How to Be a Light in Dark Places
The darkest place I have ever been was camping in the Northwest. When you’re in complete darkness, your eyes are trying to make out shapes, but they can’t. It forces you to try and use your other senses to navigate, but it’s very difficult. It’s easy to stumble and fall. It’s easy to get hurt. It’s scary and disorienting. And you are usually trying to find the light and find your way out of this darkness.
When I was 21, I was in a different kind of darkness. I had made a lot of mistakes. I was trying to keep it all together on the surface, but inside I was filled with regret, shame, fear, anxiety, hunger, loneliness, and depression. I wasn’t very successful in my job due to battling my addiction to alcohol. I eventually found myself homeless. Fortunately, a friend let me stay with them until I could get my life figured out. But there were a few nights where I was in so much pain on the inside that I started to have suicidal thoughts. I would be driving and feel tempted to drive my car off a cliff. I wondered if anyone would even miss me. The darkness was inside of me. I finally called out to God to help me, and He did. And today, 20 years later, my life is filled with joy and peace. Only God can do that.
The young people we work with are in dark places in their life. They feel that same fear and despair. God wants us to help them, but we don't always know what to do. I wanted to provide a few tips that you can use to help them find the light.
1. Remember that God is always doing 2 big things in our lives.
One of the things I think that is important to do as Christians is to remind ourselves of what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives. The first thing God does in our lives is influence who we’re becoming. We live new lives. We are different. The person we’re becoming changes some of the things we do, and this leads to the second point. God works on us to bless our lives, and He uses us to help bless others. He does work in us so He can do work through us.
2. We need to realize that the kids we serve may be experiencing darkness that we can’t see on the surface.
I’ve had conversations with young people that let me know they were experiencing very similar things to my own story. So it’s important to understand that they may be feeling anxiety and hopelessness even if everything looks fine on the outside. We need to be sensitive to that, and we need to be ready to help if the opportunity presents itself.
3. Our job is to love people where they are at, and we can do this by meeting practical needs.
The fruit of the Spirit that is produced in our lives helps us love people the way Jesus does.
We become more interested in others, more patient, kind, gentle, and understanding. We can be positive and encouraging. We can start to speak life into them and point them towards hope. We can meet practical needs. Jesus fed people. He healed them. He provided resources. These loving actions caused people to want to listen to Him. That's one of the lessons He modeled for us. When we lean into tough situations with practical help, we earn the trust and respect of the people who need spiritual help.
4. Remember that we represent Jesus everywhere we go.
The Bible tells us as Christians that we are all here to be Christ’s representatives, or ambassadors, telling everyone the Good News and being the Good News.
I like to think of it in terms of being a brand ambassador. Nike hires athletes to be their brand ambassadors. These athletes tell everyone how great Nike is so that they’ll buy their merchandise.
While we don't have anything to sell, we are Jesus’s ambassadors. We go and tell everyone the Good News so that they will believe that God is real, that He loves them, and that they need him more than they realize. Jesus represented the Father perfectly. We may not be perfect, but the Bible informs us that Jesus lives in us who believe. This helps us represent the Father well.
The Big Idea
A light becomes valuable to someone when they’re in the dark. It’s easier to help someone get out of darkness when you bring the light to them rather than expecting them to come to the light. You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)