“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
If you’re not familiar with this Scripture, the basic point is that we shouldn’t hide our light. It’s not ours anyway. Any light we have is really just a reflection of the Son. Since it’s His light, we shouldn’t try to put it under a bowl. Being embarrased about it is ungrateful. Being modest about it is false.
You’re modest about things that are true of you, not what’s true of your best friend. If there’s something noteworthy about your best friend, you are excited to share it with others. So why not Jesus?
It’s a simple question, but the answer is complicated. Sometimes, it’s hard to let our light shine. Social pressure, the temptations to sin, fatigue, selfishness, guilt… all work against us as we struggle to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. But it’s why we’re here. We are THE light of the world. A very dark world with a very dark ruler. Put our light under a bowl, and there is no light left. Pitch black. When it comes to reaching a lost world, God put all His eggs in our basket.
The verse implies that God will put us on a stand so that we give light to everyone in the house (world). Sometimes, that means that He will make us famous and set us where thousands or millions can see our good deeds. But often, for most of us, God uses a different kind of stand. Usually, it’s hard times and suffering. No one tends to notice a candle in a well-lit room, but let the lights go out, and everyone is drawn to the light. When planes fly into towers and tsunamis devastate communities, the Church stands out as a light in a dark place. Faithful believers may have been there for years, but no one noticed until the lights went out.
And then other times, the suffering is ours alone. A personal crisis happens in our lives, and everyone watches to see how we will handle it. That’s our stand, the suffering stand. God gives us a painful, scary, confusing moment, and it’s our opportunity to shine our hearts out for Him. It’s our time to show that we handle tragedy and uncertainty and loss differently because of our faith in a faithful God.
I’ve learned so many lessons from hurting Christians. The depth of their faith amazes me, humbles me. To hear them speak of the blessings of cancer while a spouse was dying or the faithfulness of God when their jobs had been lost or the truth of His promises when a child was choosing an alternative lifestyle… Their light never shined so bright as it did during their time on the suffering stand. Far from being a curse to them, their tragedy was a gift. It was God’s love allowing them to give this life meaning, to serve as the lamppost marking the way to a glorious God.
This life is just a dot on our timeline. In the perspective of eternity, it’s hardly worth mentioning. And while no one enjoys suffering while it’s happening, knowing that it is such a short amount of time in comparison to the rest of our eternal lives should make it bearable. God doesn’t let us suffer in vain. He has a purpose in mind. It’s how He puts us where everyone around us can see. It’s how he highlights the changes He’s made in our hearts. It’s how He turns the small dot of our lives into an exclamation point.