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Enduring the Darkness: An Advent Reflection on Hope

Written by Graham Watkins

As we enter a season of advent where we commemorate Christ’s first coming and wait in expectation of the Lord coming again, we are in a time of waiting, expectation, and reflection. It is often a time of abundant joy and celebration. However, I must admit that as I have had time to slow down and begun to reflect, the heaviness of our dark and broken world has felt oppressive and cast a shadow on my advent season. It begs to question; how can we celebrate in a time such as this? Is it even right to be filled with joy and hope?

Though I have been brought to this place of confusion and lament, it has also been a time to seek the Lord, to draw closer to Him and ask him to reveal more of himself. The Lord has been faithful and has drawn near, giving me a truth to hold fast to. However, I was not prepared or expecting him to use the method He chose. It wasn’t His audible voice, a close friend, or even an awesome biblical podcast. Instead, it was a character in the new show, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, saying, “Hope is never mere even if it is meager.”

This quote came from Gil Galad, an Elf King whose kingdom was under siege by powers of darkness. His people depended on light and beauty, and the evil on his doorstep threatened their very existence. Nonetheless, he chose hope. This choice captures one of the deepest truths in scripture. As followers of Christ, even in the bleakest of seasons, hope can never be vanquished. The deepest brokenness, the darkest powers, nor the evil and stain of sin cannot blot out our hope.

In light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is an eternal hope in the Kingdom that is to come, there is hope because death has been defeated, and painful times on earth are but a “light momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) in light of the Kingdom that is to come. Death has been defeated! Pause for a moment and take time to reflect on that. Use this season of advent to slow down and remember this truth. The darkest and most painful thing this world has to offer has been defeated. “Even the darkness is not dark to our Lord” (Psalm 139:12).

However, hear me when I say I know that it still often feels dark to us. My brother is currently battling a mental illness. He is in a rehab center seeking new medication in the search for an answer to his physical pain. My hope in the present is that the Lord would be healer, that He would use this medication to heal my brother’s mind and restore his spirit. However, I know this is not guaranteed. Thus, my eternal hope is found in that my brother knows our Lord and savior. I rest in knowing that one day he will be given a new body, and his illness will be restored. Yet while I hold fast to that eternal hope, I still cling to the present hope that he would receive healing!

You too may be dealing with darkness this advent season. Maybe you also have a loved one battling with a physical or mental illness, or someone you care deeply for has not yet come to know the Lord? Maybe your job just doesn’t give you a sense of fulfillment or there is a broken relationship that you have been praying the Lord would mend for years? Whatever it may be, this darkness and brokenness is incredibly real, and we feel the weight of it. However, our God who promises hope rooted in the eternal and who has conquered death, is the same God that deals with our trials now. He sees, he knows, and he is capable of doing all that we ask and plead if he so chooses. Thus, do not lose hope for those that you continue to pray for, it may seem mere, but it is never meager, for our God is able.

My friends, this hope is not just a distant offer so that we may give our lives in exchange. It is a covenant promise to all those who believe that this earth is not all that there is and that evil doesn’t have the last say. The Lord is still present and in our midst. He sees your suffering and implores you to maintain your hope. So, I encourage you in this holiday season, if even the Christmas lights don’t seem to brighten the darkness you are experiencing, if you are missing a loved one at your holiday dinner table, be reminded that our hope is both present and eternal. The darkness and pain of this world is but a momentary affliction in light of the Kingdom that is coming, yet the Lord can still intervene. May we go before the Lord in prayer, trusting the results to His will. We may rest knowing that regardless, we will all soon be united with Christ for eternity, fully restored and brought into right relationship with him. May you be encouraged by that hope. For it is neither mere nor meager, it is promised.

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