Sunday, August 16, 2009

My darkness turns to light

My daughter pointed out the other day that news anchors are giving out the suicide hotline number when they give economic reports. A few days later, a gruesome father-family murder-suicide in a nearby neighborhood hit the news. This guy lost half of everything in the stock downturn, and the other half in real estate speculation, and now was facing the embarrassment of his bankruptcy becoming public. The neighbors were totally gob smacked by the trauma.

Why did he kill himself? No one knows for sure, but it is not hard to speculate about at least three dark forces that drove this "normal" man to do such a horrendous thing: (1) he had all his hope and security in his money/portfolio/holdings--take those away and his hope and security were gone. But, there had to be more: (2) he must have blamed himself for the loss--he invested, he speculated, he got his wife to sign the mortgages, he felt like he had totally failed. That must have been tied into one more thing: (3) he must have been very proud (even boasted?) about all his stuff. Take away hope and security, fasten blame without excuse, and bring humiliation and there you have a painful condition that drinking the cocktail of suicide is thought to fix. So sad, and yet so easily understood.

There is something I wish I could have shared with the man before he took this permanent solution to temporary problems. It comes from the Hebrew Scriptures: "You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light" (Psalm 18:28). There are three things this brief quote speaks deeply to me when I have dark days with despairing thoughts:

1. I am not the source of my survival or security. There is Another who provides the "oil" for "my lamp." To the proud, prayer is a quaint, psychological pacifier. To those who know, a great and mighty Hand is found in low places of humility and humiliation. God does not reveal Himself to the proud, but speaks in a still, small voice to those brought low (what the ancients called the "Divine Incognito"). "You, O Lord--not I--keep my lamp burning." There will always be enough.

2. God is about the business of bringing light out of darkness. It is one of the first things the Bible says God is good at. In the creation story's version of the Big Bang theory, God looks at the chaotic darkness and says, "Let there be light." And, like that, there was light. He is still good at this. With just a word, Jesus was found saying to disease, blindness and moral lostness, "Be healed." Snap. Like that. Done. Many say it can't be done. I'm not one. I am here to tell you there is a God who turns my darkness to light. Not just light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of light, but light outside and in, flooding my day and night: hope in place of despair, purpose in place of lostness, and a real sense of future and security in the place of uncertainty and anxiety.

3. "My darkness." The part I am most thankful about is that God does not just save victims and the downcast and outsiders, but He saves people like me who are a victim of their own moral fault and poor decision-making. When the darkness I find myself in is the result of my own doing--when it is really MY darkness--even and especially there the God of mercy and compassion brings grace, mercy and forgiveness. He turns the very things I have brought upon myself INTO LIGHT. He is so good at this darkness-to-light thing--and so full of mercy--that He takes my own self-inflicted suffering and turns it into character and wisdom and comfort for others.

When I feel lost and laid low, that is when the heart-cry of Mary in her humiliation means the most to me: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior! ... His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble" (Luke 1:46, 50-52). The proud can't find God at all, and resent Him. No wonder, since the Bible says God opposes the proud. Life is hard enough--who needs God against you? But, it also says, "He gives grace to the humble."

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns MY darkness into light.