Classic works of literature contain far more than enjoyable plots and characters. These writings are laden with time-honored themes, important lessons, and eternal truths from which we can both learn and gain experience. The Classic Horror Story, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is no exception. In the story, Count Dracula endeavors to make his way to London from Transylvania, but before beginning his journey, he terrorizes Jonathan Harker who has come to his castle upon request. Not knowing his host’s identity, Harker discovers the truth through a series of horrifying ordeals. Escaping the castle, Jonathan learns of the Count’s plan to infiltrate London. Eventually, one of the characters, Dr. Seward, invites his former professor, Dr. Van Helsing to assist with a mysterious situation. The Professor is something of a Renaissance man as he is a Medical Doctor, a Philosopher, a Doctor of Letters, a Lawyer, and knows of the supernatural. Finally, and more importantly, Van Helsing is Catholic.
Van Helsing’s expertise is needed to assist in the care and diagnosis of another character, Lucy, who falls ill with a mysterious ailment. Finding nothing except blood transfusions helpful, Van Helsing begins to suspect an evil that the world would not believe. Upon seeing evidence of a vampiric presence, the Professor is assured of his theory’s truth. Sadly, Lucy dies from her illness (caused by Dracula) and becomes one of the “Un-Dead”1, whom the group has to kill. Led by Van Helsing, the companions form a plan to track and destroy the horrid creature. Eventually, they find Dracula’s abode in London. As Van Helsing enters Dracula’s house for the first time, he utters a phrase which strikes at the heart of the war against evil we all find ourselves in;
“The Professor was the first to move forward, and stepped into the open door. ‘In manus tuas, Domine!’ he said, crossing himself as he passed over the threshold.”
These four words, “Into your hands, Lord”2, recalling Psalm 31:5 in the Old Testament and Jesus’ commission of His Spirit on the Cross in the New Testament, serve as an example to us for our lives and, specifically, for spiritual warfare. Amid looming dread, Van Helsing gives all to God. The presence of fear and uncertainty fail to discourage the Professor from trusting in Him who holds all things.
Every day we face darkness, forces beyond our vision, seemingly unassailable dangers. Yet we need not fear. Lest we give ourselves over to despair and meander into the clutches of the evil one, we ought to relinquish ‘control’ and place our lives, and all things uncontrollable, in God’s sovereign hands. Upon crossing the threshold into the fallen realm of the prince of darkness we must begin, even before the battle, committing wholly into the hands of God. Far from a concession, the exclamation (as it should be) is a battle cry in the Light of His victorious Son.
In this fight, we can learn from Van Helsing and the others in another manner. Van Helsing does not once venture into Dracula’s dwelling alone. The Professor wishes not to disband the group when there is even just a foreboding of danger. We are not alone, nor should we attempt to engage the enemy apart from community. In fact, God created us to be in fellowship. Community is crucial to our shared experience of suffering, striving, and fighting for the Lord. We must take up arms together. We see the strength of fellowship when later in the story Van Helsing and the rest are set to hunt Dracula in Transylvania. Pleading to accompany the others, Mina Harker (Jonathan’s wife) says of the group’s combined fortitude “You men are brave and strong. You are strong in your numbers, for you can defy that which would break down the human endurance of one who had to guard alone.”3 So it is with us. Alone we are feeble, easily manipulated, adrift in the darkness. Together, in Christ, we are fortified, steadfast, and grounded in truth and love.
When we are downcast and liable to fall prey to the powers of darkness, ready to give in, we have a refuge. The One who already defeated the enemy offers Himself. After enduring much, Jonathan Harker joins his companions on the hunt after the Count. Jonathan Harker, with anxiety, is unable to sleep as the hunt begins. Nevertheless, he trusts in the Lord saying, “My only comfort is that we are in the hands of God. Only for that faith it would be easier to die than to live, and so be quit of all the trouble.”4 In solidarity with her husband to the will of God, Mina Harker setting off to trek through the cold countryside after Dracula writes, “We shall soon be off. I am afraid to think what may happen to us. We are truly in the hands of God. He alone knows what may be…”5 Despite a growing consternation in the face of possible doom, the Harker’s trust in God.
In all circumstances we ought to set ourselves in God’s mighty hands. No matter the obstacle or evil, we can be confident that God carries us if only we place our trust in Him. Van Helsing getting ever nearer to the presence of evil exclaims, “Well, God’s will be done – whatever it may be, and whithersoever it may lead!”6 This, too, should be our attitude and our cry. Laying ourselves down, not giving in to despair, we can find hope in Him. For it was not in vain that they fought together, resting all in God. The great evil they sought to destroy was vanquished and life under God moved joyfully forward. This is the great hope that we have. God has told us as much Himself. The temptation to be drawn away from the Lord strikes even before the day begins. We have only one sure recourse.
In manus tuas, Domine!