This has been a reoccurring theme for me this year. Over the weekend, I watched an excellent documentary on the life of Johnny Cash. I have always been intrigued by his story, as well as that of another performer whose story is so similar; Elvis. Each of these men had early roots in faith, and their faith remained important to them throughout their entire lives, though you may not know it if you are simply looking at the course of how their stories played out.
Each of them felt a call on their life they never quite lived out, as they were drawn in by the dark temptations of this world, which are amplified in ways we cannot understand if we do not live a life of fame, excess, and easy access. Drugs, alcohol, and rampant infidelity would plague these lives.
I loved someone who shared a similar story, minus the fame. Strong foundation of faith, but a life that was led down an entirely different path, one that only became darker and more twisted. Demons were fought, but won time and time again, and many people paid a high cost for the sinful choices, myself included.
These past few weeks, in my grad work, we have been revisiting psychological/counseling theories and critically analyzing them against scripture. Several of these theories share a common belief that man is “good,” which is an important principle of the theory and how it is applied. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. As the Bible tells us, God created a perfect paradise when He created Earth. It was short-lived, however, because instead of creating puppets for Him to play with, God chose to give us free will. This gift may sound insignificant, but it is often the source of our own personal downfall. As we know, in the Garden of Eden, Eve committed the original sin, and Adam went along with it. Tricked by Satan, they would be the first to fall. Because of their decisions, humans have an inherent sin nature.
What does this mean? It means that within us lies both good and evil; darkness and light. It truly is a “tale as old as time.” If you consume movies or books, you know this is often central to the overall plot. Most of us root for good to win, and often it does triumph in the end, after much action in the middle. If you are like me, in the stories where evil prevails, you feel cheated, angry, disappointed, and unsettled… because that is not the way it is supposed to be. (Though usually the writer is just setting us up for the sequel).
The Bible itself is a story of darkness and light. As a whole, and in all of the individual stories within. We find many people not unlike Johnny, Elvis, and my loved one. Sometimes, good, or light, does prevail in these lives, and sadly, sometimes it does not. Watching this story unfold, in real time, with my own eyes, and seeing a tragic ending will probably forever haunt me. This death brought me grief and loss, as well as pain and betrayal, but it also made me more determined than ever that light would win in my own life. I have never witnessed firsthand, such powerful darkness and evil, and I don’t want to be anywhere near it ever again. That serpent from the Garden is still slithering around today, and perhaps more so than ever… our world is his playground right now. (I think that is my next post brewing).
Just like the sun sets each night, bringing a blanket of temporary darkness, we will face darkness in the world. We have darkness within us. We each have our own battle to fight, daily, to keep the darkness at bay and instead allow our light to shine, and to look to the source of light to be refueled.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:5. Satan may win at times… he may even be able to win over entire lives- lives that become stories of great tragedies. The three men I referenced lived lives of great contradiction. Despite their deep-seeded belief in God and underlying desire to be good, evil won over.
At first glance, the battle of darkness & light seems so simple. Why would anyone choose darkness or evil? The problem is, in our world, darkness is disguised as good… and good often feels like darkness. We have been so programmed to both accept and desire darkness, we often have to sift through what we “know” to even determine what is good. This is the paradox of Christian life. Purity is God’s plan for all of us… yet, how many are living a life free from sexual sin? Jesus taught us to love everyone. Yet, making that choice means embracing everyone; the LBQTI+ community, prisoners- including death row inmates, the homeless, the addicts, people of all skin tones etc. Many do not, and those that do often feel persecuted for doing so. God’s way- the light – is not the easy way. Darkness comes packaged up in shiny, appealing packages. Inside are greed, pride, validation, approval and accolades, success, beauty, money, power, sex… in other words, pleasures and things that feel good or make us “happy. “
Yet, how many times do we watch a celebrity- someone who has access and excess – to all of the packages we go chasing after, suffer a huge downfall? Whether it comes in the form of addiction, overdose, mental breakdown, suicide, endless relationship failures, etc. They are often some of the most unhappy people alive, at their very core. Because we were not designed to live that way or desire these things. Deep inside each of us, the light longs to burn, and be reunited with our flame, yet most people never realize it, and instead spend a lifetime attempting to fill that void with all of Satan’s offerings. He knows precisely which darkness to prey on, as we don’t all have the same weaknesses.
All around us, a battle is waging. Though difficult to grasp, there is a spiritual realm in which angels and demons are at war. We are attacked in our weak spots. Our hearts are sick, as we cannot rid them of sin, therefore, we battle our own flesh. The world is also sick and fallen, so we are offered temporal pleasures. If we do not recognize we are immersed in constant conflict, we won’t even fight; instead, we will give way to the world as the accepted way to live. If we are aware of the war, yet we do not suit up to fight, we lose to the darkness, and it can overcome us. The only way for good to win in our own life is by Ephesians 5:8: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
To be continued…