“It was a hard day,” she wrote to me last night without any explanation, but I did not really need any. It was a hard one for me, too. The unrelenting bad news, the focus now shifting from sickness and death to economic destruction, got to me! Mid-day I read the report that here in NJ our Governor is extending the restrictions to June 5, a controversial decision to be sure.
In the afternoon, I stood in the empty sanctuary at my church and wept, tears of pent-up frustration growing out of a sense of helplessness and sorrow for the losses that so many are experiencing –sickness, death, lack of interaction, no income, destroyed businesses, strained and/or broken relationships… it is a long, long list. So, yes, my friend, you need not explain when you say “It was a hard day.”
I recall a book written by Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, an exposition of the Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-137, songs that those traveling to Jerusalem for holy festivals sang as they traveled the road leading up to Jerusalem. They are celebrations of the restoration of the Temple. Most include pleas for spiritual renewal from the Lord. These Psalms share a common theme – “The Lord GOD delivered us in the past. We trust that He will deliver us now and in the future.”
Psalm 126 is the seventh of those songs and provides us with reason for hope.
“A song for the ascent to Jerusalem.
When the Lord restored his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!
Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.” (Psalm 126:1-6, NLT)
They remembered the joy of God’s people when miraculously, after 70 years in Babylon, there was opportunity for the children of the captives to return to rebuild their city and their Temple. It was like ‘living the dream!’ No other nations destroyed by the Assyrians had been allowed to return and rebuilt so they rejoiced that God was revealing His love and gaining praise.
But, they knew there were struggles ahead, too. They sang of the farmer who took the seed saved from the previous year’s harvest into the fields, grain that could feed his children at that moment and he sowed it in faith. He wept as he did for he knew that his planting was with risk – of drought, of blight, of crop failure. However, he also planted with hope, anticipating the harvest to come.
Faith is sustained when we consciously connect the past, the present, and the future – remembering what the Lord has done, experiencing His Presence now, and hoping for His providence for tomorrow. Peterson writes, “Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now, who guards us always.”
Ah, friend, let’s choose to live that ‘solid, massive, secure experience of God.’ The sentimental faith built around an occasional moment of stirring when our favorite worship song plays is not enough. The faith that surfaces only on Sunday morning when all the right prompts are in places is insufficient. He is as much present where you are right now as He is in the so-called holy moments or places.
Dear friend, this is a time for a long obedience. Practice the disciplines of the Spirit – contemplative prayer, study, service, generosity, worship – to name a few; that allows the Spirit’s life to flow into us through the channels we open into our heart and mind. Temptation will come to find comfort and solace. When those assaults that grow from the world systems, the inner compulsion of the body, or the work of the Devil come our way, we turn to the Lord and we find, in Him, strength to choose to live as He desires.
I quote Peterson again. “We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing our songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity.”
Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit lead us to a long obedience in the same direction. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:35-38, NIV)
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame\
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name
Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil
He is Lord Lord of all
When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless stand before the throne
Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury © 2011 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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