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Monday, August 1, 2016

Dark need not lack light

When life is dark, a light will shine for those who live rightly—those who are merciful, compassionate, and strive for justice.  (Psalm 112:4 VOICE)

I know we all go through "dark" times in our lives - things just closing in around us until we feel as though all of life is being sucked from within and we have less than zero to actually give at any given moment.  We can all take comfort in knowing when darkness is closing in around us, God's light will shine, illuminating what we cannot see, differentiate what cannot be made out, and expose the "flimsiness" of those walls of darkness.  As darkness invades, look for the source of light which cannot be extinguished - a light cultivated in times past and there now when we need it most.

Our passage assures us that those who "live rightly" will experience this light. What does it mean to "live rightly"?  It is a question many have sought to answer, but seldom realizing just how much the definition of "right" changes with each new generation.  What was considered "right" in my youth is now considered "out of date" or just too "rigid" of a rule to live by. If you have ever heard your teen or young adult say, "Oh mom, they just don't do it that way anymore," or perhaps "That is so not the way it is nowadays", then you have experienced it - the shifting of the "rules" to fit the desires of the present generation.

To understand "right living" as God defines it, we have to go back to scripture - not to our own set of values or moral beliefs.  What does scripture say?  This is the only "constant" we can truly count on for God's Word does not change, nor do his promises to those who live according to that standard. As we examine our passage, we find three character traits of those who "live rightly".  They are merciful, compassionate, and strive for justice.

Merciful - the ability to forbear, especially when it comes to an enemy, not taking revenge or mounting a retaliatory attack.  It is the showing of favor when absolutely no favor is deserved, and often not even sought.  It is the compassionate display of refraining from the ways their actions normally would receive a response.  Merciful people know how to show mercy because they have been the recipients of God's divine mercy too many times to actually count!  Let me ask this:  In what circumstance, or toward which individual in your present circumstance do you need to show a mounting attack of mercy rather than retaliation?  It can be the toughest step to take - toward the one who who is really more of a drain, problem, or "stinker" than you'd really like to deal with - but it is also the most rewarding.

Compassionate - I don't think we can truly show mercy until we understand what it is to be truthfully compassionate toward another.  Compassionate individuals want to find way to alleviate the misery of another - not to increase it, do away with it, or take revenge upon it.  These two attributes go hand-in-hand and cannot easily be separated.  The suffering another is really going through, even when it may seem like they are oblivious to the underlying pain, mistrust, anxiety, or hurt they are presently in may not be immediately obvious to us, but we can learn to respond to hurt with compassion.  The desire to alleviate hurt - this is at the heart of all God desires of his children.  

Justice - it may come last, but I think it is the "magnetic" point of our compass. It is the ability and willingness to set a course which is upright, even in the midst of everything which is challenging that moral excellence.  When the kids tell you your morals are outdated, it isn't that you need to change your morals, you just need to stay true to the "magnetic" pull toward excellence God puts deep in the hearts of his children.  Just sayin!