God's Answer to Darkness

There are moments it seems the darkness is winning. When starving Yazidi women are forced to eat their own toddlers. When refugees, including women and children, flee their war-torn country only to be swallowed up by the sea. When porous borders and poor socio-economic conditions increase human trafficking. When the mother of my daughter’s classmate shows up to school functions bearing bruises and welts from regular beatings. The hard, unbearable truth is that the world is in crisis, and the darkness is great. We can shut off the news and look away, distract ourselves with hobbies and technology, and burrow down in our safe little pocket of the world.  

Or we can act boldly now by leading exactly where we are.

Most of us long to leave the world better than we found it. Most of us grieve the horrors we’re witnessing around the world and in our own communities. But far too many of us are paralyzed by inaction. Why?

In my research and work with Christian women, I’ve found three barriers that keep us from acting, that prevent us from leading with boldness.

First, we fail to recognize ourselves as leaders. When we think of what a leader is or what a leader does, our minds leap towards the most extreme examples of leadership—pastor, CEO, president—and since we see so few women leading from these positions, we tend to think of women leaders as extraordinary women far different from the rest of us. In Christian churches and organizations, the myth that no women can lead has given way to the myth that only “exceptional” or “extraordinary” women can lead.

But leadership isn’t just a title; it’s taking initiative. It’s resolutely answering need and injustice with a firm, “Not on my watch.” Many are the ways an individual can lead, and many are the opportunities for us to take the lead, take initiative, and enact change in our communities.

Second, we lack an awareness of what God is calling us to do. To lead from where we are, we must know where we are going, and muster the courage to go there. And how do we come to know where it is that we are going? Where we are most deeply called? Where can we use the talent and the giftedness that God has given? Where is it most needed? They say that your calling is where your passion and the world’s greatest need meet; I call this the sweet spot.

The sweet spot is the place on a baseball bat that results in maximum performance for the effort you put into it. Whenever you hit a baseball, vibrations travel in waves up and down the length of the bat, and much of the energy is lost. But hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat produces a lot less vibration, so all the energy sends the ball soaring into the outfield.

Living out our calling is like hitting a ball with the sweet spot of a baseball bat: we get maximum results for the energy we expend because our gifts are perfectly matched to a particular ministry need. Knowing our passion, knowing our sweet spot, is the first step in understanding how the Lord is calling us to lead from where we are.

Third, there are limited opportunities for women. If we are really going to reach that sweet spot, that place where our passion and the world’s need meet, we have to be honest about the limitations we face. One clear limitation is the limited opportunities available to women in both secular and religious contexts. Though we stand on the shoulders of giants who labored to make inroads for women’s rights, and have more opportunity than those in the past, and women in other parts of the world, our opportunities are still limited.

When our leadership potential goes unnoticed and untapped, when we face the struggle of limited opportunities, when doors close and are double-bolted from the inside, it’s tempting to fall back on words like those written by the 1960s group Ten Years After,  “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do.” We may even go so far, at least in our actions (or non-action, as it were) to live out the next phrase, “So I’ll leave it all up to you.”  

When you’re met with rejection, when your giftedness goes unnoticed, pay attention to your inner dialog. How do you explain the rejection to yourself? Recognize your automatic thoughts. Do you believe yourself unworthy or ungifted? Ideas have consequences, and your inner thoughts—how you explain the circumstances that come upon you—have consequences. They can make the difference between depression, dejection, well-being, and perseverance.

Besides, can any locked door keep God out? If God has gifted and called, He will provide a place for us to use it. We cannot allow limited opportunities to keep us from leading where the Lord has put us.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle has made all the world our neighbors, and our gut response to the pain our neighbors are enduring is correct: the darkness is great. But we’ve read the end of the story, and the darkness does not win. God has not let the darkness go unanswered, and His answer is us. Saved through the work of Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are God’s answer to the darkness. We are to be the light shining in that great darkness, we are to be the hands and feet that enable His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And we begin by leading from where we are.

Dr. Halee Gray Scott

Dr. Halee Gray Scott is a researcher and author of Dare Mighty Things: Mapping the Challenges of Leadership for Christian Women. You can connect with Halee on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.


Join the discussion