At the time of this writing, it’s morning, and I’ve just finished my morning bowl of cereal, so ohayo gozaimas! Welcome to the start of a new week, and despite what Garfield might say, Mondays are pretty awesome. And with this coming week, I want us to embark on a journey through the characters of Madoka Magica and taking a closer look at each one. The series is chock-full of lessons to be learned about the price of power, the deceptiveness of the world, the necessity of trust, but I’d like to focus on each character individually and how they exemplify a different facet of Christianity and the Christian walk. Which brings us to today’s focus: the azure sword-wielder Sayaka.
When we first meet Sayaka, she carries a burden in her heart, as most girls do. Appearing as a cheerful and lively individual on the outside, on the inside she ached for her friend Kyousuke, an up-and-coming musician who had lost his ability to perform due to an accident that had claimed the use of his right arm. As a violin player, this was tantamount to a death sentence: he would never be able to play again. The pain that this caused him affected Sayaka personally; the love that she had for him could not help but long for him to feel joy and satisfaction again.
Her pain and her search to end it made her vulnerable. And like us sometimes, she searched for a quick way to end it. Enter Kyubey, and the promise to grant her any one wish if she became a magical girl. Sayaka was no stranger to the life of a magical girl: she and Madoka had followed alongside Mami and knew the power and danger such a life promised. She knew that the cost would follow her forever, that she would be trapped in an endless existence of combat against witches in exchange for a miracle. But she saw Kyousuke as worth the pain, and so made the contract with Kyubey.
The immediate results of her decision were immediately manifest: Kyousuke regained the use of his arm and Sayaka gained the power of a magical girl. Everything was going great…or so it seemed. Despite the attention that Sayaka had showered on him during his rehabilitation, Kyousuke apparently didn’t realize the feelings that she had for him, and eventually began to develop a relationship with her close friend Hitomi. This was only the first of a string of pain Sayaka uncovers: she learned that her body was changed by Kyubey in order for her to withstand the combat inherent to the life of a magical girl. She didn’t know the man she loved, she didn’t know her friends, and she didn’t even know herself.
She was deceived, by herself, by others, and by Kyubey, who willfully kept the information about the changes that would happen to her because he wanted her to become a magical girl. In an interesting parallel to Satan, Kyubey always approaches the girls he wants when they are at their most vulnerable: when they’re undergoing intense pain and suffering, are unsure of who to trust, and want to end the suffering around them. And he takes advantage of that vulnerability, twisting it to suit his own purposes. And like us when we realize that we’ve been deceived by the Enemy, Sayaka finds herself at a crossroads: either she can trust in her friends and use her pain to push her to find comfort in community…or she can use her pain to alienate herself from those around her.
Unfortunately, she chose the latter; in her effort to avoid more pain Sayaka decided that she didn’t want to regret anything anymore, and struck out on her own. She fought, bled, and cried alone, relying on her own power to fight witches and bring balance to her own small world. But she quickly burned out. Without the support of her friends and the love of others, she fell into despair, feeling as though all her struggles were in vain. Why fight today if evil will only continue to grow tomorrow?
Many Christians take a similar path to Sayaka: we come to Christ hoping that our lives will become better, that we’ll have everything we want, and that everyone and everything around us will be happy. But the life of a Christian was never promised to be easy. Christ himself suffered greatly, and the entire history of God’s people through the Old and New Testaments is full of the struggles the people underwent as they tried to serve God. But we find all of this easy to forget sometimes. We’re all susceptible to the age-old lie the Enemy has taught us from the beginning: if God loves us, He should give us everything we want and make our lives easy. And some come to Christ with this mentality, hoping that Christ will make their lives a bed of roses. But when that doesn’t happen, they are confused. What’s wrong? Doesn’t God love us? Why is this happening to me?
And so they arrive at a crossroads. Do they trust in God, or rely on their own power to make their lives better? And all too often, the deceived Christian makes the same mistake as Sayaka, and trusts in their own strength to better their lives rather than looking to God for comfort. God promises to comfort us when we suffer, but in order to take advantage of His comfort we have to desire it. We have to humbly go to God in our weakness and recognize that we need His love and guidance in order for us to make it day by day. If we push Him away, He can’t help us, and we will eventually burn out in despair because we don’t have the power to change our lives. We can avoid this by trusting in God. He promises that no matter the temptation or pain we undergo, He will “provide the way of escape also, so that [we] will be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). He will never “fail [us] or forsake [us]” (Deut 31:6), and He wants to be our comfort.
So how do we take hold of this comfort that God offers? We immerse ourselves in His Word, so we can get to know Him. Communicate with Him through prayer, so we can tell him of our struggles. And we stay in fellowship with other believers, so that we can find peace in the joy of others, and kindred souls to share our pain. In this life, we don’t need to fight alone. When we trust in the power that God gives us and let Him work, when we let His strength work through us, we can overcome the darkness of this world, and find true light, love, and satisfaction through Him.