Ice cream is my weakness. Over the last few months, I’ve been taking steps toward eating healthier, and though I’ve found it fairly easy to move away from the baked goods, candy, and chocolate – a bowl of that cold, creamy goodness to end a stressful day is hard to resist!
A couple weeks ago, I succumbed to temptation and came home from Wegman’s with a half-gallon of Turkey Hill in the seasonal “Pumpkin Pie” variety. This “Limited Edition” might not be available next time and it sounded like the perfect pre-Thanksgiving treat!
When I went to put it away, I realized there wasn’t much room in the freezer, so I brought it down to the extra freezer in our basement. This seemed like a good idea as I was planning on saving it for a “special” day anyway.
But fast-forward a few days and Tim left for a week-long conference and my in-laws left for North Carolina – leaving me as the only adult in the house. During the day, my introverted-self doesn’t mind this, but nights are a different story! When my brain is home alone at night, every fictional or true story I’ve heard about home invasions or creepy stalkers becomes a real possibility (this is why I shouldn’t watch TV!).
This is especially true when it comes to the basement.
Friday night seemed like the perfect night for a bowl of Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. But after getting through dinner and bedtime for the girls, I realized it was dark. And the ice cream was in the basement. And there was no way I was going down into that basement in the dark. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – “It’s always dark in basements!” but there was no way my fear was letting me make that descent at night while I was the only adult in the house! “I’ll just remember to go get it during the day tomorrow,” I thought and settled for a cup of herbal tea.
Fast-forward to Saturday night and guess what? I forgot to get the ice cream again. Yes, I could brave it – I could turn on the light and just go really fast. But the crawl space. And the furnace room. And all those dark corners! I settled for another cup of herbal tea and decided this might actually be an effective dieting strategy. 😉
“Fear of the dark” has long held its place on the list of things we fear most as human beings. Darkness presents the opportunity for threatening things to hide from our view. In the dark, we’re face-to-face with the unknown and experience loss of visual control over our surroundings. Darkness invokes fear because there could be a monster under your bed and a malicious stranger might be around that corner.
For Christians, spiritual darkness can create a similar reaction. If “light,” as John’s gospel claims, is “divine illumination”* which reveals the truth about Christ’s identity as the only way to know God and the only giver of the grace necessary to know Him (John 1:14-18), then darkness is the opposite of that. Spiritual darkness is ignorance or denial of (or flat out rebellion against) the truth about Jesus.
As believers, a quick look around – especially during this ‘festive’ time of year – can heighten our awareness of the spiritual darkness in our world. It’s hard to see what we feel is supposed to be a celebration of the Person who saved our lives’ ‘birthday’ turned into a materialistic, media-overblown, frenzied sham with the facade of “peace, love and joy”. And this time of year also heightens our awareness of loved ones – family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors who are in the dark about Jesus.
When we’re aware of the darkness, it brings out our fear of the unknown. We think things like, “What is happening to our country?” or “This world is going downhill!”. We are scared for our friends and family when they say things that reveal their ignorance or denial of Jesus. Panic and worry well up within us when Jesus is only seen as a “special baby” – celebrated for a few hours and then boxed up in the closet for the rest of the year.
When Jesus came to our world as a human being, he was the “Word becom[ing] flesh” in order to “dwell among us” (John 1:14). He is referred to as the “Word” because He was the human expression or embodiment of the thoughts of God. And, as John states, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4) By nature, Jesus is the light that reveals to us the truth about God.
“Since the sun cannot be supposed, to exist a moment without emitting light,” Jesus has, for eternity past, shone and will for eternity future, shine the truth about God.** John tells us that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) When something shines, it is not passively existing – it is actively radiating and sees darkness, not as something to fear, but as an opportunity to shine light.
When my last night of being home alone arrived two Sundays ago, I realized I had, yet again, forgotten to go get the ice cream during the day. But I was fed up with living in fear, so I did it. I switched on that light, and confidently walked down those stairs (just kidding – I ran down, grabbed it, and bolted back up the stairs without taking a breath!)
And boy, was it worth it!
The problem with fear is not the fear itself, the problem with fear is what we allow it to prevent us from doing. Having accepted the truth about Jesus and received Him into our lives, we carry this active, shining light with us. But our fear of spiritual darkness often leads us to run in the other direction – busying ourselves with the hustle and bustle of the season. Fear allows us to huddle up in our Christian ‘bubbles’ where things feel ‘safe’. Fear causes us to avoid the conversation because we worry we’ll push someone further away.
Every area of spiritual darkness we encounter is an opportunity. Jesus isn’t scared of or discouraged by ignorance, denial, or rebellion – He sees it as a perfect place for Him to shine the simple light of His grace! And in the words of singer Josh Wilson, “somebody needs the light you have”.*** Jesus’ light is best radiated by us when we follow His eye-to-eye, hand-to-hand, and heart-to-heart example as we interact with the people He’s placed in our path.
***”Pushing Back the Dark” by Josh Wilson & Matthew West