The year was 1844, and a war was raging in Europe. Already, thousands had died on the battlefield, and thousands more probably wished they’d died. Instead, they were helpless casualties of the Crimean War, agonizing from injury and infection. No one seemed to care. But all of that was about to change.
Despite protest from her family, a young nursing graduate named Florence Nightingale insisted on going to the hospitals of the warfront. The conditions were deplorable. Nothing could prepare her for what she was about to see at the British-based hospital in Constantinople.
One biographer writes, “The hospital sat on top of a large cesspool which contaminated the water in the hospital itself. Patients lay on their own excrement on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways. Rodents and bugs scurried past them. The most basic supplies such as bandages grew increasingly scarce. The number of ill and wounded steadily increased. Even water needed to be rationed. More soldiers were dying from infectious diseases like typhoid and cholera than those that had been injured from battle itself.”
Nightingale wasted no time. She ordered the less-injured soldiers to scrub the interior of the hospital. She set up separate stations for triage, surgical procedures, and long-term care. She took steps to sterilize medical instruments. She quickly endeared herself to the injured soldiers, and earned a reputation for her no-nonsense system of cleanliness and care. As a result of her nightly ritual of making rounds by lamplight to check on the patients, she earned the nickname, “The Lady with the Lamp.”
I’m sure as soldiers sat in the dark hallways and saw the lamp moving closer, it inspired them to hold on just a bit longer. The one carrying the light brought with her a sense of hope and healing.
In a similar way, Jesus describes his followers as “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). Like Nightingale, Christians are called to work in hard places, to serve with compassion, and to shine a light of hope.
Jesus is the true Light of the World (John 8:12). He is the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful. But amazingly, he has chosen to put his light inside us. The only way people are going to see the healing light of Jesus Christ today is if they see it in his disciples.
What does it mean to shine the light of Jesus? To be sure, it includes sharing the gospel. But it’s more than that. It also includes living out the implications of the gospel through our everyday lives. Jesus makes this connection clear in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
In the coming year, may each of us shine our lights for Jesus, penetrating darkness to speak the truth and share in suffering of those God places in our pathway, all for the glory of God.
Who is someone you know who puts the gospel on display? What is it about them that inspires you?