So the world’s broken my heart a few times in the last week. I think that can be said for most people. We’ve switched on the news and been gripped by sadness, shock, fear and emotion in various ways. We’ve stood with friends and strangers. We’ve been moved.
In the face of darkness.
Looking out at our world, reflecting on the fact that it’s feeling pretty darn dark.
I haven’t had the words for some of the questions. I haven’t had the answers. But yet, this morning as I sit in my little warm house, gazing out at the darkness, there is one unshakeable fact that I know without a doubt to be true.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The light shines in the pitch-black-fear-invoking-hidden darkness, and that same darkness has never, can never and will never overcome it.
The light shines in the deepest darkest corners of our world. Our cities. Our lives. Our past. Our sin. Our mistakes. Our fears. And those things can do nothing, not one thing to make the light shudder for even a tiny second.
The darkness will never overcome the light.
The light is, for want of a better word, invincible.
Completely, and utterly indestructible.
If we go right back to Genesis, we see God doing what it has always been in His nature to do. He said ‘Let there be light’, and that light penetrated the formlessness of the dark.
And darkness can only exist in the absence of light.
And so right now, it’s easy to be afraid. It’s easy to let our fear drive us to close our doors and our hearts. To hide in the fear of our own grief and our own darkness.
But all through the Bible, God tells His people time and time again to not be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Do not fear.
Fix your eyes not on the darkness, but on the Light that penetrates it.
And it’s kind of ironic, because all through the Bible, the one thing that we see again and again, is people being afraid.
The mighty men and women of God, the people of faith, the disciples. So often they were afraid. They looked out into the darkness and it deep-down scared them.
Even when Jesus says to not fear.
It’s like that time the disciples were on the boat (well, one of the times they were on the boat…). Jesus had told them to go to the other side of the lake and so they had gone. But He hadn’t joined them. He’d insisted they go but He hadn’t gone with them.
Let’s pick this story up from Mark 6. It’s just after the 5000 and more got fed miraculously so I imagine faith and joy and hope in the light was high. But then we read this.
‘As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go ahead across to Bethsaida… Late at night, the boat was far out at sea; Jesus was still by himself on land. He could see his men struggling with the oars, the wind having come up against them. At about 4 o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. He intended to go right by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost and screamed, scared out of their wits.
Jesus was quick to comfort them: ‘Courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid’. As soon as he climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’
Now, I don’t know about you, but I totally feel for the disciples here. Firstly, they are doing what Jesus asked and going on ahead. But it’s turned out way harder than they hoped. These guys were fishermen, so if they are struggling against the wind it means it’s pretty epic and scary for sure.
Secondly, it’s 4am. These guys have got to be exhausted. They’ve been rowing for hours and it’s now the darkest point of the night and they aren’t going anywhere fast.
Thirdly, they are probably pretty frustrated with Jesus. I mean, just two chapters ago in Mark 4, Jesus does the miracle where he calms the sea and stops the storm (note they were also scared before that miracle too), and they’d just got their heads around the fact that his power included having authority over the weather. And now they could have really done with some authority over the weather again and Jesus is nowhere to be seen. They are doing what Jesus asked, but I imagine at 4am when you’re fighting against the winds and Jesus is no where to be seen there are a few questions flying around.
Finally, when Jesus does come, they’re so scared by the darkness that their fear overflows and makes them too scared to see His miracle. I’m not sure I blame them here either. If I saw a figure walking towards me in the darkness of a stormy lake when I was exhausted and sleep deprived, I’d probably be screaming top…
But then come the words of Jesus.
Courage. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.
They can take their courage from trusting in who Jesus is. Which is the Light.
Sometimes we can really, really resonate with these guys. We feel like we’re walking the path Jesus has told us to, but it turned out harder than we thought. The cost has been more than we considered. We’re exhausted. We’re a little bit frustrated Jesus hasn’t shown up yet. And we’re actually scared He’s not going to. Scared He’ll leave us to the dark and the storm. Scared He’ll leave our world to self-destruct.
But the thing is, Jesus is coming. At the darkest time. The metaphorical 4am storm. That’s when He comes. And He might not come in the way we expect Him to. He might not show up in the model we’re used to. He might walk towards us on the water, the light of the world, and we might actually be so crippled by our fear that He has to come close and speak into us before we even recognize Him.
But when the Light comes, when we can see the light, the darkness has no hold on us.
Man, I’m praying that we can understand this fearlessness that He calls us to.
That even in the face of darkness, we can stand with Him, fearless.
We cannot be a prisoners of fear because we are already chained to the Unchainable Jesus.
The Prince of Peace.
The Light of the world.