Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that there was no hope? Maybe you made a choice that caused you to lose everything that you held dear. Or maybe someone else made a choice that put you in a scenario where you felt you would never be able to endure.
In my life, I have felt this way, and it usually is coupled with feelings of guilt over the fact that I made the choices to put myself in that situation. Most of these kinds of problems in my life have been (to quote Blind Willie Johnson and Led Zeppelin) “nobody’s fault but mine.” I think that this is the worst kind of despair.
But often people are put in situations that seem hopeless, regardless of the choices that they make. You only have to look at the news to see spots in the world where people are being cruelly tortured and killed for no other reason than to keep the powerful full of power. History is replete with examples of this.
On tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, we find Daryl in a situation that seems hopeless. He has been captured and put into a cell by Negan after reacting violently when Negan killed Abraham with Lucille. Consequently, Negan killed Glenn because, Daryl “broke the rules.” Later, Negan also intimated that Daryl will probably be useful to him someday if he can be turned.
So Daryl wakes up in a dark room with the ridiculously upbeat song called “Easy Street” being played endlessly at ear bursting volumes. He is being fed dog food sandwiches and occasionally mocked by his motorcycle stealing friend Dwight, who is now one of Negan’s righthand men. But, of course, the real method of torture is not the music or the sandwiches (another worse kind of sandwich is mentioned later in the show). The real torture is the reminder that he may be the cause of his own pain. A picture of a dead body (presumably Glenn’s) is placed on the wall to remind him. Is this situation his own fault? Did he cause this, or was it Negan? As I said, this is the worst kind of despair.
But most of tonight’s episode focused on Dwight, a character that we find out a lot more about. We learn that his ex-wife Sherry, is now Negan’s wife, even though he is still willing to pimp her out to Dwight. We also learn that Negan wanted to marry Dwight’s sister in law, Tina, who had a medical condition. But most importantly, we learn that Dwight stole some medicine from the Saviors and fled with his wife and Tina. This is when they met Daryl last season. But while on the road, Tina died and Dwight decided to turn himself and those with him back into Negan. Their punishment – Negan burned Dwight’s face with an iron and married Sherry.
It becomes very clear to us that Negan rules his compound by using his “followers'” feelings of hopelessness. He makes them feel like they have no other choice but to follow him blindly, despite the horrible things that Negan has done to them. Or maybe even he is able to keep control because of the horrible things that he has and will do to them. But most likely, they obey because they feel it is the only choice they have – any choice against Negan is a choice against themselves. This is what we call brainwashing, and Dwight (called D in this episode) is definitely brainwashed.
Later in the episode, D volunteers to chase down Gordon, a man we don’t know, who has stolen from the Saviors and has tried to run away. When D finally catches up to him (riding Daryl’s bike and wearing his jacket), he gets into an argument with Gordon about why they follow Negan. Gordon obviously knows that D has been in the same situation before, but on opposite sides.
Gordon: Thug swoops in with a baseball bat and a smile, and we’re all so scared that we gave up everything. Well, there’s only one of him and all of us, so why are we living like this?
Dwight: Because look where we are! We were losing. Now we’re not.
Gordon: You know… after me and Maria survived those first few months… when we got there… we thought it would be okay. We thought we knew how to fight the monsters. (he gets down on his knees)
Dwight: Get up. (he points a gun at Gordon)
Gordon: It’s okay, D.
Dwight: Get up!
Gordon: There’s nothing back there for me. This is the last time I’m going to kneel.
Dwight: Get up!
Gordon: You feel.
Dwight: Get up…
Gordon: I remember, D.
Dwight: …or I’ll put every person you ever talked to on the fence. I’ll blindfold them, and I’ll make them eat sh** sandwiches for the rest of their short, sorry lives. I’ll dig up your dead wife and feed her body to the crows. You feel that? You feel it?!
Gordon: Okay, D. You won. (he stands up) But you know there’s nothing left.
We then hear a gunshot, and later in the episode, we see that Dwight shot him in the back and placed him in their fenced in area as a “homemade” walker. Apparently this is the normal punishment for stealing or breaking the rules. For some reason, Negan let Dwight off the hook for this before. Also, he is letting Daryl avoid this punishment for now.
The big question that lingers in our minds? Can Daryl be broken like Dwight was? But as we watch Daryl struggle in this terrible and seemingly hopeless situation, it is hard to tell what he is thinking (one of my favorite things about Daryl). Does he have any reason to have faith for a hopeful future, or is his future destiny intertwined solely with Negan and the saviors? That is a question that will certainly be answered in the weeks to come.
But faith in a hopeful future is especially hardest when things seem completely out of control. Personally, I find faith to be the easiest when things are going my way. But it is when times get tough that faith is really hard.
In the Bible, this is something that is addressed starting in Genesis all the way through Revelation. People are constantly put in situations that seem completely hopeless, but they never seem to lose their faith. Think of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel and all of the Apostles. And if that is not enough, you just have to think about Jesus. These are all people put in seemingly impossible situations who seem to have a vision that gives them hope in times of despair.
One of my favorite sections of the Bible on this comes from Hebrews chapter 11. In this chapter, commonly referred to as the hall of faith, the author highlights the faith of many of the characters of the Old Testament. While the list is not exhaustive, it highlights the sheer volume of people who had faith in the midst of impossible situations. One of my favorites comes in verse 23.
Hebrews 11:23 (NIV)
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
This is a reference to a short story found right at the beginning of the book of Exodus. The children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have found themselves in slavery in Egypt for over 400 years. The text tells us that they are being forced by Pharaoh to do back-breaking labor. But despite their hard work, they still are a very fertile group of people and they keep having babies and growing in numbers. This seems to bother Pharaoh because they are outgrowing the Egyptian population and he wants this to stop. So Pharaoh ultimately decides that all male children need to be thrown to the crocodiles in the Nile. Non-compliance is not an option. They are all well aware that Pharaoh will punish them severely for breaking his decree. And this is the time in which the baby Moses is born.
As I think about it, this is one of those impossible situations where most of us would feel hopeless. Imagine what it would have been like. Their people have been in slavery for over 400 years and there seems to be no end to their plight. Pharaoh has ultimate power and he is extremely cruel if they don’t literally worship him. He seemed to have complete power over their lives. I am sure that Moses’ mother had a pretty tough choice to make – give up the baby or die.
But that is not what she did. She defied Pharaoh and placed the baby in a basket in the river near the royal palace. But miraculously, God protected the baby and he was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, and ultimately raised by her in the palace. Of course, that baby would grow up to become the author of the first five books of the Bible. This baby would become Moses, the great legislator, the rescuer of God’s people. Hebrews 11 informs us that this only happened because of the faith that Moses’ parents had in the face of seemingly impossible life circumstances.
Hebrews 11 reminds us that there is no situation that is completely hopeless. Even when things seem impossible, God still is in control. It doesn’t matter if powerful people are trying to intimidate or control us. God is still in control. It doesn’t matter if we can’t see the end of the situation we are in. God is still in control and He has a plan for us. But most importantly, because of the hope that we have through Jesus Christ, we never have to worry about our future, even in death. Because of what God has done for us, there is no reason for us to ever see the future as completely hopeless. All we need to see is the future from God’s perspective – and that is what we call faith.
SEASON 7, EPISODE 3 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) At the beginning of the episode, Dwight is looking at a walker impaled on a pole. This definitely concerns Dwight because it may be a vision of his future, but it could also be symbolic. What do you think Dwight is thinking when he sees the impaled walker trying to get free?
2) Why do you think that they are playing this song Easy Street over and over in Daryl’s cell?
3) The brainwashing that they are trying on Daryl worked on Dwight. Do you think it is going to work on Daryl? Why or why not?
4) Negan positioned Daryl in front of that nicely furnished room so that he could see it. Do you think that was intentional? Why?
5) When they caught Daryl trying to steal a motorcycle, they said that he only had three choices, on the spike, working for points or living like a king. Do you think there are other choices? If so, what are they?
6) We find out that Negan took Dwight’s wife Sherry, killed her sister, burned Dwight’s face and married Sherry himself. Why do you think Dwight still works for Negan?
7) Why do you think Dwight didn’t shoot runaway Gordon in the head?
8) In Hebrews 11, the author says that it was by faith that Moses parents didn’t obey the kings edict to kill their child. Knowing that Pharaoh killed people for disobedience to his edicts, do you think that it was a difficult choice to hide their child? Why?
9) Pharaoh gave the Hebrews two choices, kill your male children or die. Were these the only choices they had or were there more? If so, what other choices did they have?
10) Hebrews 11:23 says that Moses’ parents weren’t afraid of Pharaoh. Why do you think they weren’t afraid?
11) In what ways can you have the same kind of faith that Moses’ parent had?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.