By Joshua Stewart
In my last blog published for CBF, I invited you to remember these words: God shines in the darkness. It was encouraging to me then, and it continues to encourage me today.
This past year, my favorite passage of Scripture has been the first handful of verses in the Gospel of John, especially verses 4-5. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV). I am reminded that in the midst of so many dark circumstances in our world and in our own lives, the light of Christ still shines. His love for us is more powerful than whatever we may face. Romans 8:39 reminds us that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, a love that shines in the darkness.
As a believer in Christ, this reminds me that not only does the light of Jesus shine in the darkness, but as someone called to emulate Christ in all I do, I must work at being a light for others. We live in a world full of darkness and despair. So many people are hurting and are feeling the loss of possessions, of loved ones, of livelihoods, of hope. You may be hurting right now. I, myself, have struggled with anxiety, depression, and grief. There are times when it seems as if the light doesn’t exist, or when it does, it seems too dim. Please be reminded, and I’m telling myself this too, that no matter the darkness that you are going through, Jesus understands, and his light still shines. Remember this, and also be motivated to be a light in the darkness experienced by others.
So far, this year has seen darkness. The world witnessed in horror at the images of white nationalists violently ransacking the U.S. Capitol, beating police officers, and searching for politicians to harm and kill, all while carrying crosses and defaming the name of Jesus Christ. Their actions were the complete opposite of Christlike. We also surpassed the grim marker of nearly 600,000 deaths nationally and 3.5 million internationally to COVID. Each death tragic. Each one causing sorrow and grief for loved ones left behind. We have also endured harsh weather.
In my home state of Texas, the week after Valentine’s turned into disaster for so many, as so many were left without power, water, or food. Farmers lost their crops. People’s homes were damaged. Some lost their lives. In addition to all of this comes with the pain of our own personal struggles, whether that is physical or mental health, tragic family events, plans that didn’t turn out the way we thought they would, and the list goes on. This year has already been dark for many.
And yet, I’ve seen people shine their lights in the midst of darkness.
Many faith leaders have condemned the capitol attack as a barbaric display and one that stands against the teachings of Jesus Christ. So many have used their voices to amplify those in marginalized communities. I am encouraged by so many who shine their lights daily.
Friends have used their voices to condemn racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Many have advocated for veterans, for the poor, for undocumented immigrants, for refugees, for asylum seekers, for our brothers and sisters of Asian descent, for Indigenous peoples, and to affirm that Black lives still matter. Their bodies, their hopes and dreams, their voices matter. In the midst of a global pandemic, people have been shining their lights by simply wearing a mask in public to protect the health of their neighbors. Teachers have still been teaching students as they plan for the next school year. Nurses and doctors are still caring for their patients. Truck drivers and grocery store clerks are still working to keep shelves stocked with groceries. In the winter storm that hit Texas, linemen worked in the extreme cold to turn the electricity back on. Store owners, like Mattress Mack in Houston, opened their doors to provide shelter to those needing to stay warm. So many in the communities I have called home worked tirelessly to deliver food and water to their neighbors. Friends offered their homes to anyone needing warmth.
Acts of support and kindness provide light for others in their darkness. Does darkness exist? Yes, it does, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. But, as Christians, let us be a light that shines in that darkness. Let us stand against hatred. Let us affirm the value and dignity in our fellow human beings. Let us advocate for the poor, the sick, the hurting, the marginalized, the veterans, the undocumented immigrants, the refugees, the asylum seekers, people of Asian descent, and Indigenous peoples. Let us reaffirm that Black lives still matter. Let us show kindness to our neighbors. Let us check up on our friends and coworkers. Let us share a kind word to those around us. Let us be present for those who are experiencing grief and pain. Let us lend a shoulder for our friends to cry on when they need it.
I will leave you with words typed by my amazing Dad, who died on Christmas Eve 2019 after a years-long battle with cancer. He typed these words to be shared in a blog post that we didn’t get around to sharing until after his death. His encouragement: BE THERE!
“Seeing ourselves and others like GOD does, I believe, is the greatest gift we can give to each other. You truly never know what someone else’s journey holds and the hardships they have endured in their daily walk… I hope I encourage someone to be there for someone. There’s always someone worse off and needs to be lifted up, and sometimes even carried. We can lift others up by encouraging words and sometimes just a smile. Please continue to pray for those that fight or have lost someone. GOD is good all the time!” ~ My Dad, Ronnie Stewart
Friends, in world of darkness, let our lights shine. Let them shine by us being present, by being there for others.
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, where he is a member.