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Surely there is wisdom in looking at the bright side of things, of accentuating the positive in our lives and speaking well of the situations in which we find ourselves. The apostle Paul suggests this in various ones of his letters and even in the earlier parts of this second letter to Timothy. (See 2:1-2)
At the same time we recognize – and Paul makes plain in the verses for today’s reflection – that there is a dark side to life. There are ugly actions and attitudes that destroy lives and lead to pain, sorrow and discontent to say nothing of personal suffering. Sugar coating (or denying) what happens when people are “ungrateful, godless, heartless and hateful” or when they “hate everything that is good,” will not make the ugly effects disappear. Simply smiling and ignoring the dark side of life will not do.
We might question though why Paul tells Timothy about the evil that people do and the drastic effects of wrong choices. Will this not simply discourage young Timothy? If this was all that Paul wrote then perhaps that would be true. But in the context of the whole of this letter (and even this chapter) the honest assessment of the ugly side of life, I think, helps Timothy to face reality; it keeps him from being naïve. It also validates what he is no doubt facing every day. Why pretend it isn’t there?
It is a fact that there are those who choose to do evil instead of good. Recognizing this provides a sharp relief to the message of the gospel and the powerful effect for good that it initiates and sustains. It is as if Paul is telling Timothy: “Don’t be surprised or dismayed at the ugly things you see. God is for you and the gospel you preach has the power to bring light where there is darkness, love where there is hate and goodness where there is evil.”
Lord God, I too am aware that there is ugly stuff in the world and that there are people and forces in society that bring havoc. Help me not to lose courage or to fear but to see how clearly your love and mercy counteract the darkness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.