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May 26, 2020

I keep hearing about the dark or troubling times we are in. The other night I sat down and watched the news (actually just wanted to see the weather report). The first 17 minutes was so negative and depressing! Absolutely nothing positive or uplifting. However, one comment really struck me: “We have never seen dark times like this!” I am thinking she meant that we have never seen a pandemic before, but dark times have been around forever. The battle between darkness and light has been around from the beginning. In recent years, it has been brought to the forefront through the Star Wars series, the Narnia movies and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. All focused on the battle between darkness and light. Yes, we are in dark times but what is more concerning is to ask ourselves if we are being pulled into the dark times or toward the dark side.
“Yoda reduces Luke Skywalker’s potential as a Jedi to one issue – his ability to resist the dark side – because once a Jedi starts down the dark path, it can forever dominate his destiny. One of the aspiring Jedi’s greatest battles is within one’s own nature, a fight between the dark side that appeals to one’s fallenness and the light that can shine through one’s spiritual nature. As a Christian, our spiritual nature can outwrestle the entrapments of the dark side by intentionally avoiding those behaviors that entice us. The Apostle Paul emboldened Timothy by reminding him that the power of Jesus is greater than that of the dark side and is able to slay those temptations: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ All of this advice is of course, easier given that followed. I may believe in God’s superior power over the dark side, and I may be determined to flee temptations, but as a phrase in an old hymn laments, I am ‘prone to wander and leave the God I love.’
Thomas Chalmers advises displacing the dark side’s desires with a greater devotion to God: “The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.’ Many dieters have learned that the best way to give up food that is bad for you is to discover food you like better that is good for you! As you develop an appetite for God and the good, it can displace your appetite for the dark side’s offerings.
We are told that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet he was without sin. What did Jesus do to thwart the tempter? He recommended prayer as a preventive step, advising us to petition God to ‘lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.’ According to Jesus, prayer and meditating on the scripture are essential elements of your spiritual diet.
A professor friend who teaches a college class on spiritual formation told me that students often complain that they aren’t learning anything new about spiritual power against temptation; ‘We already know about fleeing, praying, mediating on the Bible, and trusting God’s superior power,’ they say, ‘but isn’t there anything else you can tell us?’ Jesus warned that true Christians must be ‘doers of the word and not hearers only.’ Reminding us that sometimes our solution is not new information but putting into practice what we already know. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets in our wrestling with the dark side. Our arsenal is adequate if we will use it.” (Dick Staub, Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters)
Life is a struggle and some days it seems like we might not make it through the next minute. We may lose our patience, we may be tense, stress may be getting the better of us… but we cannot give in to the dark side. God reminds us to bring everything to God in prayer and petitions. We already know what to do we sometimes just forget what to do and need a push or a reminder.
I would like to put it another way: There’s a story of the two wolves in Cherokee culture in which a grandfather teaches his grandson an important life lesson. The grandfather tells his grandson that there is a battle going on inside all of us. It is a battle between two wolves that live inside us. He says, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ that live inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thinks about it for a while and says, “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed”.
We feed the fear wolf when we talk negatively to ourselves, beat ourselves up for little setbacks, and don’t ever focus on our strengths, gifts, and all the good we have in life. The worst thing you can do is to accept the messages of the fear wolf. Even if your mind is creating negative thoughts, they can have no effect on you if you discard them right away. To disengage the fear wolf, we don’t need to hate it, because hate is itself an emotion of the fear wolf. We just need to breathe deeply and focus on feeding the courage wolf.
Here is how to feed the courage wolf:
• Show compassion for yourself and forgive yourself for personal shortcomings
• Talk positively to yourself, remember the time you shined bright, remember your strengths
• Help others around you
• Express gratitude: Write down the things you’re grateful for.
Seek the light! God’s got you and God’s got this!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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