As I write this, the Manchester bombing occurred just two days ago and I am still struggling to comprehend the horror. Only twenty-four hours ago, parents still searched, frantic, for their missing daughters, not knowing if they were alive or dead.
Once again, as it so often does now, the world seems a darker place today. Fear and fury and an overwhelming helplessness hang so thick in the air, at times it is difficult to breathe. Can light ever hope to pierce such a thick darkness?
Genesis tells us that, in the beginning, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. What an impermeable darkness that must have seemed, with no sun or moon or stars to lift it. But then God spoke. Let there be light.
And there was light.
The power of words, spoken by a creator God, on full display.
And then he spoke the first human into being and, before long, darkness fell again.
A passage from one of my novels has been swirling around in my mind since I heard the news of yet another attack on innocent people, on children, as it feels appropriate to what is happening in the world right now. As the narrator says, “It is a dark planet, has been since the day the first ones of your kind made the decision to turn away from the light. I can still feel it, that unfamiliar prick of pain that shot through me with that first bite of forbidden fruit. I thought then that the light was gone forever. A shadow fell over the planet in that moment, like a heavy curtain drawn across the sky. We all felt it, that pain of separation, of ending, of innocence lost. But we were shown then, and had it powerfully reinforced for us a few thousand years later, that light is stronger than darkness. I have seen it many times, but still, when the darkness hovers so thickly that I can no longer see my hand in front of my face, it is easy to forget.”
Some days, like today, when I am trying and largely failing to absorb the horror of recent events, I struggle to see my hand in front of my face. The prophet Isaiah said it well, “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” (Isaiah 8:22)
But God’s Word, as always, offers hope. Just two verses later the prophet proclaims that, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
And seven hundred years after those words were spoken, the prophecy is fulfilled, again with a word, the one whom John refers to as The Word. God’s sacred Word made manifest, taking on flesh and dwelling among us. A great light piercing what felt then, as it does today, like impenetrable darkness.
Can our words, given to us by God, do the same? They can, and they must. That is our sacred trust, to take the words God gives us and use them to fight against the encroaching night. As bleak and hopeless as circumstances appear, the one thing the darkness cannot stand up to, cannot prevail against, is light. As John declared, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Fellow writers, we were made in the image of a creator God, who spoke all things into existence. And we have been called and gifted to be like him in this, to create, to boldly use our words, his words, equally full of truth and grace, to call forth the light that will penetrate the darkness around us.
May God use our words to push back the shadows and bring hope to a world in desperate need of the light.