The world is a dark place. I could prove it by asking you to open your news app of choice and scroll a few headlines, but I don’t even have to do that. We know that the world is a dark place because we’ve lived it. Experienced it. Felt it closing in upon us.
There is nothing quite like that, is there? The darkness closing in, squeezing us, suffocating us.
I’ve felt that, and I don’t think I’m alone. It’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the beautiful promise of hope we receive in the prologue of the Apostle John’s brilliant gospel.
John 1:5 “The light (Jesus!) shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
I know there are times where it feels as though darkness has won. Times where it looks like the light of Jesus has been snuffed out like a candle that is no longer needed. Times where all indications are that the darkness has actually extinguished the light. I know that’s true, but John 1:5 is a promise of God. It’s his Word. And what God says, he does.
Later in John’s gospel, Jesus plainly and boldly declares himself to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), and as such, he is our ultimate hope and resource in the battle against darkness.
When you are in the deepest, darkest valley, remember that Jesus, your good shepherd and the light of the world, is WITH you, his rod and his staff protecting you, keeping the light from going out.
Do you need that good news encouragement today? I know I do.
And there is more good news, too. Even as Jesus — the true light of the world — is our ultimate resource against the darkness, he is not our only resource. No, indeed, God is a good father who desires to give good gifts to his children, including multiple resources to wage war against the darkness.
Here are two of them, and they are a bit unique, so stick with me. God gives us the gift of friendship and music as resources to help push back the darkness.
I’m going to be honest: I stayed up WAY too late earlier this summer for two nights in a row binge-watching volume one of the fourth season of Stranger Things. Now I know that show isn’t for everyone, but even if you’ve never watched one minute of one episode, everyone needs to know that it is one of the most beautiful depictions of sacrificial friendship in modern media.
The theme of friendship is fleshed out in every season in many different characters, relationships, narrative arcs, and more. None were as compelling to me as a young girl named Max and her journey to realize how badly she needs her friends.
The villain in season four zeroed in on young people with different types of dark, painful trauma in their past, convincing them that they were nothing more than these dark moments. Max’s friends discovered that music (one of the resources, remember!) helps break this villain’s hold on their friends. Max’s narrative arc powerfully coalesces with the beauty of friendship and music, helping her push back (and escape!) the darkness.
I so want to provide a link to the scene… but it’s just a bit too intense.
So instead, let’s conclude by reflecting just a bit more on the idea of beauty. Why is friendship a resource against the darkness? Why is music? There are lots of reasons, but one is because true friendship and excellent music are both such pure expressions of beauty. And beauty leads us to light, not darkness.
Isn’t that true of Jesus, too? Who is more beautiful than Jesus? Not in physical form (Isaiah 53:2), but in life lived. Track with me: Jesus is the beautiful light of the world who was an incredible friend (John 15:13) who I’m sure also loved excellent music. Probably, anyway.
So the next time you feel the darkness closing in, whisper a prayer of “help!” to Jesus, the light of the world, schedule a coffee meet up with a good friend, and on the drive over, listen to “Running up that Hill” by Kate Bush.