On Our Darkest Thoughts, Evil and God’s Presence
The fact I keep writing down my thoughts to discern the light from the darkness may present itself as a cliché or a fruitless endeavour. But I see it differently. Maybe God pushed me in this direction. It feels that way, anyway.
I am someone who may be starting to grasp the relationship between good and evil. Yes, I am still young and immature and do not pretend to have all the answers. But when it comes to good and evil, neither are mutually exclusive. They need each other.
As much as I, like most others, do not enjoy the bad, it feels obvious that, without it, there could be no true good. If there were no suffering, no evil, no turmoil, in some way or form, how, realistically, could we develop and grow as human beings? How could we appreciate true goodness, happiness, joy – if there were nothing to compare it to? Moments of joy are only so because they do not come around too often. They are special because, in comparison to all else, they are more good. Better than those bad days we have, those sad moments and those disappointments.
When we reach heaven once our time here is up, how could we truly appreciate its perfection if we had not experienced imperfection first?
If we lived here in perfection and joy every moment of every day, surely then heaven would not be so special.
As Christians, and as people of any kind, any belief, it is all too easy to strive toward perfect goodness to such a degree we think we can attain it. So then bad moments become worse. The sad moments become more bitter. It becomes tempting to let the badnesses rot inside us. Such badness could manifest as guilt, shame, sadness, whatever.
And it can rot. God put us on this Earth after The Fall. It is a world in which things can go wrong, naturally. Just as we are people who can do wrong morally. But we are perfect in all our imperfections. And some things happen, things that we do, that we talk about far too little.
There is one thing in particular that gets me.
Have you ever been at the top of the stairs next to someone you love and thought, “push them”, or holding a knife and fork, thinking of a horrible thing you could do to someone with them? Or by a cliff-side, busy road… Again. “Push them.” Or perhaps you’ve thought that someone you love is ugly. Or that they should shut up forever. Or their arm is hanging out a window you can shut. “Shut it.” “Trip them.” “Kick them.” “Punch them.” “Stab them.”
Chances are, you only thought it briefly. Less than half a second, even. Barely even a quarter. But you can’t shake off the fact that you thought it at all.
I have had thoughts like that appear, throughout my life, since I was young. They are disgusting, repulsive and abhorrent. Words can’t describe them, however hard I or my thesaurus may try. They don’t even deserve that effort. I know I would never act on them. It feels as if, in those brief moments, that something comes out from some sort of deep, dark crevice inside of me. Some deep, dark crevice I did not otherwise know was there. And a “something” I did not realise was there either. When it rears its ugly head, I want to crush it. I pray to God that He forgives me, pray that He removes it from me, and throws it far away somewhere else I can’t see. Somewhere it can’t harm anyone. Somewhere I couldn’t even think it in the first place.
But they come back. And such thoughts have been coming back for at least ten years, here and there.
I believe we all have these thoughts. At some time or another. In some form or another. We all have thoughts that we wish we never would have or could have entered our bodies. They spring out in the worst moments, sometimes. They seem to know exactly when they’ll hit you hardest. When and how they’ll hurt us best.
I find it hard to say the word “hate”. But I feel I can hate these thoughts. Are they me? Do they come from my inner-being? Could they?
I know I’m not the only person who’s asked that question. I know I won’t be the last.
The answer is, whether or not they are me or not, they can. These thoughts can come from my inner-being, and I know that’s so because otherwise, I wouldn’t think of them at all. Some people will argue that it’s the enemy trying to bring us down, destroy us, kill our hope and all goodness within us. I don’t know better than anyone, but I’m not sure I believe that’s true. Perhaps it is. But I’m not sure if I buy into that. May God show me the truth, and let me explain my stance here.
People kill. They steal. They bully, they torture, they manipulate. There are people in this world who have these thoughts and act on them. Is it the devil making them do it, or is that just an easy excuse to turn to?
There is a danger in blaming the devil for our transgressions. It’s almost an in-build part of our psyche that we automatically look to someone or something else to blame for whatever we do wrong.
It is more difficult to admit to ourselves and accept that we have the innate ability within us to do wrong.
I remember when I was a kid.
“He made me do it!”
“It was him!”
“He started it!”
If we took a step back and approached those situations honestly, would we say the same thing?
And we continue to point fingers.
We must look at ourselves before we jump to judgements rashly.
Before we blame others for things we started.
We have the innate ability inside of us to do both wrong and right. It’s a key component of our free will, the way I see it. Without the element of choice, I cannot see the value in good deeds. We could not be kind if we did not have a choice but to be 'kind'. Just as without badness in our world, there cannot be true good – without the choice to do evil instead, there cannot be true love, kindness, care, compassion. Every time we are kind to another person, we have chosen to do so. We do not have to be kind to others. Often, it is easier not to be.
And so, yes, I believe in the devil. The enemy toils every day to try and take us away from God, from good, from the truth, and away from light. But to blame him for a horrible thought we have, or to blame him for what we do wrong, does not sit right with me. When I sin, it is because of myself. When I sin, I choose to do so. It is a short moment in which I wilfully ignore God. To blame another for what I choose to do feels wrong. In every moment that I sin, I also have the choice not to, so in that case, who else but myself can I blame?
And yes. The devil has a part to play. He certainly has a part to play in those thoughts. He probably dives deep down into our innermost being, searching for anything wrong with us. He searches for seeds of doubt, or anything he can tempt, prod, pull apart to push us into the dark.
He probably gives our inner thoughts’ guards a little push, to distract them as he drags those horrible, horrible thoughts out of those crevices within us. But once he has done so, we are left with a choice.
The fact that there are people on this Earth who choose to carry through those thoughts into actions, is evidence to me that we have the ability to do so. Once that thought is there, out in the open, however briefly, it is there. We cannot deny its presence. And in that brief, slight moment, we are indeed left with a choice. To carry it through, or to throw it away.
And not only throw it away. To do so would not be enough for us. To triumphantly choose against it.
To choose good, instead. To choose light. To choose love. To choose God.
As I have grown up with these thoughts, appearing here and there, I have learnt to come to terms with them. To come to terms with the fact that they are a part of me, as are those deep, dark, cold crevices within me. And, to me, they are some of the most compelling pieces of evidence for God’s existence.
I know that in those moments it is God’s presence that shines through stronger.
There is a balance between good and evil in this world. Maybe it is not as explicit as it is in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, where the forces of good come to an epic battle with the forces of evil in Mordor, a fiery eye looming and orcs roaming. But it’s clear as day to me.
Tolkien’s books were so powerful in imagery because they rang so true: Good beat evil in the end. Frodo won. Sauron fell.
There is a balance between good and evil in this world. But the balance is tipped in favour of good. It always has been and, it always will be. For every night, there is a day. Sure, some nights are dark as the deepest black. But the sunrise is brighter than the night is dark. The lights in our houses and on the streets and the cars shine against the night as it looms. And even as the darkness begins to seep in at night, it does so after God has painted His beautiful art and colours on His canvas, sunsets that seem to always be designed just for us, even though we are but dust.
And just as the sunset offsets the night with such beauty and wonder, we offset our deepest, darkest thoughts with a triumphant reply far, far brighter.
We say no.
Because not only is God’s way there, with us in our spirit. But it’s better, bigger, brighter.
And no, to just throw these thoughts away would not be enough for us. But it’s okay, because God does it for us. I will finish with a snippet from Psalm 103, which to me is poetry of a beauty that cannot be matched:
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”