O I See A Darkness: Using the Theology of the Cross as an Excuse for Pessimism

By Joel Hess

“Well, I hope that someday, buddy, we have peace in our lives.
Together or apart, alone or with our wives.
And we can stop our whoring and pull the smiles inside.
And light it up forever and never go to sleep.
My best unbeaten brother, this isn’t all I see.

Oh, no, I see a darkness!

Ahh, if you have a chance check out one of my favorites, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, singing his song ‘I See A Darkness.’ Or better yet, just listen to the hillbilly prophet, Johnny Cash, singing with Bonnie the same song! You may cry.

I am attracted to the song because I am a pessimist! I always have been.  I always assume the worst. As a pastor especially – I know and have witnessed that people are sinners – including myself. We will let each other down.  And I know that the world is messed up and won’t be completely fixed until Jesus comes again. Come Lord Jesus. So I expect the worst.

O don’t let me fool you. Dry your sympathetic tears. My pessimism isn’t the result of deep thought spiritual pondering.  I am no noble savage. Just a savage. My pessimism is far more practical. I have convinced myself that it is safer to assume the worst!  If I assume the worst, then I will never be…disappointed.  God forbid! I will never have a perfectly happy day only to be blindsided by a darkness! See the genius!? When something good happens I get to be pleasantly surprised!  Surely, I would rather have nice surprises then ugly let downs. Right?

And then I see a darkness
Oh no, I see a darkness
Do you know how much I love you
Cause I’m hoping some day soon

You’ll save me from this darkness

What a fool I am to be so ‘realistic’!

Christ has risen from the dead! Did you know that? No, really! It is not a cute cheery story about Santa Claus and reindeer.  They went to the tomb after seeing him brutally murdered…and he wasn’t there!  They were pessimists too! They did not expect Him to actually do what He said he was going to do.  Yet the three Mary’s and all the disciples not only saw an empty tomb they met the resurrected Jesus.  They were dumbfounded at first. They ate with Him. They touched him. They listened to Him. They hung out with Him for forty days. More than 500 pessimists saw Him.  It is an historical fact like any other – backed up by the same evidence we expect from any other claim.


The question is not whether Jesus’ resurrection is true or not. The question is – what does that mean to you?! What are you going to do about?

You have been baptized in the name of Jesus, the Risen one! ALL your sins are forgiven by his blood and you have been given the promise and power of the Resurrection! You will rise again too. You have been infused with His Spirit and His HOPE!

There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave can hold my body down

How dare I be pessimistic! I am under the wings of the risen Lord.  Why not look forward to tomorrow? Why not put my best foot forward, hope for the best, assume to be blessed?  If I fail – I’m forgiven – get over it.  If I die – I will rise again!  What’s the worst that can happen!?  What do I really have to fear?!


Lutherans have for years misused the theology of the cross as an excuse for pessimism and inaction – even a sort of fatalism. We can almost sound like stoics more than living Christians! We carry the cross in this world for sure but with resurrected blood pumping through our veins!

In Christ Jesus, God has called us to be eternal optimists!  Jesus is Risen, Allelujah!  Embrace the joys of life without looking around to see if something bad will happen! Christ is Risen! Take a risk and forgive someone!  Take a chance and give to someone, love someone, share God’s hope with someone – even your enemy! And give your worries to Jesus and see Him nail them to the cross, bury them in the tomb, and empty them three days later!

May the Lord fill (till it spills all over the floor) our hearts and minds with blind, crazy, full throttle optimism!

He is Risen! He is risen indeed. Allelujah