The light in the darkness

In North America the shortest day of the year is almost upon us. On December 21 in the upper-Midwestern part of the U.S., sunrise will occur not even nine hours before sunset.

Sometimes life gets really low. I think of the times that my health waned; a child was out of control; days when the bills were bigger than the paycheck; when death took a loved one before I was ready to let go, leaving not only a hole but a whole lot of problems in their absence.

Prayers seemed unanswered, not just for days but for months. And at times the darkness got very dark.

It is nice to forget those times once we see the light again. When circumstances change and paying the bills is easier, I don’t want to think back to those days of crunching numbers. When the coughing spells that lingered for a year subsided, I erased from memory those lonely nights on the couch, too weak to get anything done, too out of breath to be in my own bed. When God provided a much-needed answer to a painful situation, I ran through the open door and didn’t look back.   

Days, months, years of darkness fade.

What doesn’t go away are the glimpses of light that occurred in those dark moments: the neighbor who showed up with a meal, the friends who prayed, the phone call from another mom offering encouragement, that verse of Scripture that leapt off of the page.

Looking ahead to the Savior, the Light of the world, Isaiah said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (9:2).

God has a way of shining light into dark places. So do his people.

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Once God has worked mightily in our lives, we can illuminate someone else’s darkness. When we encourage, support, help, and pray, we shine our light. At least for a while, we can keep someone in our corner of the world from falling into despair.

And if today you are in a dark place, let this be your light: God has counted the hairs on your head (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30) and engraved your issues on his hands (Isaiah 49:16). You have not escaped his notice.

No matter how long night seems, the morning always comes. Hold on.

And when you’re back on solid ground—and you will be—it will be your time to shine.   

Amber Albee Swenson has authored four books, writes an occasional devotional blog, and is a regular contributor to several Christian organizations. In 2011 she started speaking to women with the intent of bringing the Bible to life in tangible, applicable ways.

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