We had been intentionally driving through a nearby neighborhood on our drive home in search of Christmas lights. We have two young kids and the excitement of lights outside is still new and magical. The other day, we drove through during the day and my daughter wanted to know why the lights weren’t on. I told her, “Well, the lights work best when it’s dark out. Otherwise, you can’t really see them.”

The light works best when it’s dark.

It’s easy to be inundated with hurt and heartache today. There is not a city in the world that can’t look out its back door and find hurting, helpless, hopeless people. We hear themes like be the light, be the change, make the difference—honorable themes that run not only through Christian culture, but in any love-promoting ideal. (And that’s what we should be as Christians, by the way—love promoters.)

This is hard, though, right? Because things aren’t only dark on a global scale. They are dark in our own lives, in our family member’s lives, in our friend’s lives, in our neighbor’s lives. You had a miscarriage. Your dad was diagnosed with cancer. Your sister is getting a divorce.

The call to be the light can be overwhelming, especially when all you may want to do is shake your fist at the sky. What can we possibly offer to ease the weight when our own is crushing? How do we be the light when we aren’t sure if it exists? In times of heartache there may seem like no right thing, no right word, no plausible solution you can offer.

But it only takes a flicker to begin lighting up a dark room, and light is only of value when it is dark.

Every heart-wrenching event around you is an opportunity to live out a human calling to be the light. Be the light and look for the light, because it is out there.

Your phone call or text message might be the only one a person got that day—maybe the only time her mind wasn’t on everything wrong. Maybe it was the only time she felt someone else was thinking of her. That’s a light.

That meal you brought might not have been your grandmother’s secret recipe—but it brought a home-cooked meal into a broken home. That’s a light.

Offering grace and words of encouragement in a situation that has only elicited judgment and condemnation, that’s a light.

The world promotes self-happiness as the goal, satisfaction and enjoyment of your own life as the end game. Do what makes you happy. We are applauded for chasing dreams, congratulated for personal accomplishments, validated by our success. These are all wonderful things that should be sought after—until it stops there.

My most comforting truth is knowing my happiness is not my purpose; what a fragile thing life would be if it were. Perhaps the more accurate way to find happiness is by first offering it to others. The best way to crawl out of a hole is to help someone else out of it first. After all, he can pull you out when he gets there and you both win.

You may feel like you have nothing to offer, but I promise—you do. We all do.

We were made to help, encourage, support, and share life with people. We were made for relationship. When things aren’t going your way, reverse the intended effect and be the good that goes someone else’s way. I promise you it will leave you feeling more satisfied, more content, happier—because it’s what we were designed for.

One day (pick any day) I was really struggling with being a mom. I was in a hard season that seemed like a never-ending trudge through the arctic of parenting. I was forlorn, downtrodden, and every other fancy word for super bummed out.

And I got a card.

“Never give up” was on the front. And the blank interior was penned with some of the most meaningful things I could’ve read in that moment. Truthfully, I didn’t even believe them. They were so contrary to how I was feeling that I almost dismissed their value, until I realize that the author who penned them meant every word. And that brought a light into my darkness.

Do you know how much a compliment to a stranger can mean? That brief moment you took to compliment another woman’s dress/hairstyle/earrings (something we should do way more often by the way) could be the confidence boost she needed to get over an insecurity. A genuine “thank you” to someone for doing her job well can spur confidence to do even greater things.

Be the friend who lifts up; the sister who calls; the daughter who says “thank you”; the boss who encourages; the acquaintance who compliments; the stranger who helps. (It’s quite important to note that I myself am a work in progress!) 

And when you’re in the darkest place, never forget that the light shines brightest in the dark.

Christen Bell

Christen is a wife and mother of two who lives in central Pennsylvania. She is passionate about her corner of the world, which includes family, running, reading, and writing.