Did you know that even in the darkness, there is light?
Scientists now know that light exists even in what we call darkness, through neuronic photons. Darkness is infused with invisible light.
We shouldn’t be surprised. In Genesis 1, in an often overlooked element of the creation story, we read:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1-4)
Before the sun and moon were created (the “greater” and “lesser” lights in the sky, which happens on the “fourth day,”), there was light in the universe.
God infused the universe with light — in everything, everywhere, and everyone, even if we can’t see it. And the Apostle John adds this truth:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
So God is in everything, everywhere and everyone, if we have eyes to see.
Additionally, scripture says that we have been made to walk in the light.
If God is light, and if Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), then those who follow Jesus will seek to “walk in the light as he is the light” (1 John 1:7) day by day.
Unfortunately, our lives aren’t often filled with light. We tend to walk in light and darkness. Some even feel surrounded by darkness and unable to claim the truth of John’s prologue (“the light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)).
I believe that living in the light requires intentionality. But intentionality in just about everything is not easy.
Why is that, and how can we live with intentionality in the light?
First, living intentionally is hard because life intrudes. Life has a way of filling up. Like a vacuum, our understanding of life, or the way that most humans live, abhors empty space and time wasted.
So life fills up with tasks to fulfill, problems to solve, and distractions. Something breaks; something calls for our immediate attention; something shiny attracts us. We build systems of our lives around busyness — actually avoiding intentionally, which requires sticking to values and goals and making sacrifices. Changing a system is painful.
The key here is to develop a set of goals and then craft a schedule to achieve those goals and then stick with it. From now until next summer, I have chosen a “word of the year” that defines what I believe God is calling me to be and do. I’ve developed some goals to live into that intention. But I know it isn’t going to be easy to stay with it.
As you seek to live with intentionality, you may stumble — you may even fail — and you’ll certainly be pulled off course from time to time. But if you keep pursuing an intentional life, one that seeks God’s best purpose for you and one that values living in the light and resisting the darkness, you’ll begin to build a system that helps you be your best, truest self.
One goal I have as the summer continues is to practice contemplative prayer. It’s a form of prayer that lets go of ideas and even words, simply to be in God’s presence. I set a goal of 20 minutes a day to complement my regular scripture and devotional reading with this type of prayer.
Inevitably, life has intruded. I’ve gotten distracted and missed my goal sometimes. But what I have seen is that 5 minutes of contemplation is better than none at all. And maybe in the coming months, I’ll be able to sustain 20 minutes of contemplation a day, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Second, living intentionally is hard because my will is weak. The Bible calls this “the flesh.” Generally it relates to all of the impulses we have to experience pleasure, comfort, and safety.
But “flesh” is more than the desires we pursue related to our bodies. “Flesh” is my will, trying to do things in my own strength.
For too long, bad theology has focused on the idea of “flesh” to make people think that their bodies are dirty. The problem is that this is the only body we have to move through this life, work out our purpose, and experience the divine! Jesus “took on flesh” to demonstrate that we can live holy, light-filled lives in the very flesh God has given us.
But let’s acknowledge that there is a spiritual battle within us. Without intentionality, we generally drift toward the darkness, toward laziness, toward negativity.
The biggest help in battling the flesh is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself said that of the things of God, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” (John 6:63)
Then he says something even more miraculous: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life!” His words are filled with the Holy Spirit. If we will learn them, chew on them, and allow them to guide our lives, light will come.
To be filled, first you must empty yourself every day of ego, ambitions, and desires for the false fulfillment of popularity and possessions. Then you’re ready to ask for the Holy Spirit (already planted in you) to come in more power and peace. Jesus said that God will give to those who ask. (See Luke 11:13)
Finally, living intentionally is hard because discouragement comes. When we fail, it’s hard to begin again. We live one day with greater intention, but then the next day falls apart. We try to get back on track the next day, but maybe that day, too, doesn’t go to plan. And we start to think “What’s the point?” The pull of the darkness is too strong.
Incremental change doesn’t pay off like the small wins of doing what we usually do. So we tend to fall back into familiar ruts.
They’re called ruts for a reason. They are the well-worn grooves of our lives, ones that dictate how we move through each day, how we respond during conflict, and how we avoid challenges and risks. We carve out ruts to increase predictability and decrease stress.
If we stay in ruts too long, however, we’ll develop low-level discouragement, malaise, and cynicism.
The life of the Spirit is dynamic, filled with movement and surprises. God’s light often leads us down unfamiliar paths so that we’ll learn to live in and depend on the light.
One tool to quickly overcome discouragement is authentic confession. No matter how discouraged you become, you can say, “God, this is where I am. I feel lost and unable to help myself.” Maybe you confess your shame at having failed, or how broken you feel. That’s a turn toward the light.
Remember, John says that the light always overcomes the darkness. In God, there is no darkness (1 John 1:5); but the darkness is full of light!
Here’s the thing: when you seek to intentionally walk in the light, at first it’s hard, but then it becomes easy. It becomes the new way of living. It taps into the light already infused in everything within and around you.
The command “let there be light” is spoken over you today.
Let there be light within, around, and through you!