Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 4

Death is an unspoken participant in all birth. In fact, it is there with us from the moment of conception, and its hour continues to get closer and its pull progressively stronger as the days of our life move along. So, that ever-present shadow just gets bigger and its darkness deeper while the sun of life gains degree by degree on its setting beyond the horizon. We all live in the presence of death’s shadow, and there is nothing that we can do to escape that fact. However, we can do something about the effects of the darkness on our minds, hearts, and souls. God has provided us with opportunity and resource for entering into those shadow lands without the fear and concern that naturally accompany that journey.

We were designed and created by God to have a form of vitality and a drive to engage with life that comes from our likeness to Him. The better I know God, the more that His constant engagement with my world is apparent. God walked through the day with my ancestors Adam and Eve, and He walks with me in intimate fellowship each and every moment of my life. This drive to live takes on the form of planning, designing, and dreaming for the future. God’s imparting of His image into us people also finds expression in our desire for relationships, and it is expressed as we enter into community with others. All of this makes the idea of a permanent end hard for us to accept. When our drive for life and for all that living involves collides with the uncertainty that death and dying bring, our natural and very human fears are brought to the surface.

It is these very fears that Satan attempts to use to break us down. He wants people to doubt the truth of God’s Word. He seeks to get us to question God’s goodness, mercy, hope, and especially His promise of eternity. We all live with the results of the damage that sin has done and is doing to the world where we live. Disease, natural disasters, and machines that fail were not a part of the creation plan. However, evil’s deception and humanity’s selfish desires were not even remotely sufficient in their attempt to derail God’s desire for eternal relationship and communion with us. Death will always be painful. There is no easy way to lose the people who are significant to us. Their absence will always leave an emptiness that is inexpressibly hard to comprehend or to fill. Yet, Christ grants us His comfort. He brings us an answer to the future that demonstrates the temporary state of our separation from those we love and care about. Christ also grants us His presence and the purpose of His will for the remainder of our journey. He is our shepherd as we travel through our own valley of deepening shadows, and it is His glory that will light the way through it and into the unending daylight of eternity.      

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

Matthew 5: 14, 15

 

There are many bright and shiny lights in our world. We can acquire then from stores in our towns and from sources around the globe. We turn them on and they fill the space around us with their glow. But our need for light doesn’t stop with light fixtures, lamps, and candles, for we also fill our world with electronic devices that shine with the words and the sounds of others. We seem to need the presence of these luminaries in order to understand our culture and so that we can attempt to find a place in the universe. People, I include myself among them, frequently look toward celebrities, politicians, and athletes as the light that guides us away from the emptiness, the futility, or whatever else is lacking in our normal lives. All of these earthly sources of enlightenment will fade, rub off with use, and be extinguished in the process of living out our days.

 

The only light that remains at the end of all days is the singular light that was present before any of the rest of creation came into being. God was present before He devised any of this world or the universe that surrounds it. Then He proclaimed the presence of light. This light precedes even the sun in God’s creative work. Light with all of its properties of illumination, clarification, purification, protection, and health for the body, mind, and soul is a primary gift that God provided to His beloved creation. Then, in time, He would join us in our travels and in our troubles and be the light of the world so that anyone who believes in Jesus, the Christ, would never again walk in darkness (Jn. 8:12). This is the light that Jesus is speaking about in these verses from Matthew. He is that light that cannot be hidden, and His truth is the radiance that should never be concealed so that everyone can be influenced by the healing touch of its eternal glory.

 

God’s gift of the light of His love, grace, truth, righteousness, and peace has existed from before the created universe; it came into our world in the presence and the person of Jesus; and now it dwells within each of us who follows Christ. In Christ we are light bearing vessels. We have a mandate from Christ to let this light of the Gospel shine out from us in every aspect and into all of the corners of the world that we inhabit. This flame that burns within us is fed by God’s Word as we read it, contemplate its message, listen to it being taught, and discuss its meaning and application for us and for our world. It is strengthened by engagement with God through on-going prayer, and it is nurtured, encouraged, and magnified as we gather in the fellowship of God’s people, His church. As God’s people we do not need earthly sources of light or human understandings of enlightenment. In Christ, we are to be on view, boldly burning with the flame of His truth as we open our hearts and our homes as sanctuary and as places of nurture for the people of this world as they seek out the true light that saves souls and heals broken spirits.