breathing, keep walking.
The universal story has shown us again and again that any hero worth his salt is not a conceder. Sir William Wallace, drenched in sweat and blood, is defeated wholesale by Edward I at Falkirk. Arlo, the good dinosaur, is shoved from a cliff while the evil pterodactyls carry away his friend, Spot. But Wallace returns to champion the cause of Scotland yet again, and Arlo throws caution to the wind as he rescues what was taken from him. Thus goes the universal flow of every beautiful tale. We get that thrill again and again as we relate to our heroes when they are beaten, and again when they rise. This is our story. As sons and daughters of God, our assurance of final victory should soar over our perception of the present darkness. We have joined the fundamental and ultimate story, playing the roll of its conquerors.
In the first few chapters of Revelation we are given seven beautiful promises for “he who conquers”. But conquering first implies fighting, which in turn indicates perseverance. At this point you will notice we have come full circle. All we need to do is read the scriptures to see how indispensable perseverance is to the christian walk. God has called us to a path of endurance, and we have no choice but to answer that call, or fall by the wayside. Beware that hopelessness is a harbinger of a greater malady – heartlessness. When we lose hope in the moments of acute loss or defeat, we show a lack of heart and fortitude. It becomes manifest that we are not drawing our strength from God. We say we can’t go on, we’re not strong enough. Not realizing that with Christ in us, we are stronger than anything this world can contrive against us. So when you feel darkness pushing you back, and the peripheral of your world begins to dim, remember this. You are a fellow heir with a warrior who, when sweating drops of blood and quaking beneath an awful weight of darkness, did not give up. Thanks be! He was an example to us, and now we in turn should be an example to our loved ones. So that in the end our children see a story, their story, in which darkness, ultimately, loses.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair….struck down, but not destroyed;” (2 Cor 4:8-9)