Letting Your Light Shine
There are days I get so bogged down in the gunk from the world around me that I find myself depressed. I look at the random acts of violence being perpetrated across this country, the political divisiveness, the latest murders on the news that leave yet another set of families devastated, and my heart cringes. Add in the name calling, the mud-slinging, and the lack of civil discourse. It’s disheartening – and that’s not even counting all the turmoil that’s going on throughout the rest of the world!
Sadly, it doesn’t always stop there. Once I get into that negative bent, I find “kitchen sink syndrome” kicks in. Ever heard of it? That’s when everything that has been wrong with my life ever gets thrown into the equation. My past mistakes, the uncertainty of the future, the disconnect between where I thought I’d be versus where I am at, my regrets and the wrongs that have been done against me – they all start parading around in my mind. If I couple that with my fears for our world, is it any wonder I end up feeling like an anxious mess, full of worry and despair?!
As I have wrestled through this, God has been gently reminding me of how to protect my mind and heart from being overly weighed down, of my secret weapon and the kryptonite against negativity and fear in my life: love. It sounds overly simple, doesn’t it? This idea that love can set you free. Yet every time I turn toward it, I’m amazed at the results. Consider the following from Colossians chapter three:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature … Rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language form your lips. Do not lie to each other … put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free (Republican or Democrat, etc.), but Chris is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity … Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
This passage hits me on many levels, but what immediately jumps out to me is that I only have control over one person in my life’s equation: me. My opinions, my thoughts and ideas, while important, aren’t my end game. Heaven is. Far from making me want to bury my head in the sand and tune out the world, I feel encouraged to be something different, to stand out in my own way as someone who can treat people with opposing views and ideas with respect and kindness because of who I am. As a believer, choosing to treat others well is never rooted in whether or not they “deserve it.” It’s rooted in Christ’s incredible mercy and grace for me, and the love He has for all of us overflowing from within.
The same is true for myself. God thinks I’m awesome! So, I take off the old, ugly attitudes and I refocus my thoughts back onto all the good things that are around me, the beauty I see every day. I see it in big ways, like watching my neighbor tenderly care for his wife as she battles cancer, or the confidence of my children as they gain direction in their worlds. I see it in small ways with each person who holds open a door for me, or who is friendly and warm for no other reason than because they’re grateful for today. And I see it in every way possible when I stop the negativity and count my blessings, which are so numerous over my lifetime I don’t think I could ever possibly count, let alone remember, them all!
It’s that peace, that love, that incredible joy that enables me to move forward on my path again, reminded of what is true and right in this world. I feel the anxiety shed away, and the fear melt back into the shadows. And I realize, once again, that while this world is not my true home (heaven is), I can make a positive impact on it in my own God-given way as I march through.
For Further Thought: Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden … let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14, 16). When you find yourself caught up in negativity and/or self-defeating attitudes, allow your mind to reboot back to the source of your internal light – Christ. Count your blessings, forgive yourself and others – whatever it is you need to do to replace the old and ugly with the new and free and true. You will find yourself shining brighter, both inside and out!
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