John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Bill and I have lived in Arizona for almost two decades now, and we have fallen in love with the local desert. Exploring the outdoors, nature trails are usually very uneven. Hikers keep their eyes glued to the ground to avoid tripping and falling. We have both done our fair share of hiking; I particularly like the early morning hikes.

In Arizona it gets light outside long before the Sun actually shows up on the horizon. The early light paints the awakening desert in pastel colors. Sunsets and Sunrises are quite a show around here.

Hiking before the Sun is up is magical, but can be a bit hazardous. On one occasion I forgot to bring my flashlight, BIG mistake! As a result, I stumbled more than I walked. Thankfully, the Sun rose in time before I got seriously hurt. Wilderness walks are unforgiving if we are not properly equipped.

We don’t need to be hikers to be able to relate to the wilderness experience. Life can resemble a wilderness walk, metaphorically speaking. Randy Newman’s song “It’s a jungle out there!” is a humorous way of putting it. God helps us through that jungle. The Light of the World has a way of seeing us through the most confusing times.

During the Christmas season it’s a custom in North America to decorate our homes, yards and streets with a myriad of Christmas lights; I believe this is one way of depicting Jesus bringing God’s Light into the world.

Jesus will change our fears and tears into hope and radiant joy, much like the sun shining through the drizzling rain will create a beautiful rainbow. The Lord dips our life in color. I know it because that’s what He has done for me. Walking with Him, we have the Light that leads to life.

Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Life’s path is no eight-lane freeway. It’s more of a bumpy hiking trail. Plugging along, we always tread on unexplored ground. Nobody knows what to expect around the next corner.

Life’s pathway is a long journey. We better travel light or we’ll get stuck somewhere with our heavy load. Unburdened is the way to go.

Life is not a burden. Life is a precious gift. We realize that in moments when we hold a newborn baby. However, the thrill of being alive clearly wears off when we are in pain. In light of tragic circumstances we may even lose our desire to be alive. Especially when we feel lost in the dark, we are in desperate need of God’s light.

The light of God is different from any other light source we know. Regular light sources simply won’t hold up. Batteries go low; a camp fire won’t burn unless it’s fed; a candle will flicker and die once it has burnt through the candle wick. God’s eternal flame, however, burns independently without being fed. His light is always shining, which is why we fare a lot better in His presence. Close to the Lord, we are able to see through the dark. Leaning on Him, it is so much easier navigating through life’s highs and lows.

Times will change; God, however, is timeless. He is the Rock of Ages who quickly becomes our stronghold as we call out to Him. If we earnestly seek the Lord, we will find Him. Moses encouraged the Israelites with these words (Deuteronomy 4:29):

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

God is hidden from the naked eye, and yet, He is very hard to miss. In fact, we have to be determined to ignore Him to not notice the brilliant Light that outshines the stars, the Moon and the Sun. Eventually, somewhere along life’s bumpy road, we will run into Him.

Life is no hide-and-seek game. God wants to be found; He wants to enlighten us; Heaven’s door is easily opened. All we’ve got to do is start knocking.

Genesis 1:3-4: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

The rainbow sits in the clouds; the sun, moon and twinkling stars are the jewels of the sky. We look up to see the light because our light sources generally come from up above, not from down below. In light of certain events, things turn around and may look very different from what we’ve seen the day before. This is why we don’t give up hope: the upcoming day hasn’t happened just yet. Besides, being hopeless is never a good idea.

There are physical light sources, as mentioned above, and there is a spiritual light source. I believe that all light originates from the Trinity. God is light. He lights up the deepest darkness by bringing both physical and spiritual light into the world. Darkness does not bring about life and growth at all. That’s what light does. Light reveals while darkness keeps things hidden. Darkness does not have to be created. Darkness just is and represents the places where God is absent. Wherever God dwells, however, there is light.

When sunlight strikes a falling drop of water, it is refracted and creates beautiful rainbow colors. Life without light is not only dark, it’s colorless. If we look for the subtle differences in color and hues, then we definitely need light.

In the world of photography it’s a commonly known fact that we owe depth perception and texture of two-dimensional images to the presence of shade in the picture. Darkness and light in tandem actually work as a great couple. The benefit of God’s separating light from the darkness is that we can differentiate form and texture of all the things we see.

There is no reason to believe that we don’t need darkness at all. We welcome the nightfall at the end of a long working day. We all need a break. However, imagine there is no morning and the nightfall never ends. Darkness is only a blessing when we rest in the expressed hope that dusk is followed by dawn. If we stick with darkness too long, depression settles in. Darkness is not our friend, the Light of the World is.

Heaven is where we are headed when we keep looking for the Light of the World. We need to keep Jesus in our minds when darkness approaches. He emits light when darkness surrounds us. He is our GPS guiding us through confusing times. He is the reason why we are not losing it when all seems lost.

We can always count on God. He’ll never leave us out there in the rain. Looking up when we are rained upon, let’s remember Him – and guess what? We won’t feel forgotten in the process!

“If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time” Cyndi Lauper

Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

Snuffing out the light leaves us in the dark. Darkness is great for sleeping purposes. However, if we want to get somewhere, we need to be able to recognize our surroundings.

Sailing the seven seas, sailors traditionally have relied on Starlight, as well as Nomads in the Sahara Desert have depended on it. The North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. Essential for our orientation when the sameness of the endless sea or desert wasteland won’t give us any hint as to which direction we’re going!

Life can be compared to sailing – with winds of opportunity arising, a storm brewing or a nice easy breeze coming our way. Light is fluid and varies in degrees. In light of certain events we might see things differently. Light can be blinding, light can be harsh, and light can be beautiful. We certainly can’t do without it – light is essential to us. We will get lost at sea if we allow us to drift anywhere the wind blows. Sailing through life, we all need direction.

There is one light source nobody can snuff out: it’s the eternal flame, the Holy One – Creator of the universe. Everything evolves around Him. Depending on how close we get to the source of all light we’ll see more and more what life is all about.

The depth of God’s communication is astounding; however, we need His light to fully appreciate what He has to say. The texture of His Word is intricate. It’s like studying a well-crafted piece of art from every possible angle. There is always something new to discover that we haven’t noticed before. The meaning of God’s communication unfolds over a lifetime and takes on more and more meaning as we sail through life.

King David prayed (Psalm 119:130):“The unfolding of your word gives light.” This goes to show that God unveils His secrets as we grow closer to Him.

The closer we grow to the Almighty, the more His Word speaks to us. The potency of God’s Word comes to full fruition when we understand what it says. It’s a phenomenon that takes on a life of its own. Giving us hope, God’s communication will quickly become our lifeline. Drawing closer to God we’re able to see things clearer than ever before.

Matthew 5:14+16: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

There’s no hiding the light at night! The only way a light source could possibly hide would be behind another light source. Standing under a street lamp for instance, my little flashlight could hide, even though on second thought, not really, since adding flashlight after flashlight under a street lamp would make the circle of light bigger, and it actually becomes more noticeable.

So, back to the notion that light cannot hide. Why bother? Why would Jesus, who is quoted here while preaching His famous Sermon on the Mount, even think about attempting to hide the light? He goes on to say (Matthew 5:15):

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

So, apparently, having light can be scary at times because it draws attention. Sitting on the patio at night with a light source, we know what happens after a short while. All kinds of flying critters will come straight towards the light. Some insect traps use this fact to attract and kill flying insects. Maybe this gruesome example is what set off the hide and seek play with the light Jesus was referring to in His sermon. In His day and age, Romans determined who was God and routinely authorized the death sentence when someone was at odds with their world view. It’s understandable that in such circumstances one would seek to hide the light of a very different knowledge.

God is light. Whoever walks with God walks in the light. There is no hiding. Jesus makes that abundantly clear. But He also says this (Matthew 5:16):

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

It may be an easier life not to be so noticeable. But our shyness is overruled by our Heavenly Father who is extremely proud of His children. He wants to show us around. He wants to encourage the world around us to come aboard and join the Light of the World, Jesus, who never went hiding. He went public and was very approachable wherever He went, which by the way is why “Sermon on the Mount” happened. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered spontaneously because people were just drawn to Jesus in the wilderness, and they followed Him right into the desert hill country, initiating Him to sit down on top of a hill and speak to them. To this day, the Light of the World continues to attract people from all walks of life, all over the world.

Once you’re with the Light, you’re part of it attracting other people. Just be aware how public you really are without being a politician or famous artist. People who are with Jesus are influential. Never underestimate the power of the Light of the World!

In closing, here is an excerpt of a poem my husband wrote, which pretty much summarizes what Jesus had in mind:

“Shine, shine like the Sun!
Your time to shine finally has come.” – William E. Snyder

Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

Yesterday I went around a local lake in the city park to do my workout routine. It had rained the night before and as the Sun came up, it exposed droplets of rain everywhere. It was like magic. Before, all you would notice was a wet surface. Then the Sun hits the scenery, and everything around me glistens and looks like a fairy tale. I felt as if God was telling me: everything is going to be alright.

A common term we use is: “glimmer of hope”, which indicates that there’s a slight chance that something positive will happen.

“Light at the end of a tunnel” is another term expressing hope after a long and difficult period in our life.

If we want to see things “in a different light” then we have to step out of our comfort zone and go to different places to look at things from different angles and gain a different point of view. 

We often say when crime is identified: “We brought this to light”, meaning that light identifies evil.

“Harsh light” is a figure of speech used by painters and photographers when it exposes and draws attention to unpleasant features of a subject. 

God’s light is not harsh, and Jesus has a way with people. His light takes something damaged and bruised and turns it into something beautiful, just like sunlight turns grey scenery into shimmering diamonds.

John describes in his gospel how God’s light brings hope to mankind (John 1:4):

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”

Jesus lifts people up. Prophet Isaiah describes Him as being the One who would repair a bruised reed instead of crushing it (Isaiah 42:3):

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;”

If we lack optimism, maybe it’s time to step into God’s light and let Him point out the beauty of a dreary situation. And even if we feel that nothing good can come out of something so bad, trusting God will help us get through this. I for one like to step outside and look at the Sun rise. And I know that the One who made the Sun always has something encouraging to say.

“Whenever God shines His light on me opens up my eyes so I can see” – Van Morrison

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Salt and light need to spread out, otherwise it’s no good at all!

While in the outdoors focused light can quickly develop into a devastating wildfire, salt landscapes are generally known to be entirely sterile. The Salar de Uyuini near the crest of the Andes is a prominent example. The world’s largest salt flat, an area of 4,086 square miles situated in southwest Bolivia, is virtually devoid of any wildlife or vegetation.

Keeping in mind that Jesus compares children of God with salt and light, we need to avoid checking out of this world to solely keep to our Christian tribes; we’ll quickly realize that spiritually the same will happen: Isolated faith groups “safely” tucked away  from the outside world will eventually develop into barren deserts with no growth and no fruit at all. Isolated, they represent grey and grim death instead of hustling and bustling life. And nothing could be further away from the truth, from representing God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and the Lord of Life.

Revealing God’s mysteries and uncovering His unfathomable love happens as we mingle with the crowd without being swept away by it. Tempted by our personal hang-ups, nobody can claim that we can’t be manipulated and that we’re not tempted by anything anymore.  As long as we’re human and alive on this planet we’re tempted. However, that does not mean we evacuate from here. What we need to do is not to give way to temptation!

Without a robust immune system called “faith” this lifestyle of mingling and overcoming temptation is incredibly difficult if not impossible – and this is where Jesus comes in. Jesus is absolutely unafraid. He goes to the ends of the earth to save a single soul. Our role is to follow Him and be that tangible person that reaches out and is a blessing around here.

So, here’s to the secret of spreading light and salt to make this world a better place – and to point to an even better world to come!

“I see You lifted high
You reign forevermore
I know You also live
With the broken and the poor
I want to see You Jesus
Behind the prison doors
The desperate finding mercy
And the hopeless finding hope”         Brenda Janz