My 4 year old son just started to fear darkness. It had never bothered him before, so the first time he wanted a nightlight I took note. Nothing taught him to fear the darkness, and he does not seem to fear what might be in the darkness. It is simply darkness itself he fears, and that fear sprang up by nature. At this age he is bursting with innocence, and he hates darkness, and he loves light.
We have all experienced a taste of darkness in our own lives. Not the darkness of a closed room or a moonless night, but the darkness of realizing that sin comes from within man’s heart. What was your first glimpse of evil? Maybe it was seeing someone abusing an animal, or worse, a sibling. Maybe it was something done to you. Whatever it is, we try hard to forget it. The nature of man is to ignore that man’s nature is evil. We want to see the best in each other, and lately it seems I have heard more and more about, “the light in all of us.” I’m not denying that we have the ability to do great good, but it is man who does great evil.
Two days ago I sat in a coffee shop with a man who fights darkness. He lives to fight against human trafficking, and that takes him into places where really bad things happen. In our conversation he talked about genocide, and rape, and murder, and injustices done by those who should be seeking justice; of people whose limbs have been mutilated or cut off, and who have watched their children starve. He talked of people who place no value on their own lives, because they have been told their whole lives that they have no value. He talked of people being sold. SOLD. In the present, not centuries ago. At a point where we both sat fighting back tears, I asked him, “John, do you ever feel like you have seen too much darkness?"
The question came from a recent struggle of my own. I’ve just come home to Thailand after a few months in the states. It was a really great visit - amazing food, both physically and spiritually. I gained about a half pound per week, and we were super encouraged by hearing great preaching and music in our heart language. It was a time of really bright light spiritually, of renewal and refreshing. Now I am back home, and on a diet to lose all my America fat.
When we got back, I really noticed the darkness again. Wherever you live, there is darkness. Even inside you, there is darkness - evil. But you are quite used to it. In fact, you won’t often notice it unless you are really trying. We’re all scared of the dark, so we play mind games to cope with its continual presence. We pretend it is not there. We excuse it in ourselves, and make deals with the people closest to us: If they will excuse our evil, we will let theirs slide as well. Our pupils adjust. It gets darker, but we can still make out shapes, so we just go on.
I feel like my family is living on the edge of darkness, in a way. Our home is a bright and beautiful place, but we see darkness every day. My wife came home from teaching in the women’s prison the other day and shared some really startling observations about the decay of culture and acceptance of abomination. For just a moment I pictured us on the edge of a precipice, one hand holding onto a rope above, the other grasping for someone’s hand in the darkness below. It made me really grateful for the people above us holding that rope.
“Have you seen too much darkness?” I asked him. “Does it ever weigh on you too heavy - cause discouragement or depression? What do you do when you feel like you’re crossing a line?"
John told me of a trip into a place where they had to pull some strings to get there by helicopter, the edge of a genocide zone. The things they saw every day, all day made my stomach churn just to hear a brief description. He said that at the end of every day the team he was with would stop to pray together, and weep over what they had witnessed. “Our greatest fear was that we would stop feeling sick over it”, he said. “We prayed every night that we would not start thinking that it was not a big deal because it was just a _____ese person, it wasn’t someone from our country."
I have heard the question so many times, “If God is really a good God, and all-powerful, then why does he allow evil? Why doesn’t he do something about it? There are great theological answers, far more exhaustive than this, but when I hear that question now, it rearranges itself in my mind. Perhaps God would like to ask of us, “If man is made in God’s image, why does he allow and commit evil? Why don’t you do something about it?"
14 Ye are the light of the world….
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.