Hope Consuming Darkness

Scripture Focus: Joel 2.30-32
30 I will show wonders in the heavens 
and on the earth, 
blood and fire and billows of smoke. 
31 The sun will be turned to darkness 
and the moon to blood 
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 
32 And everyone who calls 
on the name of the Lord will be saved; 
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem 
there will be deliverance, 
as the Lord has said, 
even among the survivors 
whom the Lord calls.

Acts 2.21
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10.13
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Reflection: Hope Consuming Darkness
By John Tillman

An unstoppable army advances like fire, burning and devouring everything in its path. Cultivated land like the Garden of Eden becomes a barren desert waste.

Witnesses describe the sound of locusts feeding on crops and trees as a crackling fire. Joel used the recent trauma of a plague of locusts to warn of future disasters. “Did you see this insect army ravage the land? There are greater ravagers on the way.”

Some faith leaders today refer to Joel, using recent disasters to terrify and manipulate. But Joel also promised salvation, both in the moment and an ultimate future restoration.

The destruction Joel described was caused by sin. Its solution was returning to the Lord in repentance. Sin is not just individual actions, like one bug crawling in our kitchen, but societal swarms that plague the earth—a consuming darkness. We’ve all experienced the ravages of sin in our personal lives, our communities, and the world. We’ve seen Edens become wastelands.

Peter and Paul knew darkness, and both read Joel not as terrifying but as hope in the midst of darkness that is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. Peter quoted Joel in his first sermon, ending with, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2.14-21) Paul also picked up on this promise, repeating the ending quote of Peter’s sermon, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10.13)Jesus is our salvation, both in the moment and in an ultimate future restoration. There may be darkness ahead and sin in our past or future. Like Peter or Paul, we may have betrayed or persecuted Christ. (Matthew 26.72-74; Philippians 3.6) We may have resorted to or endorsed violence. (John 18.10; Acts 7.57-58) We may have been ashamed and humbled. (Luke 22.61-62; Acts 9.3-5) But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

What darkness has eaten at you? Blocked out the light? Settled on your fields? Obscured your hope?

We will not be lost in consuming darkness. The consuming darkness will be consumed by hope.

No matter how dark it gets, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 
No matter how frightening it feels, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 
No matter if we die, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Joel 2 (Listen 5:26)
Matthew 19 (Listen 4:04)

Listen to Apotheosis of Politics on the Pause to Read podcast
As traditional religion declines, politics is the newest, fastest-growing religion.

Read more about Unprecedented
In response to unprecedented times, Joel encourages the people to enter into a time of unprecedented prayer and repentance. 

What to Expect When Suffering :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Wendy, from Northfield, MA
I have long loved the Psalms, prayed through them, and let them express for me when my heart can’t find the words I need. This post helped me do so again when I needed it. 

Scripture Focus: Psalm 116.11
…in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

Reflection: What to Expect When Suffering :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 23rd, 2018
By John Tillman

When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.

Suffering comes in many forms and many intensities. But our response follows a predictable pattern. Hope, impatience, despair, rage, doubt, rejection, redemption, and praise are all a part of the template of prayer that the psalmists show us. There is comfort in acknowledging the emotional rollercoaster that is the psalmists’ testimony.

Don’t be surprised or ashamed of the emotions that come in times of struggle and pain. With faith in God, we can move through cycles of emotions to the peace that God gives us in his presence.

Today we will follow a guided prayer with portions of Psalm 116 from today’s reading.

What to Expect When Suffering
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Oh God, in times of stress, despair, and struggle
We are overcome and need your comfort.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”

But the world frustrates us, teaching us that any degree of suffering is waste.

in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

You are the only trustworthy one, Lord,
But in our alarm, amidst fear and emotion
We sometimes call the wrong things lies

May we not reject community, simple kindness, praise, and loving words from those around us.
May we not reject being reminded that we are loved.

Instead, we call the world a liar.
When they say a good life is pain-free
When they say pain proves God is not with us

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;

Rarely are our current sufferings deadly.
But, Oh God, even when they are…
You are with us now and in the hour of our death
We are precious to you at all times and in every outcome

And if the worst the world can imagine should happen to us
In our death, we simply enter your precious presence in “the courts of the house of the Lord.

May we not wait until death to experience the peace of walking in your courts.
Help us to live, bringing the reality of your courts, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you,” — John 14.16-17

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 12 (Listen – 4:19) 
Romans 10 (Listen – 3:21)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you refresh your faith?

Read more The Crucible of Suffering
In the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love.