There’s nothing like a walk through the mall for a dose of reality. I felt this most acutely on Saturday afternoon as I walked past store windows and watched people.
The first person to catch my eye was hard not to notice. She was a cashier at a popular youth fashion store. A short young woman, only her shock of purple hair was visible as she moved among the racks. Her arms and neck were layered with tattoos and her face was dotted with piercings. When I caught her eye, she smiled and for a brief moment her face was beautiful. But the brightness quickly faded like a candle instantly snuffed out by a cold wind.
Next, I went to Macy’s. The moment I entered the store, a conversation between two employees attracted my attention. “It’s really sad,” the younger one was saying, “But my mom just can’t handle him and he will only get into more trouble living with my dad. We just all think foster care is the best place for him.” A sigh from the older woman was the only response and the words drifted into thin air as the two parted ways.
From here on, I couldn’t stop observing people. It was as though the eyes of my heart were opened and as bodies streamed by me, I wondered what hidden pains, hopes, and fears they carried. Where is that old man going, with his chin sunk on his chest and his gaze on the ground? Does he have a warm home and loving family or anyone to care about him? What is in that woman’s head beneath her Muslim hijab? Does she have a hope for salvation? Why do those teenagers not smile? What has caused those hard stares?
I came home Saturday evening with a full heart. I felt as though I had gotten just a sampling of a world marked tremendous pain and confusion, and the taste was overwhelming. So many problems, so many broken lives, so many despairing hearts. So much need.
Knowing Christ — the Solution, the Healer, the Sustainer, the Comforter — I want to put an end to all the misery and penetrate the darkness with the hope I possess. But sometimes the darkness is overwhelming and I am frustrated and discouraged. I can’t solve the world’s problems or heal all the pain — the disease of sin is far beyond my scope. Fully aware of my human fallibility, my naturally response to irremediable earth is to give up myself.
And yet, as I was recently reminded in a sermon, “A one-watt bulb will light up a dark room.” God does not call me to save the world, but He does call me to be a channel of His peace and comfort and love where I am able. I am able to offer hope when I encounter hopelessness. I am able to serve in the name of Christ. I am able to share a Bible verse with a hurting individual. I am able to pray without ceasing. My life may be a one-watt bulb in a dark world, but God can be glorified in that small beam. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). I give my all, no matter how small, and trust the outcome “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
But the transforming work must begin in me. If I am not preaching the gospel to myself and saturating myself in the life-giving, truth-revealing Word of God, I’ll have nothing to give. If I am not holding onto hope I will have no reason to give. But always clinging to the Light that no darkness can overcome, I can “press on” to encourage hurting souls to find redemption in the sure, regenerating hope of Christ and to look for the day when “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)
Lord, You are able. May I be willing.