Hanukkah and Christmas are poignant reminders for us that the
'light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it'.
During my recent visit to Jerusalem, I met an individual whose personal story illustrates this truth. *Omar had come to Israel on a personal mission which was two-fold: He wanted to experience further healing in his relationship with God and also, to somehow make things right with those who he had once believed to be enemies.
Omar grew up in a strict religious Muslim home in Kuwait. He explained that religious abuse permeated his culture. His father perpetuated the distorted world view at home, using it to justify the physical and emotional abuse of his wife and children. Omar did not know any other way of life because this cruelty was the norm. He suffered from it and as he grew older, he found it more and more difficult to believe in a God who condoned such violence. Omar secretly began to question his faith.
As a young adult, Omar had the opportunity to visit the USA. While there, Kuwait came under the control of Saddam Hussein. Unable to return home, Omar set out to build a new life in America. The trauma of lifelong abuse along with the loss of his home, family and country left him in a state of alieniation and deep depression. It was during this dark season that Omar developed a friendship that would change his life.
Omar's new friend was a follower of the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". Omar had been taught to hate Israel, the God of the Jews and the Jewish people, but because of a sincere desire to know the truth, he decided to research this God for himself. He discovered that the God of the Bible is one of love, mercy, forgiveness and justice, full of compassion and commited to our rescue and restoration. Today Omar worships "the one true God" and is an adovcate for Israel and the Jewish people.
I was with Omar one afternoon when he told his story to a group of elderly people who had survived the dark night of the Holocaust. As he spoke, the room became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. These survivors have had previous visitors from Germany who humbly came to ask forgiveness, but this was the first time to hear a declaration of love from a former follower of Islam. Omar's story of discovery, redemption and love was like a small candle that lit up tthe room. A window of understanding was opened that day. It made a way for the survivors to take another small step towards forgiveness, healing and even reconcilliation. I wish you could have been there to witness the tears, smiles, hugs and handholding. Oh, the light that filled that room!
*The identity of 'Omar' has been disguised for his safety. He has received death threats because of leaving Islam and his stand with Israel, Jews and Christians.
No matter what is going on in the world or in your personal life, God's love is able to sustain you. And as you receive Him into your life, His light will reflect off of you and into the lives of those around you.
*If you are not lighting a Hanukiah these eight nights, try this: Darken the room. Light a candle. Use that candle to light another candle. And another. And another. Together we can make a difference.
*Who needs your candlelight right now, in their dark night of the soul?
*Who has been a candle in your life?