The Dark Face of Reality
How long, O Lord, have I cried to thee
I cry, "Violence!", but thou dost not save.
Why dost thou let me see such misery,
why countenance wrongdoing?
Devastation and violence confront me;
strife breaks out, discord raises its head,
and so law grows effete;
justice does not come forth victorious;
for the wicked outwit the righteous,
and so justice comes out perverted.
The reckless will be unsure of himself,
while the righteous man will live by his
The darkness of life has two distinct, though inter-weaving, strands. There is the darkness of personal suffering due to misfortune that we all have to undergo as part of our training to become useful citizens of the world. Without this testing experience we would be only too prone to complacency and selfishness. As we suffer, so we begin to enter into the pain of others, and the first step is made in understanding the meaning of corporate unity, that we are, in addition to being unique individuals in, our own right, also parts of an immeasurably greater whole, the body of humanity, of creation itself.
But there is a more fundamental darkness that seems to be involved in, yet distinct from, this personal travail. It is a manifest power of evil that pervades the entire creative process and shows itself only too clearly in the cruelty people visit on each other and on the creation itself. A view of evil that sees it as only a privation of the good, though true enough in its own compass, seems to us, through the experience of our own lives, to be emphatically inadequate. There does appear to be a real, indeed assertive, force that is constantly conspiring to destroy all that is noble and good in the world. The enormities of our own century are too terrible to be attributed to mere ignorance, even if the power of evil does use human ignorance in its fell design of wreaking universal havoc. The passion of Christ is the paradigm of this cosmic drama, and it has been repeated on more than one occasion in the world's history since then - and no doubt before also.
We are moving to the close of a century torn apart with organized violence of such ferocity that those of us who have witnessed some of the drama of our time and are still alive, miraculously preserved in body and mind, quake inwardly at the sheer horror of it all. It is not unfitting that we should reflect on the phenomenon of evil, its part in cosmic destiny and its ultimate healing. I use the word healing deliberately, because the cruder, if more satisfying concept of destruction has been rendered increasingly inadequate by our greater understanding of the world. The advance of civilization adds to our knowledge of life on various levels: it is how we use the knowledge that determines the future of our civilization. In the past we could look back, for instance, on the isolated witness of the Jews, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Persians, the Indians and the Chinese, the history of all of whom had peaks of towering spiritual genius. But now we are a fully open world, and each group brings its gifts to enrich the whole. If even one of us is endangered, our fellows too are near the brink of destruction. We need a courageous integration of all mankind's long experience, good and bad alike, for the work ahead of us. It is a sobering, but also invigorating, reflection that God is the creator of all things, whether seen or unseen, and that what he has made is fundamentally good, no matter what changes it may have to undergo in the course of its strange unfolding, its tortured, slow, yet magnificent development, to adult stature and service. In the agony of pain beyond articulate communication . . . we are sustained by a hope so precious that all past suffering seems entirely logical, even worthwhile, for we have glimpsed the divine reality. But it is we who then have to make the journey, like Abraham, from the world of the senses to the Promised Land. In the end the two come together in the love of God.