Bread – Darkness

September 10, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, September 10, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 29:1, 30:1-2,16-31; Acts 14:19-28; John 11:1-16; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In today’s lessons from Scripture, God gives us no joy and no respite from our troubles. Instead, there is the reality of pain, of loss, of despair, of sadness, of loss. There is little light in today’s readings, but much darkness.

Just to make the point, here are three quotes from today’s readings:

From Job, “I cry to You [God] for help, and You do not answer me…You have turned cruel to me … But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for the light, darkness came.” Job 30:20-21,26

From Acts, “But Jews came from Antioch… and…they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city…[Paul] saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:19,22

From John, “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus…Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where he was…Now Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died…” John 11:1,5-6,14

There is much darkness in these passages. Job was considered righteous and yet he suffered loss of health, looks, wealth, and family. Paul was Jesus’ disciple to the Gentiles and was stoned to almost death. Lazarus was Jesus’ friend and yet Jesus tarried two days where He was and, in the meantime, Lazarus died.

We cry out and God does not hear us! True or false?

It is fortunate in a way we end with our reading about Lazarus, because we know what happened to him. Jesus went to him and brought him back to life. When Lazarus could not have walked out of darkness (he was dead), Jesus carried him from darkness into light. Job was, after his tribulations, restored by God into the light. Paul was, in spite of his persecutions, empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach, to teach, to write the Scripture we read today, and to persevere in bringing the light to us Gentiles. We are fortunate to end with stories where we know the outcome because it gives us hope in the dark times that rescue is right around the corner.

But what if there is no rescue right around the corner. What if we are to suffer physical illness for a long time, maybe until our death? What if we are ruined economically and are to live the rest of our life in poverty? What if we find ourselves in darkness, day after day after day?

What are we to do in such circumstances? Get angry? Pray more? Lift ourselves up by our bootstraps? Go to a self-improvement course? Stand in front of a mirror and utter words of self-affirmation and self-love?

There actually is an answer in Scripture and it is built into today’s lessons. What are we to do? We are to wait upon the Lord, knowing that He will arrive with the answer in His time. This may be faith. This may be wisdom. This may be just obedience to God’s promises in Scripture. Whatever it is, it is not easy.

When we find ourselves in darkness, there are three responses possible. One is to try to find a light switch or a door. This is self-help and ultimately arises from the idea that we trust ourselves more than we trust God. Another response is to retreat into a corner. This is fear speaking and is our natural attempt to flee darkness. The third is for us to sit in the darkness in active waiting and listening, in full expectation that God will appear and take care of things (perhaps by revealing where the light switch is).

For those who have sat in darkness in a closed room, an interesting thing happens when we wait upon the Lord. The first is that fear is replaced by hope and expectation. The second is that we are given a second set of eyes by the Holy Spirit to begin to see things as they are. When this occurs, often we discover that there is quite a bit of light in the room, if we would but see. We find ourselves ready to see in the darkness and hear in the stillness. The third is that we become receptive to God’s message for us.

Favored by God or not, saved by Jesus or not, blessed by the Father or not, empowered by the Holy Spirit or not – we will find ourselves sooner or later (and perhaps now) in some kind of darkness. When we find ourselves in darkness, what is our response – Fight, Flight, or Faith?

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© 2014 GBF

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