Life has a way of depositing darkness in our hearts. From birth and through our years of young innocence, too many of us experience the ugliness of humanity. Betrayal, deception, abuse, neglect can make indelible stains on our hearts and psyches. While we try to project sunshine and happiness, we are all too aware of the shadows we harbor under the surface.
In addition to the pain we've experienced from the hands of others, we each dole-out our own share of darkness. Everyone of us has the capacity, even the tendency, to miss the mark. We puff ourselves up while gossiping about others. We judge the elite or the impoverished, thinking we are above it all. We lie or manipulate when we're afraid of losing control.
Most troubling of all is that those hurts and sin become accepted as part of our identity, rather than a cancer to be expelled. Thoughts and feelings of being dirty, unlovable, worthless and lesser-than can cause the dark spots to expand and absorb more internal territory. So, too can pride, superiority, and greed. Before you know it, you are in what the Bible describes as spiritual bondage.
Accepting the darkness as who you are can easily affect the trajectory of your life. Thinking you have no value might cause you to seek validation from others. It might drive you to become financially successful in order to prove your worth. It may drive you into the arms of someone who has only cheap emotions to offer. Like a younger me, you may become class clown and everybody's best friend to hide your insecurities.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Most of us, whether we come from a church background or not, have heard the song, "This little light of mine." The light in that childhood favorite is talking about Jesus, the light of the world. The light represents what Jesus embodies: peace, love, forgiveness, generosity, freedom from darkness etc.
So, if we have Jesus in our lives, but we also harbor darkness, how do we "let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?" The answer is to let the light into those areas of darkness.
As humans we have a tendency to lock ugliness away; hide it from view. We hope that by stuffing it down and covering it up, it will go away, or at least leave us alone. But darkness has no interest in behaving well, its goal is to spread and take whatever territory it can.
Jesus said His purpose is that His followers will never walk in darkness. We are meant for the light. We are meant to live in victory, with our heads held high, no longer succumbing to the burdens that have been placed upon us.
One method of "letting in the light" is to revisit painful memories and ask God to heal and restore what was stolen from you. Another method may be to admit how angry and resentful you are of someone who slighted you in the past, asking God to help you to forgive and move past it. It may be identifying the lies you've believed about yourself and replacing them with scriptures affirming your worth and uniqueness. For some who have lived mired in darkness for years, you may need the help of a professional counselor to do this deep work.
The beauty of letting our light shine is that each of us will embody the light in a unique way. The light of the world, shining through broken vessels such as ourselves, will draw others to its warmth. That's what makes the hard work of removing the darkness worth it: feeling internal peace and freedom, and watching how others are freed through knowing you and He who has freed you.