We started last week by talking about a heavy grief and a reflection on the fact that as Christians, we do not grieve the way that the world grieves. We do not enter the dark places the way that the world does, for we know the light. And we left off last week by talking about the Pharisees and how quick they were to determine that healing must be work when, we have to confess, they had no way of really knowing this - the Pharisees never healed anyone.
Today, I want to bring some of this together because this is important. Namely, what I want to say is that one of the greatest failures of our faith is when we live like these Pharisees - claiming to know the light but not living it.
In other words, one of our greatest sins is our failure, or our refusal, to enter the dark places.
This is hard, particularly because we live in a world that values the comfortable life. And not just the world, but the Christian faith has come to say that the mark of truly faithful living is that bad stuff never happens to you. If your faith was as strong as you say it is, and if your God is as good as you say He is, then you wouldn't have to suffer. You wouldn't have troubles. You wouldn't face the hard things.
I'm not sure where we came up with this notion. It's certainly not something we see in the Bible. Throughout His story, God's people have had troubles. Jesus even promises us that we will - in this world, you will have trouble. Christians have never been exempt from illness, from death, from disease, from poverty, from famine. In fact, if you read God's story at all, the one thing you notice is that His people always seem to start in need. That's how they come to meet God. That's how they come to know Him.
And yet, here we are, saying that we cannot go into the dark places because somehow, the dark places are a failure of our faith. The hard stuff is a betrayal of our good God.
I'm telling you, the very opposite is true: it is a failure of our faith to refuse to enter the dark places. It is a betrayal of our good God not to engage the hard stuff.
And that's because we know how good He is. It's because we know the value of faith and the difference that His promises make in our lives. The Pharisees thought they had all the truth in the world about God, but they never put it into practice and healed anyone. They never stepped into the hard places with it. They never exercised what they knew, and they never exorcised the demons of the world. I think that's one of the reasons Jesus was so frustrated with them all the time - they had all the light of His hope right in their hands, and they refused to put it into the darkness where it could actually help someone.
I think that's why He gets so frustrated with us. We have all the light of His hope right in our hands, but we still step back from the dark places instead of stepping boldly into the very situations where we have the greatest witness. We pull back from the hard things instead of facing them head-on. We pretend that our hope is supposed to shield us from all these things when in fact, our hope is meant to strengthen us for them.
And that's why we go into the dark places. Not because we want to - nobody wants to. Nobody wants to face the troubles of this world. Nobody wants to wrestle with the heavy stuff. Nobody wants to grieve.
But if we fail to do so, then it is not our faith that is failing us; it is we who are failing our faith. We are no better than the Pharisees, for we know how to heal the people, but we refuse to do it.
So let us go boldly into the dark places. Let us step confidently into the hard things. For we are a people with all the light of His hope right in our hands; may we hold it out to those most in need of it.
Those who, we must confess, are sometimes...ourselves.