Advent: Walking in Darkness



This week has been characterized by much sadness.  It’s sort of crept up on me, but all of a sudden it hit me how much there is to mourn over, both communally and individually.  There is so much around me that seems dark, dank, and desperate.  I feel powerless.  And I am acutely aware of how little I can do to fix these situations.

A heaviness settled over my heart upon hearing about the results of two recent grand jury trials.  And then my mind turned to Syria.  Syria, the beautiful country I visited eight years ago.  The country that has been ripped and torn apart.  The people who have been killed by both its government and ISIS.  Then, there is the Ebola crisis in West Africa, where many have died, and likely many more will die, an awful death.

I continue to wrestle and pray for those who have been oppressed.

My heart hurts.

And yet, I have no idea what needs to happen, except Jesus.

This week I also became overwhelmed with all those in my life who are ill, both mentally and physically.  Each new day seems to bring another person struggling with depression, illness, or fighting a life-threatening condition.  I hurt as I see my friends and family hurt for those they love.

I continue to wrestle and pray for those in need of healing.

My heart hurts.

And yet, I have no idea what needs to happen, except Jesus.

Advent has many nuances and themes.  I suppose that’s another reason I value this rhythm in the Church.  One of those nuances is that of darkness (Isaiah 9:2-7).  Darkness can come in many forms.  Sometimes it comes in the cloak of injustice.  Other times it is the heaviness found in bodily illnesses.  Yet, it also can be found in the times when we have no idea what is going on and no idea what to do about it all.

Does any of this feel familiar?

I wonder if this is where the nation of Israel found herself in the season leading up to Christ’s birth.  Trapped in darkness, desperate for something, someone to rescue them.  Now Christ has come, but we find ourselves in the tension point of what has come and what is to fully come.  That is a frustrating place to be, in the now and not yet tension of the kingdom.  But the difference, and yes it is a big one, is the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus left he promised that the Helper would come (John 14:25-27 ESV).  So, even as our world churns and gurgles, we are not alone.  As we cry out for justice and mercy, with words too deep to understand, the Spirit prays for us and with us.

Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Reflection Questions

-What in your life do you not know what to pray for? Take a moment to acknowledge that you do not know what to pray for.

-Now ask the Helper to pray for you, for those in need, in the ways you just don’t know how.

-In closing, slowly read through Isaiah 9:2-7.  Share with the Lord what comes up for you as you read this passage, whether that be joy, frustration, fear, longing, or disappointment (or maybe all of the above).

Isaiah 9:2-7 (ESV)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


For last week’s Advent post, click here.

3 thoughts on “Advent: Walking in Darkness

  1. hi Jen, thanks for sharing. It takes some courage to say you don’t feel bright and cheery during a “merry” season. I too share some of your sentiments. When I read of horrors in other countries or hear of illnesses here, I find it hard to get in the mood of the season.

    This is just me wondering along and aloud…
    Feeling sadness, it seems at times it’s scary to feel sad. Am I aloud to? On the flip side, something you hit on got me to thinking…there’s Jesus.

    When there’s horrible news about an illness or death in the family, I want to say with great sincerity, “why do you weep? We have Jesus!” I feel like instead I’m being naive, or worse, an insensitive a-hole. Like, have we lost (or ever had?) the ability to be able to rejoice in suffering. Not to say we shouldn’t or can’t feel sad, but I think sometimes we (me too) put up barriers that say, “keep that happy sh*t away from me.” As real as the pain and sadness are, what about hope?

    I’ve been challenged deeply in the last few months by St. Francis’s poem “Canticle of the Creatures”. He wrote it in different stages of his life. In it he’s praising God for bother sun, sister moon and stars, water…
    At first I thought he was just waxing poetic about the marvels of nature. Later I found a different look. When he became older, he had problems with his eyes. So much so, light caused him great pain. He praised God for bright light (brother sun). He was also staying in a little hut, which was very cold and damp during winter, making him the same. He praised God for water. Eventually a disease he caught was incurable. The doctors finally pronounced he had a month to live, so he praised God for death. With it he praised God for forgiveness. All in all, he essentially was praising for the cross…
    Meanwhile, I snarl at God for traffic. Can I thank God and trust He’ll meet me in my death…? And share it. I’ve been struggling to sit in my pain and fears, to let God have an answer. He says He’ll wipe away every tear…so maybe I should let the tears come.

    • Hey John,

      Thanks for your thoughts. It is an interesting tension that you hit on – joy in suffering. A comforting and challenging passage for me has been when Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. Before calling him worth it says that he wept. I wonder if there’s a deeper, heart level being of joy that doesn’t negate the presence of tears or other expressions of sadness and frustration? It is scary to chose to open up areas of pain. If it’s a place we hide, it usually means there’s a reason we feel afraid to let light shine on it. I wrestle with what it looks like to find the balance of those places, between despair and false hope.

  2. I don’t know if I ever felt pure joy and anticipation growing up over the holidays. Bring very poor, u was taught to value family and connection over the count of numerous presents. Now as a parent, I feel the world is so much scarier, I am so aware if suffering, of drugging through the season but I have been determined to find Jesus in the midst. I have been determined to model to my girls that Jesus is the best reason, our only hope. We read the advent lessons every night before their bedtime and I have felt a nearness to Christ as my daughter asks the BIG questions. She is hungry. Hungry for Jesus. Giving myself over to their Joy, making art with them that celebrates Christmas has helped me cling to the hope Isaiah prophesied. He is here now. God with us. And I think I found a way to deal with the sadness, to accept the sickness and depravity in the world. For me its pointing my kids to Jesus, serving them, helping them to understand the point if this whole season. For others if they don’t have kids, open your heart to who God us leading you to give, pour into. Community serves the purpose in this season of “let me shows you love, let’s practice Joy, I find love and Joy through that” And the other way around.

    Thank you for your beautiful writing my friend. It is such a gift!

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