As darkness seems to push in from every side it seeks to make a large space for fear to grow in our hearts, minds, and spirits. Little wonder! Darkness makes it difficult to see the path ahead, the position of the enemy and the tools he carries in his quest to conquer us. We can become disoriented in darkness and lose track of whatever light there may be. It happens to us humankind more often than any of us would wish to admit.
We know at the beginning of Creation darkness covered the earth. The Message rendering describes it as “bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.” That vivid description could open us to despair. But in the very next scene God speaks light upon the world and separates the light from the dark. We cannot miss that throughout all time light and darkness characterize life in this world. We see references to this throughout scripture and allegorical stories and poems. Darkness seeks to overtake the light and defeat it once and for all.
Of all the depictions of this, one stands out for me in our favorite series, The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s gift as a master storyteller is at its best in this series that was brought to life in the first film released in 2001. Dramatic scenes unfold as we watch Middle Earth in crisis and evil seeks to overtake everyone and everything. There is but one ring that can rule all the other rings and it must be destroyed in the very place it was made. An unlikely group is formed in a fellowship to make the trek to Mt. Doom. The journey will reveal the character of each, and the hero will not be the strongest in might and brawn. The tools each will take for the battle ahead are significant.
Again and again Tolkien gives us metaphors of light and darkness in the battle for rule. Then as the fellowship begins the long journey to defeat darkness each of them is presented with a gift for the battle and danger ahead. It is a poignant reminder that we should be prepared when we battle darkness even as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:10-20. Weapons serve us best when we already have tested them and practiced with them before we ever arrive at the battle. Little wonder that David understood that when we went to battle Goliath. (He chose the weapons that were ones he had tested and tried.)
Each of the members of the fellowship wonder at the choice of the weapon that Galadriel gives them. Each has a purpose. The one given to Frodo of light of a star captured in a “phial” reminds all that light is powerful in battling darkness.
Some of you may recall what she says when she hands this gift to Frodo:
Galadriel: “Farewell, Frodo Baggins. I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star … May it be a light for you, in dark places, when all other lights go out.”J.R.R.Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings/Fellowship of the Ring”
What does Tolkien want us to see and remember from this metaphor? He knew the darkness of battle from his service in WW I and the despair of trench warfare and certainly his powerful works written after that time were forged from his experience in part.
Perhaps he points us to the truth we see woven in scripture, so we are buoyed for our own battles as we face darkness in our personal lives as well as the world around us.
Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”John 8:12 (MSG)
The Apostle Paul reminds us of a key point to consider as we battle:
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore, let’s rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”Romans 13:12 (NASB)
Scripture reminds us that darkness will increase as we near the time of his return, but if we are his and Christ dwells in our hearts there is still light. And it is a light that cannot be extinguished when all the other lights go out. Little wonder that any and all enemies would seek to cause us to despair and succumb in an attempt to extinguish the light. His beloved disciple, John, reminds us of who Christ is and what He would have us never forget in dark times:
“This in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.”1 John 1:5 (MSG)
The message of light for us also is clear in the Psalms:
“For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.”Psalm 18:28 (NASB)
These words and so many more need to be inscribed on our hearts and challenging our thoughts and fears that may try to assail us. We must also seek to encourage one another as well when we falter and or grow weary. And we must be prepared like the wise virgins that Christ speaks about in the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25. Our lamps must be continually filled with oil, and we must be alert for his call.