…a few thoughts on darkness and light in response to the tragedy in Charleston…

light in the darkness

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Darkness can loom in so many ways.  It can fill a room.  It can fill a heart.  But when light comes in, the darkness flees.  It flees. Light dispels darkness.

Hope is like the light that floods spaces and makes the darkness flee.  Darkness is fleeing in Charleston, South Carolina.  Darkness is fleeing because love is flooding a space, and where there is love, there is hope.  Where there is hope, there is light.

Can hope and grief walk hand in hand?  Yes.  Definitely.  Deep, all-encompassing grief can walk hand in hand with hope.  Grief looks at what has been lost. There is a definite place, a definite need to grieve in times like this. Many precious, precious lives have been senselessly lost.  Hope looks at what can be gained.  What could possibly be gained as a result of a young 21 year-old man brutally murdering people at a Bible Study?What could possibly be gained?

The people of Charleston are making a conscious choice to see what could be gained from the loss.  There has been great loss.  Can there be great gain?  Can light fill the darkness?  It seems to come down to the choices.  The victims’ families have courageously made attempts to forgive, to hope, to love in the midst of deep, deep loss.  Like a chasm that goes to the depths, the victims could choose to wallow, to hate, to feed the hurt that this gunman caused.  The darkness could become deeper and darker if they chose to fuel the pain.  But there has been a conscious, courageous choice, decision, determination to walk in hope, to forgive, to walk in light, and to love.  There has been a conscious choice to focus on the light instead of the darkness.

Through depths of pain, they are reaching heavenward for hope.  Where there is hope, there is light.  “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. ” Hate cannot overcome evil.  Love overcomes.  Love overcomes evil.  It is a gut-wrenching choice.  But that choice is the difference between walking with hope and walking in darkness.

Sometimes loss is gain.  Praying that the seemingly senseless deaths of these 9 precious church members will somehow allow light to shine in dark places.  That their loss would be gain for others. That the incredible loss of these lives would help to make clear, to draw the lines of black and white, darkness and light, on the issues of love and hate.  That the tolerance for hate would be dispelled by the decision to overcome evil and hate with good – to let light dispel the darkness. Romans 12:21 says ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Being overcome is passive.  It is the natural response to something bad happening to us.  We want to blame, to vindicate, to make the crooked way straight by judgement.  To “overcome evil with good” is active, a determined response that does not go the way of the path of least resistance.  To OVERcome takes courageous determination to choose what may cause short term pain for the long term gain. It is active. It is a decision, a pursuit, a determination that leaves the path of least resistance to the wayside and chooses the road less traveled.

The amazing response of so many of the family members of the victims of the Charleston shooting has taken us all down a road less traveled.  It is a beautiful thing.  We expect to go the way of vindication, the way of judgement, the way of hate, the way of darkness, the way of chaotic reactions. But the example of the victims’ family  members is taking us on a journey of forgiveness, of love, of light pushing away the darkness and not letting us be overcome with evil.

What is giving them the power to forgive, the power to overcome this incredibly devastating loss?  Jesus. Faith in Jesus.  He knew a thing or two about loss and gain, about the road less traveled, about the way sacrifice can bring about the greatest incredible gift.  And these grief-stricken Christians know the way of the cross.  They know the power of sin, but greater still is Christ’s love for the sinner, and the way His sacrifice paid the penalty.  They know the way “the love of Christ compels us” to live a life for others, not for themselves. (2 Corinthians 5:14) They know that there are unseen battles going on that can only be fought in prayer and in the determination to let light shine, to let love overcome, and to pull up every ounce of courage to not go the way of hate.

Yes, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  Christ has come. It is finished, done, complete.  But is is ours to bear the torch and share the truth that the love of Christ compels us to say. I am thankful and amazed at the grace flowing from these grief stricken believers and thankful for the way they  are leading.  I”m praying that God just fills them up with peace that passes understanding, hope that encourages them, and warmth that covers them when the pain is just too much to bear. Darkness is not going to win.  But there IS darkness and there’s a battle going on for which prayer is the greatest weapon. Love wins.  That’s the end of the story.  But the battles along the way?  They are sometimes devastating.  There is darkness, but it will be overcome, not as long as there are people like these precious Believers who are choosing to hold fast to the truth of the gospel and to light their candle in the darkness.

We as Christians believe we know the end of the story.  Hope wins.  Light wins.  Love wins.  But, there’s a battle going on that must be fought one little courageous candle at a time.  Praying the inspiration from the Christians in Charleston will help people from all around have the courage, tenacity, faith and hope to let it shine and let the light swallow up the dark.Every little candle can make a difference.

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