With dark stories dominating our news cycles, Erik Strandness explores what our response should be to the darkness inside us

We all have a shadow that follows us around. A dark side that no one else knows. It causes us no end of misery and leaves us perpetually haunted by ghosts rattling the chains of our past foibles. What can we do? We have several choices. 

First, we can deny our own darkness and spend all our time criticising the length of the shadows cast by others. Second, we can embrace the darkness and make the shadowlands our permanent home. Finally, we can invite the Light of the World into our lives to expose the dark recesses and allow us to once again shine.


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Trolling the darkness

Sadly, many people opt for the first choice and defend their shady character by pointing out that the darkness in everyone else’s life is a deeper shade of black than their own. Threatened by a closer inspection of their lives they cry “squirrel” and release the hounds to bark up someone else’s tree. 

Oblivious to the log in their own eyes they engage in a kind of morality surgery, which they are woefully unqualified to engage in, and perform speckectomies on everyone else – usually without anaesthesia. 

The media headlines are a daily reminder of our human shortcomings, but despite this surfeit of evidence indicating that “no one is righteous, no, not one,” we still believe that we are above the riff raff.  Unfortunately, this attitude has been the media’s go to strategy for generating stories and fuelling cancel culture. Ironically, the trolls who live in the shadows of the internet are hired to expose the darkness of others just so the rest of us can feel a little bit greyer. 

Interestingly, that which shouldn’t be news to any human being is the daily headline. Unwilling to face the fact that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God we want assurance that others have fallen even shorter. Adopting this strategy, however, leaves us with a real problem because if we tear down statues of flawed human beings then we must also be toppled and if we toss rocks at others then we are next in line to be stoned. 

Me and my shadow

Some people opt for the second choice, and rather than leave the shadowlands, claim it as their true home. Sadly, in a world without Light they embrace the only thing they know, darkness. Misery loves company so they invite everyone over for a pity party and make it appealing by boasting how edgy the festivities will be. 

God pointed out that a strategy of embracing cutting-edge darkness merely dulls our morality because people love the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil. Tolerance becomes the law of the land in our perpetually blacked-out city, and while many consider it to be an enlightened way of thinking, it is really a strategy to keep people in the dark. 

Everyone gets along because you can’t hate what you can’t see. Tolerance becomes the Chamber of Commerce welcoming people into sin city and promising them that nobody will know what they are doing because what happens in the shadows stays in the shadows. 

Sadly, those who are energetic enough to flip on the lights to help people get their bearings are considered rebels trying to grab the reins of power. It reminds me of St John’s description of the true Light coming into the world and not only being unrecognised but also unwelcome. He describes a people so comfortable living in the darkness that they cry out “stranger danger!” every time they encounter the Light of the world.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:9-11) 

Light therapy

While the first two strategies either adopt a sliding scale of darkness or move in and homestead it, there is a third option, promote Light therapy. 

I don’t think God has much patience with fallen human beings incessantly accusing others of being fallen. We need to be accountable for our own behaviour, but airing someone else’s dirty laundry in public hardly seems like an appropriate laundromat. Jesus had harsh words for such hypocrites even linking their good religious intentions to a hell recruitment strategy. 

God wants us to spend more time resuscitating the rotting corpse inside the tomb than pointing out the obvious inconsistencies of the whitewash on the outside. We all have sin issues but instead of constantly pointing out how others fail to meet that standard let’s introduce them to the One who mercifully crossed them off our holy like he is holy to-do-list. 

For those who choose to avoid the Light of the world by applying heavy layers of Sonscreen, wearing dark glasses, and going goth, we need to have sympathy. We can’t just treat them like a black hole and avoid them because of the strength their gravitational pull. The creator of the heavens and Earth didn’t leave us that option, but instead made it a point to include them within his orbit. God so loved the world, even those whose darkness is extremely dense. 

We all have S.A.D (sinful affective disorder), which can only be treated with Light therapy. However, we need to remember that we are called to be candles on nightstands and not laser weapons in a Holy War. We can’t take our light-of-the-world saber and go Jedi on those in the shadows but must rather use it as phototherapy to treat a world jaundiced by hate and anger. 


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Light of the world

As Pascal noted we are “the glory and refuse of the Universe” but what does that mean? Augustine posited that evil has no independent existence and that bad behaviour isn’t an evil add-on but a virtue subtraction. 

If he is correct, then we are not called to lop off the non-existent bad in others but fill in the deficient good. We shouldn’t be iconoclasts bent on destroying faulty image bearers but rather patrons of the image bearing arts intent on restoring God’s masterpieces to their original very good condition. 

Did you ever wonder why the only light in the New Jerusalem will be a Lamb lamp? I think the answer to this question is the same one we would give to the question of whether we can sin in the new heaven and Earth? It’s hard to have dark thoughts when the place is so well lit, and you can never retreat into the shadows when Jesus always keeps the light on. 

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:23)

Once we have seen a great light, it is hard to go back to living in a deep darkness where things go bump in the night. I am not defined by the shadow I cast but by the amount of light I radiate so I need to stop taking lonely walks, just me and my shadow, and start strolling with the Light of the world in the cool of the day

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)


Erik Strandness is a physician and Christian apologist who has practiced neonatal medicine for more than 20 years.