Barbara Brown Taylor

The God of Darkness, Sadness and Sloth



I’m starting with the sloth rather than the dark.  We know a lot about darkness, don’t we, but not so much about sloths.  So here are some baby sloths being----just slothful.


I Praise God for sloths, and all other slow, creeping creatures. They are all my models this week.  I spent 3 workdays, the precious hours of school when I do all my writing----doing nothing. I am working on doing nothing (but this post) for today as well. And maybe even the weekend.
Because darkness comes. Because death comes in the night and then in the day. Because some people are unable to love. Because there are times when no matter what you do, you will be wrong, and there’s nothing good in you.  Human love will fail you again and again, and there we are in the dark, again, pretending all is light. Barbara Taylor Brown’s beautiful book Learning to Walk in the Dark speaks of this, of how we love the light and fear the dark. In truth, God often comes to us most visibly and powerfully in the dark. 
In these times, you cannot work. Or think. Or write. And it’s okay, because now your work is different. Now your work is to rest.  To stop performing, to collapse upon your bed, to cry however long and often you need, to look out the window at the ocean and the clouds, to call a friend, to sleep, to ask for prayer. And to be sad.      That’s your job. That’s what you’re here to do right now. And if you're on the forgiveness journey, forgiving a parent or someone who has harmed you---you must start here. Because all is not right with the world. And we needn’t pretend that it is.  The full armor of God doesn’t protect against sadness and betrayal----because these are not our true enemies. Our true enemies right now are Blind Faith and Busy Faith, the kind of faith that shuts its eyes in the dark, refusing to see the dark----and the kind of faith that chases madly after achievement and service, hoping we will be named worthy because of it.  
                                                (aworthywoman.com) Stop.  Yes, of course, read your Bible, but you’ve done nothing wrong, and your problem is not lack of faith or poor theology. Os Guiness in his book, God in the Dark, considers how God took care of Elijah when Elijah was depressed and overwhelmed:  “God's remedy for Elijah's depression was not a refresher course in theology but food and sleep... Before God spoke to him at all, Elijah was fed twice and given a good chance to sleep.  . . . This is always God's way. Having made us as human beings, He respects our humanness and treats us with integrity. That is, He treats us true to the truth of who we are. It is human beings and not God who have made spirituality impractical.”  We have indeed made spirituality impractical----and inhumane.  As you walk in human sadness and sloth---which you must do by faith for at least a little while---you will find rescue.  In his own sadness, Moses quieted his heart enough to write this bitter truth: “The length of our days is 70 years---     or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
But that truth, written from the dark, led to this final truth that ends the Psalm, words from God himself: “Because *she loves me,” says the Lord,      I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she     Acknowledges my name. She will call upon me, and I will answer        Her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life will I satisfy her   And show her my salvation.” 
(*Gender changed so women can KNOW and FEEL God speaking to US as well.)  He IS with us. In trouble, in the dark, in our mourning, “I will rescue her, I will protect her,” God says.   I am still sad. I am still walking in (faithful) sloth.  And I am rescued.  Dear friends in the dark, allow yourself to be sad, to be slow, to be rescued as well.