Words of Hope: Our Present Darkness

I am reading Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novella, Too Loud a Solitude. Hrabal experienced not only the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Prague but also the dark years of communism under Soviet Russia. He worked for the communists burning and recycling banned books, art, and literature. This novella is in many ways autobiographical as the main character describes compressing and destroying leather-bound works of thousands of writers, poets, and playwrights. He describes watching seized replicas of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet bound in bundles to be soaked in acid and repurposed. He compares the dovetailing reverberation of burning books and the gas chambers of Hitler in an artistically profound way. 

His character attempts to rescue the books, hiding them in his home. Hrabal wrote this in opposition to Soviet oppression; ironically, this book also became banned. This book seems hauntingly painful considering Putin’s wanton attack on Ukraine. Dad had visited us when we lived in Germany, and we often talked about the rise and fall of the USSR. We would discuss Churchill’s seminal speech, which introduced the phrase, Iron Curtain, to the world or the crosses we saw in Berlin honoring those who attempted to escape East Berlin for West Berlin or the surprising joy we all felt at the wall came down. 

I would love to hear what Dad would think about these current events—these desperate times with despots, war, and fear. Even so, I know what he would say to me. He would ask me, “What is God’s will for you?” It was one of our favorite reminders to each other when life seemed difficult. I Thessalonians says it very clearly, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this God’s will for you.” Dad would invite me to stop talking about the news and instead pray together in a spirit of gratitude and invitation to ask God into our present darkness.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…. May God himself the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who call you is faithful and He will do it.” – I Thessalonians 5: 16-17, 23-24

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