“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
That’s how John describes Jesus in the world. A light radiating in darkness, and not overcome by it.
As anyone with depression can attest to, it often feels the opposite of scripture’s description of Jesus. Where Jesus is light shining in a dark world, but not overcome, depression is darkness in a dark world, where light, however bright, rarely seems to break through.
Jesus is called Immanuel. It means God with us, but even with that definition, I doubt that we can ever grasp the full extent of all that it means. In it, we see that the One who for all eternity has existed in unmatched Holiness would make His home among those who are unmatched in their ability to harm one another, to hate their brother, to seek ill-gotten gain at the expense of the most vulnerable. That He who had unending riches would choose to live in unrivaled humility. A derelict king, with no place to lay his head. That He who existed in all comfort would enter into much discomfort, and ultimately, unsurpassed pain.
Then what should keep us from believing that the same God who existed in all joy and peace for forever past, would not pursue us even to the depths of a mind that knows no joy? That can’t begin to feel at peace?
There have been times in my life when I’ve felt that should the extent of my hopelessness be brought to light, others would pull away. Or even worse, that the degree to which I felt incapable of lifting my head, would leave me totally isolated, even from God. While the former is an ever present possibility, the latter is laid waste at the foot of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
There, in the recess of the burdened brain, as in Bethlehem, we’re met with the One who makes Himself at home with the spiritless. The hope that enters hopelessness. The light that overcomes the darkness, even where the darkness may never know that it has been overcome.
The Christmas season, for all its good, also heaves its weight on the most painful places in our lives, and sometimes in its merry-making, only succeeds in making painful things more painful. Illuminating the empty chairs at our dinner tables, the inadequacy of our pocketbooks, the foolishness of our misplaced hopes.
This Christmas, remember this. There is no place so dark that He will not enter into it. As the psalmist says, “Even in Sheol, you are there.” Know that the manger was not the last word in God coming down to us, but a first word in His never-ending pursuit of us. To the ends of the earth, and the crux of the crestfallen mind.