[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Blair Roberts lives in Regina, SK with his two daughters (soon to be three) and majestic wife. Brennan Manning said “All is grace.” That’s all I got.]
“All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” -Dante
This is the inscription written on the gates of hell in Dante’s epic tale. It’s his imagining of the nine circles of hell, and the first thing you must do to start the journey into hell is abandon hope. To live without hope is to reside in hell. Or as Dostoevsky says, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Ceasing to live and entering hell are two sides of the same coin.
This world feels like hell at times. Death, brokenness, destruction, darkness, heartache, disease, poverty, homelessness, refugees running for their lives…Enough money to feed everyone, yet too many go hungry. Enough land for us all to share and live in peace, yet people run from bombs and madmen. I could keep going. Everyone has their list of darkness; things that break our heart and cause us to consider abandoning hope.
The only reason for hope I’ve found is in a child. Not just a child, but the Son of Man; the Son of God; The one who gives hope; who comes down to us. A light in the darkness, seeking us out.
Desmond Tutu, one who lived through the great darkness of Apartheid in South Africa says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Jesus is the only light I know. If I depend on my own light giving ability, selfishness wins every time. If I depend on the light of others, I will be quickly disappointed. They will flame out before I can catch my footing. Jesus is there, we just have to see him.
Lately, I’ve been living in darkness. I know Jesus, and I know him well. I’ve spent years studying him, preaching him and stumbling my way towards him. But recently, I’ve closed my eyes, and the darkness is overwhelming. I know who Jesus is. I know he’s there. Call it stubborn disposition or depression. Whatever it’s called, I’ve forgotten how to open my eyes. All these things I “know” about Jesus count for little, because right now, in this moment, it’s dark. When hell overwhelms you and the darkness consumes your being, the truth which is right in front of you might as well be thousands of miles away. So I stumble in the dark, living half a life, much too comfortable here. I’m guessing others have been there as well.
The one thing that keeps me going is hope. I still see a glimmer of light. Even in our darkest hell, we have a choice to hope. Jesus enters our hell and walks us out. Jesus is not a stationary light, kept in some holy place that we need to seek out on our own strength to see. He is a roaring sun, seeking out those in shadows, going to hell and back as many times as needed. He enters our hell and finds us. Jesus won’t let me give up. His light keeps finding me. And I’m grateful.
Advent is hope. In the darkness of a murderous king, an oppressed people and what people must assumed was a bastard child to disgraced parents, hope shines through. The light of the world enters the darkest of places. A small child born in a manger brings hope to the broken, shining through our darkness, entering our hell and walking us out. I hope this is true. It has to be, for my sake, and the sake of the world. Advent reminds me to hang on; to open my eyes and see the light.