By Joshua Stewart
God shines in the darkness.
This is a thought that has replayed itself in my mind these last few months, and as I look back on my life so far, it has been true my entire life.
With so much going on in this world, it can be easy to become disheartened. At times it seems as if there is far more darkness than there is light. With fires torching the Western states, hurricanes battering Louisiana, floods ravaging homes in Central America, racial injustice still damaging so many lives, far too many migrant kids separated from their parents, so many who are losing their homes and experiencing food insecurity, a global pandemic that is taking the lives of countless thousands, and the threat of Christian Nationalism, we may find ourselves easily discouraged.
Even as so many negative things are happening in our world, we may be experiencing heartache and loss in our personal lives. Maybe you are struggling with depression or the loss of a loved one. Perhaps the plans you had made for your life haven’t turned out the way you thought they would be. Maybe you had to say goodbye to a beloved pet that became a treasured member of your family. Whatever the struggle, there are moments when darkness seems to hide any glimmer of light.
In my own life, these past few years have certainly been challenging. For me, 2020 was a year of firsts. They are firsts that I never dreamed of experiencing in my mid-20s. On Christmas Eve of 2019, my Dad, who was my biggest supporter in life and my best friend, died after battling cancer for more than six years. For as long as I’ve had memories, Dad helped me grow in my faith in Christ. He taught me how to pray, and his love for Scripture and hymns was passed down to me. My favorite hymn, which he would sing to me as a child, has always been Bill and Gloria Gaither’s “Because He Lives.” Dad and I even had a fun game when I was growing up where he would whistle a hymn and I would have to try and guess which one he was whistling. I still can’t whistle, so when it was my turn, I hummed hymns for him to guess.
And so, with his passing in late 2019, I had to experience a year of firsts last year. Each holiday was my first without him. His birthday in October was his first in Heaven. We loved college football bowl season, and the first one without him didn’t feel the same. I seemed to be the only one shouting at the television this time. Grief has been challenging. It’s been a struggle. There have been good days, but there have also been days of tremendous sadness. There have been quite a few anxiety attacks. Occasionally this has caused me to wonder, “Is the darkness winning?”
This leads me back to this recurring thought of mine. God shines in the darkness. In the Gospel of John, the author states, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomeit” (John 1:4-5 NIV). This is a wonderful reminder to me that, no, the darkness is not winning. Even when it seems as if the world is crashing around us, even when it is difficult to see the light in the midst of darkness, the light that is Jesus Christ overcomes the darkness. God’s light shines in the darkness. I have been encouraged by countless friends and family members this past year. They have been lights in the darkness. I have seen the joy my friends have when uplifting others. While I’ve also experienced darkness, God uses the memories I have of Dad who would always remind me to trust in God’s steadfast love. Even as he struggled with the pain of cancer, Dad would always remind me to place my hope and trust in God. He would remind me that God’s light shines in the darkness, and he would remind me to be a light to uplift others surrounded by darkness.
So, brothers and sisters, in this season, in the midst of whatever darkness you face, turn your eyes on Christ Jesus, the perfecter of our faith. Life won’t always be easy. Often times it’s not, but I have been reminded that God shines in the darkness. I hope this truth is an encouragement to you today to remain steadfast in your faith and to be a light to others around you. You never know who you might encourage when you shine your light for others to see.
Blessings to each of you!
Joshua Stewart is A CBF Leadership Scholar currently pursuing his Master of Divinity at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary while working as a graduate research assistant. He also serves as a part-time custodian at Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX.