This post (“My Good Life Is Pretty Dark”) was somewhat depressing. Though it was dark, I got a few personal notes of appreciation from people who were—like me—hesitant to be so public about their struggles. “I feel exactly the same way,” one friend encouraged me.
Read the article if you want. In summary, I shared with you that I struggle with three doubts: envy, untruth and hopelessness. But I cannot leave you with the idea that I haven’t found my own way out of these doubts. I have come to a deeper realization in my life that I’d like to share with you now.
Ready for it?
I am hopeless, so I surrender. I cannot win against the darkness. This “good life” that I seek requires my losing it.
This may sound even more depressing, but it isn’t. At the risk of sounding a bit crazy, let me emphasize: This “surrender” I speak of is the greatest realization of my life.
I have studied enough of others in history that I know I’m not alone in this. I think of Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Abraham Lincoln. Biblical characters, too, are similar (though you need to get over the storybook versions of their lives): Noah and Moses and Joseph. It is very likely—and a deep study of history as well as an honest study of scripture shows this to be true—they each dealt with envy, untruths and hopelessness.
It is fallacious to think that people of greatness didn’t struggle.
What about Jesus? You may not often consider his humanity, maybe even grow agitated at people like me who remind you of it. Yes, he was divine, I get that. But hear me out for a moment, because if you deal with darkness as I do, you must grapple with the mystery of Christ’s own struggle as a man.
While I find encouragement in others as mentioned, I pledge my life to Jesus Christ. You can doubt me if you like, but I call him my Savior. He has transcended the same hopelessness that I struggle with, showing me the way to overcome death and experience eternal life. This is what I mean when I say, “He saved me”: he showed me how to overcome my darkest realities.
If you know the Bible, consider these thoughts:
- On Envy: Didn’t Jesus at one point fight the envy as the devil tempted him to take over the kingdom? I deal with the Resistance all the time, and sometimes the Resistance wins.
- On Untruths: Did Jesus not frequently question the sorry slump of disciples who followed him, doubted him, and eventually fled him at his most dire time of need? I’ve dealt with betrayal, too. The worst from people I love.
- On Hopelessness: Didn’t Jesus cry out while finishing his calling, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I’ve felt abandoned, too, and these are the loneliest moments of my life.
Go ahead and put a halo over Jesus’ head and tell yourself that he had the universe in the palm of his hand. To me, that is making Jesus out to be some kind of Marvel comic hero. I have found little consolation in hyper-romanticizing the Son of God. I connect much more to the Son of Man.
I can imagine Jesus at some point—as with Martin, Teresa, Abe, Noah, Moses and Joseph—wondering what am I doing here? I suspect it was during his forty days in the desert, but perhaps it was even earlier than that. Maybe it was when he was standing in the synagogue listening to the squabbling and rising hate from the hearts of his neighbors, or maybe when time and time again he saw religious leaders more interested in stoning than saving sinners, or more concerned about Sabbath ritual than healing the destitute. I don’t know, but I bet it was frustrating at times, perhaps even depressing. He eventually—at some point, perhaps on Gethsemane—came to this blinding realization:
My life is not my own.
It would be easier to put a halo over my head and think I’ve got my little universe in the palm of my hand. As delusional as that sounds, I suspect most of us walk in that crazy state. We hyper-romanticize our life and consider the path we are on as holier than all other paths. This rosy optimism works for a while, but reality starts the settle in. We figure out the truth: the universe is chaotic, unpredictable, and cruel. We’re in its palm, not the other way around.
Have you come to this dark, nihilistic reality? It isn’t as bad as the resistance to avoid it. Once you’re there in that state of surrender, you’re sort of relieved. Others misunderstand you and even mock you, but you press on. Just like Jesus. Not my will, but yours be done, Lord. Your pain and struggle and difficulty—maybe even death—is your freedom. It is the place where I see God most clearly, where I am least selfish, where I am truly walking with God.
Complete surrender of my life, even losing the good life, is the holy life.