Dwelling in Darkness

shineYou are the light of the world.  – Matthew 5:14

Last week was dark and difficult.

On Monday a man walked into our local Dollar Tree store and shot two customers, killing one and permanently disabling the other.

On Tuesday I learned that the son of dear friends took his own life. He’d struggled with bipolar for several years.

Staring Wednesday morning newsfeeds and social media outlets were filled with ugly and divisive language fueled by fear and hate.

The Gospel of John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” I want to believe that, but how do we learn to dwell in the darkness without losing hope? Here are four practices that I’m finding helpful.

Live Gratefully. Dark days have a way of narrowing our vision until we only see the negative. Gratitude has just the opposite effect, broadening our vision to see beauty and reasons for joy even in the darkness. Keeping a daily gratitude journal or taking just five minutes to review our day through the lens of gratitude can be transformative.

Invest Wisely. So much of the darkness is out of our control, so we need to be careful about investing too much energy into it. Instead, I choose to invest into those things that I can control. I can’t change the election but I can refuse to feed the Facebook fire. I can advocate for issues that are important to me, and pray for our leaders. I can’t bring my friends’ son back to life, but I can walk with them through their grief.

Pray Persistently. Because so much of the darkness is out of our control I’m driven to pray. I’m praying for victims and perpetrators, for grieving friends and for unity in our nation. When I think about the intersection of investing wisely and praying persistently I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s words, “Pray as though everything depended upon God. Work as though everything depended upon you.”

Hope Relentlessly. Hope is a choice. So is despair. I choose hope, no matter how deep the darkness or how long the night. But my hope is more than wishful thinking. It’s rooted in God’s promise that one day all that is broken in this world will be reconciled and renewed. I dare to believe that love will win. And that hope fuels my commitment to live gratefully, invest wisely and pray persistently.

Jesus is the light that has come into the world, the light that no darkness can overcome. And by grace that light now dwells in us. That means that we are the light of the world, shining the light of God’s love and grace into every dark corner. How will you dwell in the darkness this week, and how will you shine?

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Maureen Keegan

    Hi Pastor Jeff,

    I missed your talk at last Sunday’s service in its entirety, so wanted to read your comments here.
    I am so comforted by your words of true courage and justice, and of our church’s perspective, as I have been and continue to be, going forward. Thank you for taking a stand against hate and injustice, and focusing on hope. How we react, behave, and carry ourselves, and what we fill our minds with, really is all we can control.

    Maureen Keegan MSW, LGSW

    • Jeff Marian

      Thanks Maureen. We’ve got some light to shine, some justice to live into and some love to share!