“You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14, 16 (CEB)
When we pray for opportunities to shine our light into the world around us, God appears eager to answer—but not always in the ways we expect.
For me, bringing God’s light into the darkness conjures up images of me at my best, helping and loving those in need. However, this past year has taught me that the situations where God chooses for us to shine are often when we are the ones in need.
I spent most of the past year hampered by a sudden shoulder injury that tore two tendons, requiring surgery and months of physical therapy. Besides the pain and physical restrictions, the inability to sleep for more than a few hours at a time left me chronically sluggish.
Fortunately, finding myself awake at odd hours of the night provided me ample time to spend with God. I prayed by the flickering glow of a battery-powered candlelight lantern to remind myself that I was in the presence of the source of my light.
Despite my physical exhaustion, I gradually began to realize the uplifting effect those late-night sessions with God were having on my spirit. Much like when I was a child and left my glow-in-the-dark ball out in the sun all day, the extra time resting in God’s light and love refueled me.
Twice-weekly physical therapy visits and other follow-up appointments provided enough repeated contact with others to overcome my natural shyness in developing relationships. Plus, in an environment with fellow patients, worn-out caregivers, and stressed-out health care workers, even a small gesture like a smile or an encouraging word could brighten someone’s day.
Asking other people about their lives and allowing them to share their struggles provided opportunities to offer encouragement and helped take my mind off my own pain. Other days provided much needed fun, like surprising one of the patient-drop-off zone greeters with his favorite kind of cupcake for his birthday.
During many of the more painful stretches of my rehabilitation, when I didn’t feel like I could do anything for others, God reminded me that being a light for the world was, at its core, about who I am in Christ. So during tough times when we are unable to detect even the dimmest glow coming from within, others still can.
Seeing God at work in the middle of my struggles played a large part in making me feel whole again. This past year taught me this valuable lesson: no matter what circumstances any of us face, God can still use us to light up the world around us.