For nearly all my life, I’ve been confounded by this notion: God’s perfect choice to feel as Man feels, the crushing grief of losing a friend, and the struggle of simultaneously knowing eternal hope and temporal despair. Why would divinity choose to weep? What, within all infinite understanding, leads one willingly to suffer?
And if God would embrace this momentary darkness, what does that mean for us?
At the time I am writing this, my life is in a new season, albeit one of sorrow and reflection. A few weeks ago my pastor announced to our church that he had been diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. His estimated lifespan had gone from an average of 20 years to an average of 20 months. Anyone who loves their pastor knows how upsetting this sort of news would be.
Not long after this, I asked my pastor how he had first discovered the cancer. He said he had gone in for a basic checkup in order to be ready for an international mission trip he was planning to go on. During the checkup, the doctor had noticed something out of the ordinary and asked if he’d come back for a second visit to have some additional tests taken. That was all it took.
While reflecting on this, he said, “Had I decided earlier not go on that trip, I would have never made that first doctors appointment. I’d still be walking around without knowing I had cancer.” Such a sobering possibility led me to wonder if I, too, was walking around with a cancer inside me, carrying on without any notion that I was the keeper of my own poison. And the more I reflected on this thought, the more I understood that this is exactly what’s happening – to all of us! We are born cancerous, the disease of sin running through our veins. We are broken, selfish, wayward creatures whose rebellious nature is, quite literally, going to be the death of us.
As Christians, we know that this darkness has been looming over us ever since the Fall. We are not the innovators in this scenario. And yet, even as I’m writing this, I’m reminded that when death was introduced into the world, God was also introducing life: a second life, the eternal life. Certainly, Adam and Eve were cursed for their pride, but God created a greater blessing for them and all humanity. This is the kind of God we know: one that will allow darkness only where the light can overcome it.
Knowing this fact – as a reality – is divinely empowering. We are not afraid of death and sin. No, we are more than conquerors, capturing the darkness and bending it toward the light. This is our revelation: we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
How deep are the marks of our infidelity, where chains once bound us. And yet, how much greater the freedom, having broken these chains asunder!
How sullen the drone of the alcoholic. Still, more glorious is the song of the one recovered!
How wretched the curse of the prodigal sons and daughters. Yet, far more amazing is the shout of the children returning.
Men of God, creative ambassadors, I implore you: do not shrink back from the darkness. Make it bring forth the light! Let righteousness begin with an acknowledgment of our wrongness. Let the cure be heralded by those once sick. Let the Way be shown by those who were lost.
I am grateful to live in an era where pastors preach with the authority of God’s Word while simultaneously realizing, in humility, that every shepherd is himself a sheep. “Thus saith the pastor” has given way to “this is what I’m struggling with”. Vulnerability produces trust, and trust allows for transformation. This honesty – in our sermons, in our songs, in our stories, in our lives – will amaze us: our greatest weaknesses become our greatest outreaches. What we considered years squandered – vile decisions and vast mistakes – will be transformed by the Gospel, being given purpose in our lives and the eternity of others. Nothing is wasted.
This is our task here on earth: allowing our imperfection to point to One perfect. We will reside in this fallen world, but we will rise above it. We will sing this song: there’s a day coming when all of darkness will be bursting into light. And the glory of our Savior, the one weeping for His friend, will bring forth a new earth where there is no weeping, no pain, no sin, and no death. Hallelujah!