John 1:1–5 (NIV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Alright, one more on verse five. We will move on just a bit tomorrow. But for now, note this simple reality as the Gospel of John helps define the relationship between light and dark. Jesus, this coming Christ Child, is the Word made flesh, the “everything” of life—and in the process, the light of the world. And that light, according to the author, has not been (or will not be) overcome by darkness. But there is a tension between light and dark that is confidently overcome by Christ. In order for there to be tension, or even a relationship between light and darkness, even one that is eventually overcome, there has to be a darkness in the first place.
If Christ is victorious over darkness, darkness has to exist.
If light penetrates the darkness, darkness must be a reality.
But we tend to twist darkness, sometimes denying its reality altogether or at least diminishing its effects. We tend to do one of two things. We either default darkness to the trials of life. As if the things of demanding schedules, inconveniences, or trouble are darkness themselves, thinking that if Christ is victorious over the darkness, my life would be easier, more manageable, or we’d finally feel free of trouble. We diminish darkness’s power to trouble and trial. Or, we deflect the reality of darkness altogether, convincing ourselves that our denial diminishes darkness. (Okay, I guess there’s a third way too. Sometimes, some give darkness power, treating it as equitable with God and believing that we’re helpless against its efforts and effects.)
None of these things accurately define or describe the reality of darkness. It is neither non-existent nor all-consuming; it’s not simplified as basic trials of human existence or the absence of darkness altogether. It is a force that can’t be denied. But it’s not of greater power than the one we worship. It is more than “trouble.” But it’s not made up for drama’s sake.
Darkness is (excuse my attempt at layman’s definitions of something so significant) a significant work of an enemy to separate us from God and the life found in him. And though we continue to live in its diminished effects, as Christ restrains the work of evil until the restoration of the kingdom, it is also a reality that stands powerless against the one who has already been victorious—because the darkness shall not overcome the light of Christ, and its work in the world.
But I get it. I really do. Life, with all its trouble and trial, its fairly constant frustration, and sometimes outright fury, can be so exhausting, so overwhelming, that it can feel like an attack. When most of the time, it is simply the aftermath of living in a fallen world that is reeling in the reality of death, destruction, disease, and despair. It’s more likely that our earthly issues are just that, issues like accidents, cancer, financial strain, physical stress, and so on. If you’re carrying around the burden of those things, the heaviness of that, it’s okay to bring your weariness before the Lord as felt darkness. But we should always temper those troubles with the truth that real darkness is an attempt to keep us from trusting God more, loving God more, living more in the light of Christ, and sharing his hope with the world. If your earthly pain feels like overwhelming darkness, and God feels far off, fight the real darkness that keeps you from drawing to God in it. After all, if the real darkness (the work of the enemy) has been defeated, then the light that breaks in on us is the reminder that the temporary pains that try to keep us from God’s life, love, joy, and peace, don’t have to take space in us either.
As we intentionally live into Advent and this season of hope-filled anticipation and preparation for Christ’s arrival and return, the light of the season can begin to break through in us when we measure our recognition of the darkness. When I struggle to get through hard days, darkness is not out to get me. If life were suddenly a bit easier, it’s not because darkness stopped its pursuit. I can’t just put blinders up and deny darkness’s efforts. But I also can’t let the reality of darkness consume me.
That’s where the promise comes in.
Is darkness a force to be reckoned with? Sure. Can we already access the power and promise that hold back its effects? Yes!
As we awaken to the light of Christ in us, as the light of Advent breaks in, we gain perspective on darkness’s power, and in so doing, we contain its potential. The reality of our difficult days, and the power of darkness that tries to keep us from the hope and peace of Christ, will one day disappear in God’s restored and redeemed kingdom. God with us again. Advent has us claim the promise of God’s already-arrived-on-earth victory and long for the day of his return. Between those two truths, we have all we need for the light to diminish the power of darkness.
Almighty God, Word made flesh, light of the world, we stand in overwhelming gratitude for your life and love that has eliminated the darkness we sometimes pretend isn’t a thing. We give thanks for your patience with us when we live as if the darkness is out to get us, forgetting that we aren’t bound by darkness’s deceit. Thank you for your life-giving love that defeated darkness for good. Thank you for drawing near when the darkness we feel seems to overwhelm us. Give us such confidence in your truth that we can keep the darkness from consuming us. And awaken us to where your light gently breaks in with promise. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you had a habit to give darkness too much credit? Or not enough? Why do you think you do that? Are there places where you need to let go of claiming darkness as the culprit for your trouble? Or are there places where you’ve let life’s trouble keep you from closeness with God, letting darkness win? If so, how might you change your thinking to claim Christ’s victory?
For the Awakening,