In the midst of a very busy season of life over these past few weeks, with Christmas approaching, I was sitting at a local coffee shop doing work and I saw a man there who I have talked with from time to time. He is a quiet, soft-spoken, and delightful man. We exchanged a greeting as he settled in to the table next to me and I hastily got back to burying myself in my workload. I looked over at him a couple of times within the next hour and noticed that he was sitting there with a cup of coffee, staring into nothingness. It was as if he was staring into a dark abyss. I have seen this look a few times in my life, and I knew that something was wrong. I knew that something was going on that was causing the light in his eyes to fade. It was the kind of look wherein it would seem that the hope in someone’s life is hanging on a thread. If you know what to look for will you see it. Otherwise, you may mistake this look for a faint smile.
It was not much longer before a young woman came over and asked if she could sit with him. He was happy to let her sit there, as was typical of his inviting spirit. She asked him about Jesus and whether he felt “close” with the Lord along with other questions, and I was shocked to find out that 1) he answered “not really” (which I did not realize), and 2) that this soft-spoken girl was bold and caring enough to spot him and come talk with him; a far older stranger. I was both encouraged and convicted. Encouraged because of her sensitivity to a strangers burdens and convicted because of her willingness to be obedient to what God was guiding her to do.
I had noticed his silent distress, but I knew that the urgency of getting my work done would not allow for me to spend time “dealing” with his situation. Therefore, I decided that I would try to reach out to him after I was done, even though I felt convicted to do so then. As a result, I was shown up in obedience to the Lord, humbled to the fact that God doesn’t need to use me to accomplish His purposes if I am disobedient to His guidance, and was reminded that He is very intentional in all that He does. It was precisely my disobedience to God and the obedience of this girl that caused me to drop what I was doing and talk with him when she had finished.
I was convicted to lay aside the temporal priority that I had given to my work, though it was indeed urgent, for the even more important eternal priority of the well being of a broken man’s soul. No matter how much we use busyness to justify our frequent pushing aside of opportunities to reach out to those hurting around us, the fact remains that there is more significance to this life than even the important things, such as work, school, responsibilities, etc. Perhaps it would be good to take a moment and consider what we are prioritizing throughout our day? There are indeed important responsibilities in life and things that need to get done, but we must not lose our sensitivity to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and awareness of Kingdom (eternal) opportunities.
Are we truly open to divine “interruptions” in our schedule? Are we not called and exhorted by God to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) and to “not grow weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9)!? Is the sharing of life and hope in Christ only reserved for when our schedules allow it…?
I told this man that I did not realize he did not feel close with the Lord from our previous conversations. After inquiring about this and asking him about his life, I found that a sequence of dark events and years of difficult circumstances had indeed caused him to feel distant from the Lord and alone. He said that he once had zeal for the Lord, and he desired to get that back. He also mentioned that he has not read the Bible too much these past several years, partly because his King James Version Bible was a little hard to understand, but would get another one when he had the money for it. On the other hand, he did not know where to begin because he had felt so far off for so long. I told him that I couldn’t imagine what he was going through and appreciate him letting me know about his situation.
By the end our discussion I had taken him to the Lifeway Christian Bookstore across the street and bought him a new Bible of his liking and set up a plan to meet a few times to study & discuss the Scriptures with him. His face lit up once I offered to buy him a Bible and serve him in this way. And yes, he was genuinely excited to have a new Bible and get into the Word of God again with someone! What a joy that was. This is a blessing of participation in the Lord’s Kingdom work that I would have missed, and something that he needed, but God’s grace abounds…
When the light in our life fades, we must go back to the source of the light Himself. The Bible tells us that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5) and that Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Thank God that He is still shining His light in this world! No matter how dark life gets or how foggy our priorities become, His light will continue to guide the way to life everlasting and thus, hope remains. The Psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Therefore, as Tolkien once wrote:
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
It is because of God’s Word made flesh in Jesus, the Son of God, that we celebrate the hope of salvation, the grace and love of God, and the forgiveness of sins this Christmas season. For “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23).
The truth of the matter is that the Light came into this world to break through the darkness, so let it shine in your life! And if you’re struggling to see it, then have faith in God’s power and allow the light of God, through His Word, to shine on your soul. It has the power and vibrancy to thaw out the coldest of hearts, guide us in the darkest of nights, and lift us from the deepest of pits. I also encourage you to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).