When The Darkness Comes Will You Still Shine?
Throughout my career as a pastor, I've had occasion to counsel and provide pastoral care to people in some of the worst circumstances of their lives.
I've sat at the bedside of scores of people who were taking their last breaths. I've knelt beside grieving spouses who have lost their partners. On at least two occasions I've had to try to help a family make sense of a loved one's suicide.
There's one thing that I know for sure after all of those experiences: In the midst of struggle, strife, tragedy and trial, the difference between people who are filled with hope and joy and those who aren't is dramatic and distinct.
Recently, I met with a woman who tells me every time I meet her, "I wish I was dead." She is well into her 90's and in relatively good health and sound mind for her age. Yet, she lives each day filled with dread and anxiety, never experiencing light and peace.
Contrast this woman's existence with one of my former church members who was given a terminal diagnosis. He had refused treatment for his cancer, choosing instead to live the last year or so of his life on his own terms. He took a "tour" of the United States that year, spending time with family, old friends, eating dinner at his favorite places, enjoying rest and experiencing joy.
He told me in those last days of his life that it was the "joy of the Lord" and the hope he had in Jesus that had sustained him through all the difficult times of his life. It was inspiring to experience the light that surrounded this great man of faith as he prepared for his next great adventure.
In Psalm 112 we have these incredible words that speak directly into what I am trying to say, "Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious, compassionate and righteous."
How we choose to respond in the midst of trials and tribulations is a direct reflection of where our trust is in the first place. If we trust in a good and gracious God... if we live into the hope of the resurrection of Jesus, which makes all things new... if we are filled with the joy of the Lord... we can handle anything with grace and peace.
May you find the strength to hope beyond your circumstances and struggles. May you discover the joy of the Lord that banishes all negative and defeating thoughts. May you be consumed by the light of Christ which shines brighter than any darkness.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.