"God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27, NIV)
This past Monday, when I was in the butchery that serves as a base where street boys sleep, I was struck by a painting hanging in the back room. The butchery was exceedingly dark. One could even begin to feel a sense of hopelessness and injustice when confronted with the idea that night after night this is where children lay their heads. All is not right in the world. But - in one of the gloomiest crevices of the shop I noticed that there was was something hanging almost out of sight.
Being curious by nature I wandered into the back room.
There - in the darkness - hung a portrait of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Seeing Jesus caring for His sheep even in that place, where my street boys sleep, was like seeing a lamp shining in the night. I was reminded of the promise in Isaiah, "He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom" (Isaiah 40:11 KJV). I remembered that John said of Him, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5, NIV). Jesus has not forgotten these boys who sleep at the base. He is there with them, at night, as a Shepherd watching over them.
I immediately remembered another portrait of Jesus that I had seen three years ago, in Athens. Athens also used to be a very dark place. When the Apostle Paul was there "he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols" (Acts 17:16, NIV). Indeed - even in 2014 the signs of idolatry still riddled the famous Agora and Acropolis.
But - the great darkness did not injure Paul's faith. He did not feel that God was out of control. He did not despair at the vastness of the evil. Instead, he taught the Athenians that God "determined the times set for all men and the exact places where they would live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27, NIV). "Reach out for Him" literally means "feel around for Him" or "grope for Him." It brings to mind the way that one feels around for the light switch in the middle of the night. Or the way that a blind man gropes for the face of someone he cannot see, but nonetheless knows is there.
Two thousand years ago Paul saw that very much was wrong with the world. But he taught that one day God would bring in righteousness. He knew that the world would not always be dark. He said that God "has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed." But even then it seemed Paul hoped God would - through His Spirit - enable the Athenians to seek after Him in the midst of the chaos.
Now, almost two millennia later, there is a church in Athens, in the Agora, where Paul had been so disturbed. On the ceiling of the church is a painting of Jesus as "Pantocrator" - the "Ruler of All." It is a sign that Jesus is victorious. He eventually conquers places that at first seem so foreign to His light.
We all have dark places - street boys living in Nairobi, businessmen living in Boston, and homemakers living in Roanoke. What is the dark place in your life? Do you see Jesus there, even now, as a Good Shepherd? He wants to carry you, today, in His bosom.
Know that it will not always be dark. We have a risen Lord who is ruler. One day - a day that He has already set - God will make things right in the world. He will make everything beautiful in its time.
For now though, let us reach out for Him. Let us look for Him in the back room. Let us feel around for Him in the darkness. Let us grope for Him though all around us seems black. Let us find Him, for He is not far from every single one of us.
In the Light of Christ,