As I write these words, the summer sun is setting in the west. Another day is drawing to a close, and night is beginning to fall. Families are together in their backyards. Friends sit and chat in downtown coffeeshops. Fathers tuck their children in to beds before little eyes succumb to sleep. Evening can be a welcome reprieve from the bustle of the day, and cherished relaxation ahead of tomorrow’s busy schedule.
As I look at the state of the world today, it seems that night has come—but in a far less tranquil way. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said in John 16:33 (KJV), “. . . in this world ye shall have tribulation. . . .” The word “tribulation” means “a cause of great trouble or suffering.”
It’s nighttime when a young man walks into a church in South Carolina and kills nine people who were involved in a Bible study.
It’s nighttime when videos are published of people being beheaded, or of a pilot being burned alive in a cage.
It’s nighttime when a school principal is fired because he dared to speak his mind about the actions of a police officer.
It’s nighttime when women walk into clinics to end the lives of their babies—precious gifts from God, rejected before birth.
It’s nighttime when Iran works toward a nuclear weapon and Israel fears the worst.
It’s nighttime when husbands and wives decide that “until death do us part” does not really mean that, and families are broken.
It’s nighttime when our politicians become mired in scandal and don’t hold the values of honor.
It’s nighttime when our nation is swimming in debt and financial fears create anxiety.
It’s nighttime when disease hits our families and friends, and when cures are unknown or hard to find.
It’s nighttime when the Bible is cast aside for flawed ideas or cultural whims.
It’s nighttime when our churches fight each other from within, causing less influence without.
It’s nighttime when we wonder what kind of world our children will face, praying that they will stand strong in the Lord.
It’s nighttime when things that once caused us to blush are now commonplace, and things previously done in secret are flaunted.
It’s nighttime when women are used and abused by men to fulfill their desires.
It’s nighttime when young people who feel rejected by friends and family lose hope and believe the only way to relieve their pain is by taking their own lives.
Yes, it’s nighttime in our communities, in our nation, and in our world. But is there hope? Praise God, that answer is “Yes!”
Two years ago, I sat with family at the front of a church sanctuary at my grandma’s funeral. A few weeks earlier, I had visited her in the nursing unit of Pleasant View Retirement Community. It was a visit I had dreaded at the time, but now treasure.
It was the last time that I talked with Grandma. Many times, Grandma and I had laughed together on our visits, but not on this one. Neither of us was in the mood for that. She was tired and ready to leave the confines of her earthly body. I was, perhaps, saying goodbye.
As we visited, I recited and read scripture, I cried, we held hands and prayed. When we finished, Grandma continued to hold my hand. A little more than a week later, we received the news that Grandma had died.
My brother, Jordan, was one of the speakers at her funeral. He read excerpts from her diaries. He spoke of hope, telling us, “Man can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, and about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.”
Hope—we need that word written on our hearts! I love what Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We are not saved for the sole purpose of going to heaven.
We are saved to be like Jesus. We are saved to represent him to the world.
Brethren, we are called to be heralds of hope, to abound in hope. And the good news is that our God is a God of hope! Brothers and sisters, we need to embrace Romans 15:13, to be people filled with joy and peace in believing so that we can pass that joy and peace to others, for we are not meant to be reservoirs, but rivers. Don’t keep that hope all to yourselves; let it flow into your world.
As the sunset fades and night deepens, streetlights, shop lights, and headlights shine, and I am reminded that it is in the darkness that the light shines brightest.
Once, while on a ship in Hawaii, I learned that during wartime, a sailor had to be careful even in lighting a cigarette for fear that the enemy might spot him from miles away. Yes, light shines best in the dark.
That’s where God’s church comes in. We have been called to be the light in this night. It is our time. It is our duty. It is our calling.
Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. He wants our lights to be glowing everywhere.
The light shines in the hallways of our hospitals as people are comforted.
The light shines through the prayers of the people.
The light shines as a beloved child is welcomed home.
The light shines in the loving of the lonely.
The light shines through the generosity of the giver.
The light shines in the serving of the saints.
The light shines in the refuge for the rejected.
The light shines in the counsel for the confused.
The light shines in the courage of the caring.
The light shines when hope is there for the hurting.
The light shines in the searching for the weary and wandering.
The light shines in the love for the lost.
Yes, God’s light shines—especially in the night.
A children’s song likely sung at vacation Bible schools this summer reminds us of that light: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
People of God, our call is certain and our cause is clear. Get those lights on hills and lamp stands for all to see. When light shines, darkness has no place to hide.
Melody Keller lives in Wales, Maine, and is a member of the Lewiston (Maine) Church of the Brethren.