If my family had a motto, it would be very simple: “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Many of us have heard this text more than once, but my parents insisted that my brother and I memorize it and live by it. When my father died early, the heavenly Father became even more relevant in our family. Being all alone in a new city, my mother was determined to continue her commitment to church music ministry, and I grew up in choir practice. “Let your light shine” took on many different definitions as I learned the real meaning of those words for a follower of Christ.
Today, surrounded by the influence of social media and a culture of instant gratification, it is easy for us to lose sight of the true meaning of Jesus’ appeal to His followers. What does it mean to “let your light shine” in your day-to-day life? The more important question is, How do you remember the second part of the appeal, “So that everyone will praise your heavenly Father”?
As a child, I wondered why adults liked to reminisce about the past so much, especially the time when there were no worries, no problems to deal with, and when everything was taken care of by those who had their best interest in mind. Being the light was so much easier!
As adults we face uncertainty every day. Our lives are overwhelmed with demands, accountabilities, strategic priorities, and a never-ending flow of information. Being pulled in different directions can be very frustrating, and finding the courage to be the light for others often gets put on the back burner of our priorities. Yet, His appeal is still relevant for us today!
Being a Light through My Calling
In my life’s journey I discovered the work that helps me be the light for others. Health-care chaplaincy became my calling almost as soon as I began to study clinical pastoral education. While rounding patient rooms in the hospital, I saw the immediate need patients have for support, love, and encouragement. My life was no longer lacking purpose and meaning, and I knew the contribution I could make to those around me.
One night while working, I was called to an emergency room where a young woman died from an overdose of her medication. She’d had a wonderful day with family and decided to take all the pills she had to avoid facing pain and uncertainty again. When I entered the room, her mother pleaded with me to ask God that her only daughter would not go to hell for taking her own life. “I am not going to lose my daughter twice!” she said with the authority of a mother. It was an opportunity to be the light in this overwhelmingly dark place, but I was uncertain about what I could offer in the face of this tragedy.
I prayed silently for God to help me. He reminded me of the Bible promise and, as I prayed with the mother, I read from Romans 8:38. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God” (NIV). I will never forget the mother looking at me with hope and gratitude for not abandoning her request at this very difficult time. It was the high moment of my ministry, and it was easy to be the light.
Sometimes It’s More Difficult
But there are moments in life when being the light for others is extremely difficult. How do we shine brightly so others can see hope, see courage, see a future through us when our own lives are in disarray?
I was asked this question multiple times by our caregivers, especially our nurses and support staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is on their shoulders that we stand today as a society that has overcome the worst of this virus. Their determination and their courage to show up and go into patient rooms, even when proper PPE was in short supply, helped all of us.
Sometimes being the light for others is not about being cheerful and positive. Rather, it’s about hard work and the determination to do what is right, to follow your calling even when the odds are against you. This is what our nurses did, and for that I am forever grateful!
Light and Salt
When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, teaching people to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, He was talking about a lifestyle. Today, there are many popular lifestyles — healthy, active, nomadic, rural, minimalist, and more. All of these require one very important thing: commitment.
Jesus also requires a commitment from His followers. It is fairly easy to love people . . . until they become our enemies. It is fairly easy to help people . . . until they no longer appreciate the effort. Yet God requires our commitment to shine bright despite all the difficulties life may throw our way.
If you are waiting for a perfect time to commit to a lifestyle of being the light for others, today is that time! A friend once told me, “It’s easy for you to say it. You are the chaplain; you see people that need help every day. I don’t [see that need] on a day-to-day basis.” But this is just an excuse we use to make ourselves feel better, to reduce the burden of responsibility God has placed on us as His followers.
People Are Yearning for Light
Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37, NLT). When I look at the past two years of the pandemic, the political polarization in this country, the war in Ukraine, and other conflicts around the world, I see uncertainty that seems to be at the center of our lives. I see a lot of dark places that are in desperate need of light. People are yearning for someone to come and shed a ray of light into their lives.
The need is always there; we just have to be open for God to shine His light through us. When being light is the lifestyle choice, then God will show you so many places where He needs you today!