Of the places I've lived, a small town called Alice Springs in the Australian Outback was probably the most extreme. It is one of the least cloudy place on the planet so summers are long and dry and winter nights are bitterly cold. Now that I live in Western Washington, it's clear God wants me to catch up on all the rainy days I missed when I was living there.
Though the conditions in the Outback are notable, I have always been fascinated by the amazing extremes of Alaska. Not just in their weather systems, but in their hours of daylight, twilight, and dark.
I cannot conceive what it must be like to spend a winter in the bitter cold, snowy tundra of northern Alaska to only receive a partial glimpse of the sun on the horizon before it dips again, just out of reach. It must feel as if the only thing that could truly warm your bones is being teased away from you. Living even this far north, I feel robbed of joy by every raindrop that hits my window and every forecast that lies about the possibility of a dry and sunny day during the gloomy winter months.
When we look at our lives and the world around us, it seems there are times when hope is far from us and even the glimmers of a brighter day slip from our grasp like sand through the hand of a child. Hope for restored peace in broken relationships, repentance from someone who has sinned against you, a day where doing the smallest of tasks doesn't feel like a battle, or hearing from God in a way you can truly believe might seem like cruel and deceptive fantasies in the place of your devastating reality. If this present reality like the slipping glimpse of twilight was all we had to hope for, we would all lose hope.
I imagine this feeling of slipping hope must have been how the disciples felt as the sun set on the day Jesus died. They had put their hope in this man ushering in God’s Kingdom and all that would entail. They had staked their lives on his words and his promises.
Quoting Isaiah 61 as he launches his ministry, Jesus makes these bold claims:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” - Luke 4:18–19
How the setting sun on the first Good Friday must have pushed them to despair.
But we know the story continued and a few days later, the sun rose to a new world -- one now containing a tangible hope that holds the keys to death in his own hands (Rev 1:18).
In this we are reminded that, in what fells like slipping hope, there will come a day of sun. Slowly but surely, the twilight will grow, the sun will break the horizon bigger and bigger, it will rise higher and higher until, like it does in northern Alaska during summer, it will never set. The days will be filled with warmth. The Apostle John writes of the day when Christ's return brings with him the new heavens and earth that:
“there will be no night there.”- Rev 21:25
We, who know the risen Christ experience this warmth in part now, but we hope and trust that we will know it fully later. In that hope and trust, we know the sun that brings light and warmth to melt the snow of winter is simply a glimpse of the Son that frees us from sin and will free his world of hopelessness on His Day.
Might God bring you hope in this truth today,