You may be the happiest person in the world. There have been times when I felt that way. It doesn’t last. Things go wrong.
One of worst moments comes when Satan tempts us not with trinkets of gold and baubles of pleasure but with dark nights of despair.
He need only remind us of our past sins, and we shudder at the thought of how horribly unworthy we are to stand before Jesus.
It is easy to sympathise with St Peter’s response when Jesus asked: “Do you love me?” Jesus asked three times. The apostle remembered the three times he denied ever knowing Jesus. So he replied, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.”
Don’t be surprised that we must “walk through the valley of darkness”. Can we still put our trust in God, no matter what happens?
Yes, of course. As St Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans: “I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatsoever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Even so, to use a phrase from an ancient prayer, it would be foolish to deny the sorrow we experience in “this valley of tears”.
This is why St Paul, in that same passage of Romans just quoted, says: “We are well aware that the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labour pains. And not only creation; but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free.”
Even if pagans think it is total idiocy, the two opposites go together. We will be at peace because we enjoy the “first fruits of the Spirit”. We will “groan inside ourselves” because we live in a decadent world, because we need to be freed from this “body of death”.
St Paul sums up the idea in Second Corinthians: “Yes, we groan, and find it a burden being still in this tent, not that we want to strip it off, but to put the second garment over it and to have what must die taken up into life.”
This is the paradox of Christian life. The light is bright. The darkness is really dark. We cannot accept the myopic vision of the people who are obsessed with fifty shades of grey.
Christians live in a world of sharp contrasts: inwardly groaning while enjoying the first-fruits of the Spirit. Surrounded by troubles, like Daniel in the lion’s den, we know Christ is coming.