A team of scientists at Surrey NanoSystems has the distinction of having created the blackest black known to man. It is darker than soot, darker than coal, darker than night. Once an object has been coated in their patented Vantablack, it stops reflecting light so that all visible depth and texture are lost, and the object takes on the appearance of a void. Vantablack sets a world record by absorbing 99.96 percent of visible light.
I’ve met Christians who are kind of like that, who seem unable or unwilling to reflect the least divine light. They weep Jeremiah’s tears but never dance David’s dance, they recite Job’s lament but never join in Miriam’s praise. They prefer to cast shadows than to spread light. Yet this world is already plenty dark and has little need of even more gloom. Sorrow and despair it already has in abundance. So too bitterness, wrath, anger, and clamor. There is lots of sadness, but little cheer; plenty to weaken people’s knees, but little to strengthen them again; plenty to cause their hands to droop, but little to lift them up once more. The great need of our fellow Christians is not darkness, but light—light to cut through the gloom, light to brighten their eyes, light to illumine the way we all must go.
There are few who receive as much encouragement as discouragement, as much to raise them up as to beat them down. They need light! To them we can speak words of comfort, words of strength, words of assurance. We can remind them of the most important truths—that while they were still sinners, Christ died for them. We can assure them that God is at work in them by telling them of where his evidences of grace have been made manifest in their lives. We can comfort them with the rock-solid assurance that Christ will return and call us all to himself. In these ways and so many others we can brighten their hearts.
There are few who are more aware of the sin they’ve put to death than of the sin that remains, of how far they’ve come than of how far they still have to go. They need light! These can be reminded that God’s love for them does not waver by their degree of sanctification, but is fixed and constant because they have been fully redeemed by the work of Christ. They can be told once again that the work of putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness is one that will reach its completion only at the grave. They can be reassured that it is their growth in grace that prompts them to greater grief even over lesser sins. We can brighten their path as they continue on the journey to heaven.
There are few who go through life without experiencing some terrible pains and some deep sorrows. They need light! They need to be reminded that they are following in the footsteps of a Savior who was himself severely afflicted, a man of sorrows well acquainted with grief, yet one who did it all for the joy that was set before him. They need to hear again that God has promised to work all things for good, so that there are not two classes of providence—some good and some bad—but only those that are working toward some great and beautiful end. They need to be told that our afflictions, though so heavy here and now, will soon be proven light when they give way to an eternal weight of glory. We can bring divine brightness to their darkest days.
Jesus is the light of the world and the light that was in him has been given to us so that we are now the very sons of light. We have the light so we might be the light. We are the light to the sons of darkness who cannot see the way to salvation, but also to our fellow sons of light who know the way but whose hearts have grown heavy, whose feet have become weary, who have been waylaid on their journey.
And so each of us ought to ask: Who needs me to reflect God’s light today? Who needs me to speak courage to their fear, gladness to their sorrow, encouragement to their despondency? Who needs me to bring a glimmer of divine light to their deep darkness? At the final accounting we will all marvel at how much good was done by a simple visit, a simple card, a simple word of encouragement. Each of us will be surprised and delighted to hear, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”