- Catherine Black
God’s Monsters: True Nightmares and Our Response
When we think about monsters, we think about things that are not real. Zombies. Dragons. Chimeras. Creatures that do not exist in the real world. People have always imagined monsters, unnatural wicked beings that plague our dreams or inhabit our stories. Every culture has them. Every person fears them.
Why is this? Why are monsters such a part of the shared human experience? In a sense, monsters are a part of every person’s reality, despite the fact that they do not exist.
The Truth About Monsters
I think this says a great deal about us. I also think this says a great deal about God.
First, any time there is a shared element among all cultures and people groups, we should pay close attention to it and consider the ways in which this shared element points us to truth. The truth here is that people fear the unknown and the dangerous. Put them together, and you have a monster.
The fact that we fear these things reveals much about human nature. We desire control, and anything we do not know or understand, we cannot fully control. So, we fear creatures that we cannot control (cue any zombie movie). Our lack of control in a circumstance shows us just how limited we really are, just how powerless. Naturally, fallen man hates that feeling (though it’s a truth we must accept if we are to see our Savior! More on this in a minute).
We also fear dangerous things, and for good reason. We don’t want to be hurt or to die, and we don’t want anyone we love to be harmed either. Thus, we fear any creature or event that might jeopardize our safety or comfort or health.
Once again, when we face danger, we see too clearly our own inability to save ourselves. When we experience pain, we see the very real and very inescapable limits of our own power. Pain, including emotional or psychological pain, is such a humbling thing. So, we hate and fear the things that cause it. We avoid them with all the power we can muster.
All Our Fears in One
Enter the monster. Here is a being more powerful than we are. A being made up of the things we fear. Monsters can harm us. Monsters can’t be controlled. We put such ugly faces on them because they are the embodiment of what we hate: namely, our own weakness.
And strangely enough, monsters can’t easily be defeated precisely because they aren’t real, and thus can’t actually be eliminated.
Isn’t that an interesting concept? Fallen men have created monsters in our own heads, and because they exist only in our heads, we can never actually eradicate them.
This says so much about humanity. We’ve been given the imaginations to think up monsters, and because we are sinful, our monsters reflect the ugliness of our own hearts: our desire for control and our desire for the power to save ourselves.
This points to a singular truth: monsters exist because sin exists. Monsters aren’t sinful in themselves, though they are always portrayed as evil, but they are a reflection of our wickedness.
God didn’t create real monsters in the physical world (unless you count spiders), but He did give us the minds to think them up. Then, when we chose sin over obedience, we got slapped in the face with our own limitations, our own lack of control, and our monsters grew out of our fear of those things.
The genesis of fear is our choice to disobey God and save ourselves. Now we face the dangers of sickness and death and circumstances we can’t control. We chose the path of monsters.
How God Uses Monsters
So, fascinating fact, what does God use to warn His people in the prophecies He sends us? Monsters.
In my Sunday school class last week, we talked about the prophecies in Daniel 7 that mention a flesh-eating bear and a four-headed leopard with bird wings. Another beast with ten horns is described as “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong” (Dan. 7:7 ESV). That about sums up a monster.
God could have used real people or real names in these prophecies. He could have spelled out plainly what would happen, how, and when. But He doesn’t. He chose instead to use vivid, bizarre images of monsters. Some of the monsters in scripture are explained, some are not, but the images are left for us to ponder.
In my class, we talked about why God would do this. Would you react the same way if I told you King So-and-so would overturn the nation in a hundred years or if I told you a four-headed leopard-bird would storm your gates in the near future? Why the imagery?
I’m not going to posit a direct answer to that question. But I want to offer some food for thought. We know that everywhere we go, men have created tales of monsters. We know that men all over the world fear at least a few, basic things like danger and the unknown. God, who knows our hearts better than we do, knows this too.
He knows our deepest fears because He knows the true depths of our sin. He knows that we chose the way of monsters when we left the garden. He also knows the true danger we face in the battle against sin and the prince of the power of the air. God knows these things perfectly. And He chooses to warn us of impending events through the use of monstruous images.
He knows our fears drive our actions. Send the people a note that a man not born yet will come to defeat them, and they may not care. Send a many-headed beast after a group of people, and they run.
Where Will We Run?
The question is, where will we run? God, in His mercy, sends prophecies to direct us toward the place of true salvation: Himself. The purpose of the monsters, if I may be so bold, is to chase us toward God. He alone can save us from our monsters. He alone can save us from the unknown, the dangerous, and the wicked.
How interesting that He gave us the ability to conjure monsters in our minds. How incredible, also, that He gives us stories of monsters to warn us and to call out our sin.
But more incredible still is the fact that He is the one who will slay every monster. The victor is here. He is ready to save. He shows us the monsters, then shows us Himself, the one who will slay the beast.
As a writer of fiction, this concept fascinates me. We have a God who uses images of monsters in the stories He tells us, which are, of course, full of life-saving truth. Can we ever begin to comprehend the grace and complexity of a God who tells tales of monsters to His children, for the purpose of showing us His own power, His own control, and His own capacity to save?
Lord, I’m thankful for the monsters, for they show me my great need for my Savior and my Savior’s great power to defeat all my enemies and all my fears.
If you enjoyed this post, check out this one on how one author sums up the scripture with the phrase "slay the dragon, save the princess."
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