Strength for the journeyLatest Issue, Where's the Faith? Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
One of my favorite prayers is, “God, give me strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.”
In the 1988 New York City Marathon, a world class runner by the name of Salvatore Bettiol was running hard near the lead. Now, New York is an amazing marathon because two million people line the streets to cheer runners on and the crowds get larger and louder as you near the end. Bettiol was running a blistering pace through Central Park just three miles from the finish line when suddenly, his right leg began to cramp so badly he had to stop and lie down.
Here he was in front of this crowd, on national television, lying on the ground in pain. Do you know what Bettiol did? He rose to his feet, stumbled forward at first, then walked, then jogged, picked up his pace, and still finished the race in second place. Every cell in his body was screaming, “Stop! Catch a cab! Anything; but please stop!”
This can happen to us as we are running along in life. The race gets harder as we go. The goal seems farther away than when we began.
If you’re feeling like a lot is going on – perhaps you feel somewhat overwhelmed; maybe you’re tired and feeling exhausted, and you know you just need to keep on going. If this is your experience, know you’re not alone!
This reminds me of that old preacher story of the young man who just wouldn’t get up and out of bed to go to church. And on this Sunday morning his mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church. To which her son replied, “I’m not going.” Why not?” she asked. “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them. So why should I?”
And his mother replied, “I’ll give you three good reasons why you should go to church: One, going to church is good for you. It keeps you connected to God. And number two, son, in our family we go to church. No ‘if, ands or buts’ it’s what we do. And number three, remember: you are the pastor!”
Well, no one had to boot me out of bed this morning! I’m eager to be here and so blessed be in community together. But, I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t tell you I’ve been fatigued and tired and worn out. And I know that many are struggling with more than fatigue. Some are dealing with emotional exhaustion. Several have had very traumatic events happen in our lives which have almost debilitated us. Many have had physical illness which has depleted our physical and emotional reserves. So, the truth is, some are fatigued and others are near the end of our rope! Those of us who are in a good, strong place … let’s be gentle with those in this former category.
The more I live, the more I see that life isn’t always easy. I have great respect for our “elders” – growing old is not for the faint of heart! In our Hebrew Scripture we see the Israelites in great distress. They are living in exile. And in their exhaustion and fatigue they are honestly grappling with the tough questions of faith. Asking questions that I hear today: Do we matter at all? Where can I find strength for my journey? How can I find hope?
These are the questions that sneak up on us in the middle of a sleepless night, in the midst of crisis, trauma and tragedy. Like the Israelites, we too, find ourselves in times of exile; separated from ones we love, from the life or health we cherish. Most of us, at some point, have been broken. We carry with us fear or grief, shame or longing, and we are left with the fatigue of trying to deal with the hand life has dealt us.
And so we discover in Isaiah an important lesson: the importance of being totally honest with ourselves about the challenges in our life. It’s alright to admit when we’re weary and fatigued, to claim our situations with the same honesty and despair that the Israelites did … and then to listen to the voice of prophets and encouragers around us. Isaiah made it clear to those feeling “desperate in exile” that their future wasn’t dependent upon their own strength, but upon the strength of God who does not faint or grow weary.
So, I invite you to pause today in the busy rush of life, with all that is on your plate, with all of the demands pulling on you from so many places, to rely more on God and one another.
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