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You may need to break to shine

The dark days of life often mean our light of faith can be seen more clearly.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine!

Eli, Samuel and Megan Neisius

Those words probably look familiar. You might even be singing them to yourself, reverting back to Sunday school when you loudly proclaimed your commitment to let Christ’s light shine through you. Your eight-year-old self probably felt it would be easy to radiate God’s love your whole life through—you could never imagine hiding your light under a bushel. No, you were going to let it shine!

But then things got complicated. You grow up, your problems become more complex, and your light begins to flicker. Life happens. Your mom gets diagnosed with cancer. You lose your job. Your child becomes sick. Letting your light shine becomes more difficult. The bold confidence you had as a child starts to fade, and your light grows dim.

A light flickers

My light was threatened in December 2020, when my water broke prematurely at 34 weeks pregnant. The dreams I had for a healthy baby vanished as I delivered a baby with immature lungs, a hidden genetic condition, and an unexpected brain malformation. I was heartbroken as I wrestled with God; everything seemed so unfair. While I was embarking on my NICU journey, friends were posting highlight reels of their beautiful, healthy babies, cherishing every moment of their new bundles in the comfort of their own home.

Devastated, the last thing I wanted to do was let my light shine. Because in those early moments, I didn’t feel God’s love. Sure, the Sunday morning Christian in me knew it was there, but it felt distant—like the college roommate you swore you’d be friends with forever but now only send birthday greetings once a year. Yes, I knew he was there, like a friend who was only a phone call or prayer away, but he felt so far away.

That distance felt insurmountable in those first few weeks. God didn’t feel close when the morning after delivering my son we were told he required assistance from a ventilator, needed a blood transfusion, and was being monitored for a bleed under his skull. God seemed to hide from us when suddenly we were consulting with a geneticist for an undetected connective tissue disorder. God seemed neglectful when we unexpectedly were discussing the brain malformation discovered in an unrelated MRI.

A light grows steady

Knowing Satan was desperately trying to grab ahold of me, I channeled those lonely feelings and found solace in between the lines of a notebook. Everything became a journal entry, and soon I started to see God very vividly in the everyday moments. I would see him through the kind nurses; I would find him in the generous strangers; I would notice him in the face of my sweet baby boy. God was there—I just had to look.

Most of the time, these moments were subtle, a gentle reminder of his presence. Sometimes though, God was decidedly bolder. One night, following a particularly devastating day of medical setbacks, he offered a clear reminder. Feeling defeated and distraught, I knew I needed to seek him. Fortunately, there was a Thursday service at a WELS church nearby, and my husband and I were able to attend.

Admittedly, I was feeling angry with God when I first entered the pew. I had been patient, praying constantly, and our suffering continued. Every time our homecoming felt close, it seemed something came along to disrupt those plans. Honestly, I felt as though God had betrayed me.

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Still, I knew church was the place I needed to be and I trusted God to soften my heart during the service. As the sermon began, I felt my eyes well with tears. Here were the words of the text that the pastor read: “Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” ’ ” (1 Samuel 3:9). My husband’s name is Samuel, and my son’s name is Eli.

There he was, talking to me through the words of a sermon we had almost missed due to messy, snow-covered roads and a bruised, angry heart. He was speaking to me, calling me to trust his plan. He was telling me to wait, to listen to him.

In moments like these, I began to realize that my light was dim, but God’s love has never been brighter. You may feel your light flickering, but God sustains it. His grace overcomes the darkness, and he continues to shine even when you cannot. He makes the light steady in his love.

Others see the light

I didn’t think my light was very bright, but it was shining. Through my journal entries on Facebook, I began receiving messages from friends telling me I was an inspiration for their own faith. One Facebook friend I attended high school with but never truly talked to reached out to tell me she appreciated my Christ-centered messages. Another friend, a college classmate who had lost touch, said she admired my strength and grace. Still another fellow Christian reached out with encouragement and gratitude from an orphanage in Uganda. Even when I was feeling uncertain, God was using me to reflect him. I learned that when your faith is shaken and your heart is faint, God does his best work.

Consider a glowstick fresh from the package—it’s merely a transparent wand. But when you break it and shake it, neon color fills the tube and illuminates the night sky. But you have to break it to get the full effect. We are like those glowsticks. We have to be broken to shine our brightest.

God wants the world to get the full effect. He wants the friend pulling away from him to see you glow. He wants the coworker struggling with her own grief to follow your light of faith in his constant grace. He wants the stranger who doesn’t believe in Jesus to see you glimmer.

You may feel burnt out, but you are glowing. God’s love is radiating through you. You just have to let him break you, shake you, and make you shine.

Author: Megan Neisius
Volume 109, Number 11
Issue: November 2022

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