Pursuing Joy in the Gloom
The sun rose again this morning to reveal the same yellow-gray gloom that has been brooding for just over a week. The smoke from the wildfires combined with the morning fog make for an oppressive atmosphere. Sound is strangely muffled, and the complete stillness is eerie after the raging east winds that ravaged our area. The bitter tang of smoke taints our clothes, stings our eyes, burns our lungs and subdues our mood.
I am generally a fairly steady and upbeat person, but this smog is having a notable impact on my emotion. I find it harder to get motivated to do tasks, and have much less enthusiasm for advance planning. Outside activity is not recommended due to the toxins in the air and so I find myself sitting around feeling lethargic. The reduced activity leaves more time to remember the other heavy matters of our day – global pandemic, racial tensions, political division and family brokenness. I sigh more.
All of this keeps reminding me of the gloom Frodo and Sam dealt with in The Return of the King. The two small hobbits inched forward day by day in a seemingly hopeless mission to march into the land of Mordor and destroy the enemy’s ring of power. The sheer danger was daunting enough, but on top of that Sauron had covered the lands with a blanket of black smoke such that the brightness of mid-day was like dusk. The darkness sapped their dwindling reserves of hope.
Fellow lovers of Tolkien’s trilogy will remember a moment when Sam, from his dark hiding place in Mordor, looks up and sees a star shining through a tiny gap in the fumes. The beauty of it ‘smote his heart’ and hope returned to him. “For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”
That is the effect God’s Word has on my heart in these heavy days. I picture the Apostle Paul writing a letter to his friends in Philippi from his prison cell in Rome, sensing the end of his life was rapidly drawing near. His circumstances were dark, but his letter radiated joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Ph 4:4) This was not escapism, but a genuine hope built on the reality that the Lord Jesus was present in the gloom. Therefore, he urged them to pray about everything, both requests and thanks, and promised the peace of God would guard their hearts and minds.
There is beauty to behold. There is hope to be had. But we must ask Him for it.