God, Absurdity & Darkness (Part 1): Telling the Lie
I mentioned earlier that my post on absurdity received a higher than usual response rate. Last week, I invited Dr Phillipa Martyr to provide her response. What follows is this two-parter by Dr Brendan Triffett, a contract lecturer in philosophy and theology.
I have seen two people close to me fall into a pit of utter despair, even to the brink of suicide. By the grace of God, they found their way out.
I have never fallen that far into despair. But I have been through periods of darkness. I had to find my way through of moderate depression a few times. These days something like generalised anxiety or an indeterminate sense of dread often looms on the horizon.
It is an inescapable fact that God, in His wisdom, allows us to suffer. For some reason, God also allows some of us to experience what seems to be total darkness. In that place you can be convinced that there is this overwhelming darkness, and nothing else.
In that place Death whispers to you. It tries to seep into your system. It goes to work on you, pulling you down into despair with its ghostly tentacles. Death tells you that the darkness is your lot.
And God? He is silent. He lets death to speak to you.
And you start to believe it.
You start to accept that the Darkness is absolute, immutable, unconquerable. Little by little, the darkness becomes your “God”. This is the eternal place set aside for me, you begin to say. There is no way out, nothing beyond. Death wins. Darkness is all-encompassing.
And God? He withdraws his presence, for a time. He allows the darkness to have its hour.
In that situation, it can be all too easy to let go of life, to slip down into absolute despair. It’s simply a matter of allowing the darkness, or the whispers of death, to overwhelm your will to live. To be sure, “letting go of life” is an entirely unnatural thing. It contradicts one’s very being. It goes against the will-to-be at the root of one’s existence. Moreover, it contradicts the sovereign law of God, which governs all things. But the darkness makes what’s unnatural seem natural.
Let me repeat: it goes against Reality itself, not to mention one’s very being, to will positively that one should longer exist (and this could mean deciding to “merely exist” henceforth as a lifeless object, as a shadow or empty shell). But my point still stands. The convincing voice of death, the overwhelming sense of darkness, the powerful lure of despair—these offer the person a certain “downward pull” by which to overcome divine law and contradict one’s very self. The (demonic) law of death demands your subjection. It demands that you bow before its alleged sovereignty. It calls you to give up the thread of light which binds you to God. It tells you that you belong to death. It presses you insistently to follow its own “law”, as opposed the law of God, and the law of nature. Death surrounds you with its own warped “dynamism”—its dark spirit, which feeds off despair and destruction—and gradually moves you toward your deathly surrender.
For a time, God does not intervene.
Death is allowed to continue to weave its web of deception. “Life is not for you. Death is. You do not belong to life—which always ends. You belong here. I, Death, hold the secret, the truth of your existence. I have the final say. No-one is coming to save you. Nobody wants you. Nobody loves you. You are unlovable. You are nothing. It is all hopeless. It is all meaningless. Nothing is good. There is no redemption. Let go of your illusions. Let yourself sink.” On and on it whispers. Relentlessly.
This is the Lie which hope must rebuke and overcome!
To be continued next week…
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