In The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman faces his strongest enemy yet, a villain called Bane. In their first meeting, Bane wipes the floor with the Batman, and breaks his back over his knee. Bane takes the broken Bruce Wayne to a prison on the other side of the world. A prison built in a pit. You could see the way out, but the steep walls were all but impossible to climb. Thus hope was always before you, but always out of reach.
Breaking Wayne’s back however was not the worst thing Bane did to him; the worst was that he kept Bruce alive and set up a monitor in a nearby cell that broadcast the news of how Bane was destroying Gotham City and everyone in it. There was nothing Bruce Wayne/the Batman could do.
He couldn’t walk.
He was in prison.
He was on the other side of the world.
He had no money.
He had no means to call for help.
He would see and hear everything happening to the people and the city he loved, but not be able to do anything else but watch.
I have been learning that one of the hardest times in life is to see someone you love hurting or suffering in a grave and dark way—and being unable to do anything about it. I am in such a place now. Michelle Styles, a fellow blogger and one of my regular readers and commenters (who has also become a dear friend) is in a serious situation right now, suffering spiritually, mentally, as well as physically; in a place far away that I cannot get to. All I can do is watch and listen and pray.
Prayer is not nothing, it is a powerful thing, it is the most powerful thing I can do. But my pastor’s spirit wants more than just to pray for my friend, it wants to pray with my friend. It wants to be present, to be able to communicate love, compassion, grace, and mercy face-to-face. It wants to be able to hold the hands of the people being lifted up in prayer.
Tomorrow morning I will meet a family I don’t know. I will console them, pray with them, and incarnate God’s love and compassion for them over the loss of their mother. Saturday morning I will officiate at her funeral. I will love and serve this family in whatever way I can and tell them of the hope that Christ offers. But I am kept from giving that pastoral care to my dear friend and to my friend’s family in their Dark Night. I feel like Bruce Wane stuck in that prison pit.
But I know too, that this is not the end of the story. It’s the middle of the story. And that brings us back to lessons from The Dark Knight Rises.
As dark and hopeless as Bruce felt in that pit, we the audience, were not as depressed as he was. Sure, we could see things were bad. Sure, we were on the edge of our seats, holding our breath. But not from hopelessness, from expectation! After all, we know the name of the movie is the Dark Knight RISES! We’ve seen the previews! We know he gets out! We may bite our nails because we don’t know how he will, but not because we don’t believe he will! The Dark Knight always lives through a Dark Night before he rises above it. In the end, Batman wins—not always the way we thought or hoped or wanted—but we know he wins, because he is Batman!
Like Bruce Wayne, we too experience Dark Nights that temp us to fall into fear, anxiety, worry, and to wonder how God could ever make things right out of such a mess. But unlike Bruce Wayne, we know the title of our movie: Christ’s Redemption Rises! We have seen the previews (the Exodus, the Gospels)! We know how it ends (Revelation)! And while things do not always happen the way we imagined or hoped or thought they would, we know it ends with God winning, because He is GOD and that is how He rolls! And when He wins, we win too, because (after all) the plot is the redemption of His People.
This, however, is often a tough thing to live with when you find yourself confined to the prison pit. It is not an easy thing to walk by faith and not by sight. And I don’t think there is any good in insisting that it is otherwise. It is hard not always knowing the answers to how or why or when. Yet at the same time, it is by living through these cursed Dark Nights that our trust and faith in God is forged, tested, and beaten into the resilient steel of confidence and hope.
I know God will work this out in ways I cannot even imagine. I know that—in the end—this Dark Night will fall before the power, wisdom, and love of the Risen Son. Today, God wants me to minster from a distance. Perhaps He will grant the desire of my heart in coming days. For now, I pray for my friend, trusting that my God knows best how to heal and to save.