by Guest Blogger Amy P. Holley, Administrative Assistant for The Workshop
I used to live about 3 miles in the country, and about 5 miles from town. There was a certain amount of distance we could drive on paved road for a couple of miles before turning off into a dirt road, along with lots of trees, grass, fields, cows, the occasional hogs and deer, hills, turns, and windmills. During the day it was beautiful to look at, especially to us who grew up in the country. However, driving through those roads at night was always a little bit frightening. The difference between night and day on that dirt road meant driving slow, and you never knew what creature might show up in front of you suddenly. There were a few times that new people would drive through just a little too fast at night, and end up in a ditch or something. Having to drive down that dark road so much gave meaning to me in how a little bit of light can shine bright in a lot of darkness.
We are living in a very uncertain time right now, not knowing what is going to happen next. Many jobs have stopped completely, while some have changed in a lot of ways that we never would have seen before. There has been a large amount of people pass away in a very short time, but the number has not shown a possible slow enough to stop yet. People we love are at high risk, or maybe have even been effected already. Some of us have been quarantined to our homes so much that our symptoms have become more persistent than ever before. Our fear, anxiety, depression, feelings of being trapped, feeling lonely, feeling restless, panic, anger, maybe hatred, you name it - it probably spiked. Maybe our actual symptoms of our mental and physical health problems went up such as eating disorders, mood swings from mood disorders such as Bipolar, paranoia, our different ways we attach to those we love the most has changed for the worst; whatever it may be, I want to take a moment to let you know that you have been seen and heard, and you have not been forgotten.
I want to tie this all in to 2 different passages:
The first one is John 1:4-5
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The second one is Psalm 46
1-2. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
8-11. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will Be exalted in the earth!" The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Right now we can look out at everything going on and choose to only see all of the darkness and evil going on, because it is the easy thing to do. However, we can also look at the hope we have been given because of the light that does shine through all of the darkness. If we go even further, we can look at how we are being forced to be still right now, and be reminded through Psalm 46 that even in all of the crazy stuff, God is still our refuge - the same God that brought light to the darkness. My encouragement to you during this time is to truly look for the light, because the darkness is too easy to find.
When we are quick to find the darkness, we first see the anxiety, depression, and hopelessness around us which is brought on by everything going on. But when we look hard for the light, it illuminates hope, joy, peace, comfort, and encouragement in this time of need which we have. We can look to the dark places around us and be sure that the life of the light is shining through to give us hope for tomorrow. This is the thing we have to cling to or we will fall deep into the despair of the depravity surrounding us. Clinging to the hope of the light that we have will also bring us a satisfaction like nothing else; this is the moment Paul was speaking of in Philippians 4 when he said he could do anything through Christ. He learned that in "plenty and hunger, abundance and need," and in every other circumstance to be content. This is a great moment in time for all of us to learn that no matter what, we are going to look to the light - Jesus - and be content in where we are at.
I have a confession to make: I cheated this year. I began listening to Christmas music the week before Thanksgiving. I needed “a little Christmas, right this very minute…” (For those I just song-bombed, you’re welcome. Sorry…not sorry).
This year, for some reason, every time I hear the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” the lyrics of the third verse go right to my heart:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
For those unfamiliar with the history behind it, the song was lifted from a Longfellow poem called “Christmas Bells.” It was written Christmas Day of 1863, just past the chronological midpoint of the American Civil War. The poem actually contains seven stanzas. The middle stanza describes the noise of cannon fire drowning out the hopeful Christmas bells.
In the next stanza, Longfellow laments,
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Longfellow lived in New England—much too far away to hear cannon fire in the Carolinas, if there actually was any on that Christmas Day. Longfellow’s despair went much deeper than an interrupted playlist of Christmas music. He was mourning the death of hope.
We are not taking up arms against each other today—at least not in an organized way—however, we are similarly being pressured to take sides. We are more polarized as a nation than any other time in my life. Similar to Longfellow, I have never been close enough to a school shooting to actually hear it; nevertheless, the echoes of senseless gunshots threaten to drown out my own sense of peace and goodwill. Every reminder of the ways we are divided is accompanied by a fear that hope is dying.
But, each time, before I can get too depressed, Longfellow’s last stanza comes rushing in:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
I believe too strongly in the One who made us and in the strength of our connections to let hope die. Ultimately, hope is not so fragile or silent.
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