A Light in the Darkness
By DANNY MINTON
During the first two minutes, as you read this article, at least three people worldwide will have taken their own life. By this time tomorrow, that number will swell to close to 2,200. According to the World Health Organization, that number will reach approximately 800,000 by the end of 2022. Of those 800,000, about 46,000 will be citizens of the United States. The statistics will include the old and young, men, women, boys, and girls. It touches our hearts to know that so many people find something about life that causes them not to want to continue living.
The list will include many older folks who are tired of being in pain from illness and find themselves ready to move beyond this world. There will be those so depressed they want to give up. Others will be heartbroken from a breakup or divorce. Some will be grieving for a lost loved one and feel they cannot live without them. There will also be those who take their own lives, fearing the consequences of being punished for something that they did wrong. Some will be crying for help, and this becomes their last cry. Many will feel no one likes them; face bullying, and become labeled social outcasts. Seeing no future, they decide to end life as they know it. They have become people living in darkness, failing to see any light.
We live in a world of hurt and pain where people suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We can look around at the people in our circle, seeing them every day, and not know what inner feelings they are suppressing. When we do recognize a problem, it often comes too late. The outward façade people carry represents the side that people want to portray. When people are alone with only their thoughts, that is the time that the hurts can become so overwhelming that their actions to end them take place.
Being there for people we know may be vulnerable to this drastic decision becomes essential for Christians. Being there during sickness or death to help people through their pain and grief gives them someplace to cry instead of living solely in the silence of their thoughts. Making ourselves aware when someone has a breakup or family struggle and reaching out can help people overcome the inner pains they may feel. Seeking the lonely and outcast to make them feel wanted and loved can help them through those days when they think no one cares.
What all of them need is “hope.” I heard someone say, “Hope begins when you stand in the dark looking out into the light.” John records the words of Jesus as he spoke of why he came to the earth. “I have come as Light into the world so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” John 12:46 (NASB) One of our responsibilities as Christians is to help show the light of Jesus to the world living in darkness. The need to see the light is not only for the spiritually lost but for those who are losing hope in life. No matter how dark someone’s life may be, the light is always there someplace. When we open the eyes of our hearts, we will realize that light can find its way into our lives no matter how dark it may be.
A little story I often use at funerals teaches us how people can and should view life amid the darkness. A local school system learned that one of its students had been badly burned and would not be able to attend school for a while. To keep him up-to-date with his studies, they decided to send a substitute teacher to the hospital to review his lessons. On the first day she arrived, a nurse warned her that the young boy had severe depression due to his injuries. He didn’t smile and talked little. They warned her not to be shocked when she saw him since he was heavily bandaged and in some pain.
Even with the warning, the teacher was shocked and nervous as she sat down and went over lessons with the young boy. They spent time in his English study of adverbs and adjectives, with the teacher trying to keep her composure during the session. She finished for the day and left, feeling that she had been ineffective in her work with the student.
The next day when she arrived, she was greeted by an excited nurse proclaiming, “What did you do with the boy yesterday?” “Oh, I’m sorry.” She said with a broken voice. “I was so nervous while teaching; I didn’t mean any harm.” “No! No!” the nurse answered. After you left, his whole attitude changed. He was talking and smiling; his entire demeanor was different.” “Well,” the teacher said, “all I did was go over his English lesson.”
The teacher taught her lesson and left for the day. The nurse walked into the young man’s room and, while changing his dressings, asked, “What changed you after the teacher came yesterday? You seem to be happier.” “Well,” he answered the nurse, “I figured if the school was going to send someone to teach me about adverbs and adjectives, then there must be hope!”
Help people see that there is hope in the darkness. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV2011) People in the darkness of depression, pain, hurt, and a feeling of helplessness need someone to help them see that there is light. We can be the one who reminds them of the hope that lies in Christ. Being there in their deepest time of need is what people need from us. We need to learn to be like Jesus when we look at people. He didn’t see people as men and women. He saw them as people who were hurting, ill, and troubled. When he met them, he became their light in their time of darkness.
Remember the little song we used to sing, “This Little Light of Mine?” We sang, “I’m going to let it shine.” So, let me ask, “How brightly is your light shining in other’s darkness?”
Danny Minton is an Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ