What was your first thought when you learned about the death of Naomi Judd?
I really appreciated the family’s honest but private announcement. Everyone deserves that protection, even though the public will likely not honor it very much.
I was saddened because Naomi Judd was a person who was public about her faith in God. At the same time, I was worried about how that would play out in the media. Neither God’s people nor the world’s are very good about offering grace for mental illness. Brains get sick too, and we would be wise to understand that.
Our Christian message is that faith will fix the darkness and that is truth, but even truth isn’t perfected this side of heaven. Faith won’t always fix the world’s problems. Sometimes our faith simply helps us see beyond the problems to their eternal solutions.
Christians are called to be the “light of the world.” Is it time we should feel more responsible for bringing the light than revealing the darkness? I put myself under that admonition too.
Ancient wisdom for modern days
Isaiah 32 is an interesting chapter in Scripture. Is it about Israel, or is it about the days when the Messiah will come? The best answer to that question is yes. One of my favorite things about Scripture is the eternal nature of God’s truth.
Israel thought they were doing okay. They knew they had strayed from what God most wanted in their lives. They knew times were darker, and the prophets were warning them that God wasn’t pleased with their choices. They knew their kids didn’t care about God’s word as much as their grandparents had cared. But they had crops to grow, businesses to run, clothes to wash, and meals to prepare.
The Israelites knew their culture wasn’t okay with God, but they were too busy to care enough and felt helpless to fix the problems. Besides, God loved them and had made them promises. So, they continued to accept their flaws, hoping God would too.
Isaiah, their prophet, told the people what God’s judgment would look like when it came. They had broken God’s covenant and things were going to change. But Isaiah also told them there was hope for their future generations. God would send a Messiah and enable people to, once again, be right with God. Isaiah made a bold statement about the power of change through the coming Messiah.
Receiving salvation through faith in God’s Messiah, Christ Jesus, enables a person to be made right with God, and being right with God is righteousness. Isaiah wrote, “the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17). Spend just a minute and think about Isaiah’s words. They describe the potential life and witness of Christians today, those who live rightly with God.
Our question this month is: What effect is our Christian life and witness having in our culture today?
Our world needs a “righteous” witness
I read an article from Johns Hopkins about the statistics for mental health in America. Those statistics are likely to get more attention in the days ahead.
The two statements that stood out to me were:
- “An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 4 adults—suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”
- “Approximately 9.5% of American adults ages 18 and over will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year.”
Faith plays an important role in a person’s mental health; however, Naomi Judd and many others illustrate the fact that faith doesn’t always cure mental illness, or any of the other illnesses either. The effect of righteousness is “peace, quietness and trust” but the permanent promise is for “forever.”
Christians are the “light of the world” but sometimes, this side of heaven, the batteries wear out and even Christians find themselves in the darkness. The good news is that we don’t all “wear out” at the same time. God created us to need one another and gifted us in ways that can help.
How will your life affect the darkness this week?
If one in four people is struggling with the darkness today, how can we help?
First, look in the mirror.
If you are in a dark place today, admit it. You are in good company, even among your Christian friends. It’s okay to be going through a rough time because everyone does.
Righteousness means you have peace, quietness, and trust as your promise, but remember that Scripture also promises “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). In the same verse, the Lord also said, “I have overcome the world.”
The best witness isn’t the person who never struggles; it is the person who learns to “overcome” their struggles by seeking help and by offering help.
Second, if you have a friend in a dark place, do more than pray for them.
Prayers surely will help the person, but often our prayers will lead us to be their help. Offer prayers for the person and offer yourself to God. Jesus is the light of the world, but he said the same thing about Christians.
Finally, never doubt that if people know you are a Christian, your witness is watched.
People want to know if Jesus is real. People want to believe there is a heaven, and they hope they can go there. Christians are the light of the world. We are righteous because of Christ, but we will never be perfectly right. Righteousness is our gift, but it is also our goal this side of heaven.
The impact of our lives on others will be profound if we simply live with the honest hope of heaven.
The “effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17).
That person will be a “light” in our world.
At least one in four people you see need some of that light today.
Maybe the person in your mirror could use some light.
The best way to surround yourself with light is to become light. May that be the “effect” of our righteousness this week.