No Darkness Last Forever
Rich Christensen, a retired UCC seminary professor, shared with me the following short but powerful reflection. I share it with you, with his permission. Thank you, Rich.
Fifteen years ago, I heard one of the leaders of the Protestant Church in Germany make this striking statement:
The core of what Christ gives us is:
1) A true understanding of the human condition
2) The promise that we are never abandoned, never left alone
3) The hope that no darkness lasts forever.
Let’s take them one at a time.
1) “A true understanding of the human condition.” Human beings are complex, paradoxical creatures. We are in many ways weak and vulnerable, easily falling victim to disease or accidents. Yet we can also demonstrate great strength to the point of enduring terribly difficult circumstances.
Also, humans are capable of committing great evil or of being silent in the face of evil.
But we are also capable of extraordinary sacrificial love.
So a true understanding of the human condition means that we can be neither pessimists nor optimists about human nature. We are flawed and yet capable of great good. We cannot assume that someone is so bad that he or she cannot be redeemed. And we cannot assume that someone is so good that they have no need at all of redemption.
2) “We are never left alone.” In the early 1980’s I heard Bishop Desmond Tutu tell of a friend who had been arrested by the apartheid government of South Africa. His friend was held, without any charges ever filed against him, in solitary confinement for 230 straight days. Then, without prior notice, and still never charged with a crime, the government set him free from prison. Bishop Tutu and a number of the man’s friends had a welcome home party for the man. Several people said to him, “Tell us: how are you after this terrible time?” He replied, “My friends, thank you for praying for me while I was in prison. Now I know the truth of Jesus’ promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’ “
He knew that Christ on the cross shared the depths of human suffering, even our worst experiences, and that therefore the living God is with us and does not abandon us, not even in our most desperate, lonely times. When Christ cries out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that is precisely the point at which we know that he is most surely with us, that he has entered into even our most despairing moments.
3) “The hope that no darkness lasts forever.” We can feel completely overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control, circumstances that seem to have no measure of hope in them at all, when we have no resources to draw on and no possibility of escape.
But even when people think they have no power to overcome the darkness, the light can break through in ways that are least expected. In a small town in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in the 1940’s, a local theater group had prepared a play to present. The theater filled with townspeople. Fifteen minutes before the curtain was to go up, two Gestapo officers came in the theater to speak to the manager. They told him he had to go on stage and make the announcement that the play could not begin until all Jews had left the theater. Reluctantly, the manager went on stage and said, “I have been instructed that the curtain will not go up until all Jews have left the theater.” At that moment, the entire audience stood up and left the theater.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
A reminder. I will be giving a lecture titled, “How To Live When Things Fall Apart” to inaugurate a new lecture series at Desert Garden UCC in Sun City, Arizona on Saturday, October 10, at 10:00. If you’d like to join me via Zoom go to the Desert Garden website by clicking on the link above and register. It’s free! The lecture runs from 10:00 to 11:00. After a break there will be a Q. and A. session. Clergy who register and participate are eligible for two CEU credits.