Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. —Psalm 85:10–11
The darkness will never totally go away. I’ve worked long enough in ministry to know that darkness isn’t going to disappear, but that, as John’s Gospel says, “the light shines on inside of the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it” (1:5). Such is the Christian form of yin-yang, our own belief in paradox and mystery.
We must all hope and work to eliminate darkness, especially in many of the great social issues of our time. We wish world hunger could be eliminated. We wish we could stop wasting the earth’s resources on armaments. We wish we could stop killing people from womb to tomb. But at a certain point, we have to surrender to the fact that the darkness has always been here, and the only real question is how to receive the light and spread the light. That is not capitulation any more than the cross was capitulation. It is real transformation into the absolutely unique character and program of the risen Christ.
What we need to do is recognize what is, in fact, darkness and then learn how to live in creative and courageous relationship to it. In other words, don’t name darkness light. Don’t name darkness good, which is the seduction that has happened to many of our people on both left and right. They have not been taught wisdom or discernment for the most part. The most common way to release our inner tension is to cease calling darkness darkness and to pretend it is passable light. Another way to release your inner tension is to stand angrily, obsessively against it, but then you become a mirror image of it. Everyone can usually see this but you!
Our Christian wisdom is to name the darkness as darkness, and the Light as light, and to learn how to live and work in the Light so that the darkness does not overcome us.
If we have a pie-in-the-sky, everything-is-beautiful attitude, we are in fact going to be trapped by the darkness because we are not seeing clearly enough to separate the wheat from the chaff (the more common “liberal” temptation).
Conversely, if we can only see the darkness and forget the more foundational Light, we will be destroyed by our own negativity and fanaticism, or we will naively think we are apart from the darkness (the more common “conservative” temptations). Instead, we must wait and work with hope inside of the darkness—while never doubting the light that God always is—and that we are too (Mt 5:14). That is the narrow birth canal of God into the world—through the darkness and into an ever greater Light.
Reflection: In what parts of your life are you trying to push away darkness instead of living with it as a teacher and transformer?