Living in an uncertain world

The Messenger app on my phone buzzed around 7 pm and a picture of a car appeared, upside down, airbags deployed. Recognizing it as belonging to one of my kids. My heart skipped a beat, and I hurried to read the words … and found that my granddaughter and daughter-in-law were OK,  just bruised and shaken up. The other driver was fine, too.  Only then did my tears fall, and my eyes still well up with emotion this morning thinking about the wreck.  A generation ago, before the advances in automobile safety, the report would likely have read much differently!  

Yes, life is  fragile. We learn to live with that knowledge, but keep it mostly out of our consciousness.  If we thought about too much, fear would paralyze us, making daily life an impossibility.  Then, a near miss with death or injury knocks our illusions down and we are reminded that it is God’s grace that we are seeing another day. Sometimes it isn’t a miss!  We might run headlong into a crisis that changes us forever. Such was my encounter with mortality as I watched my late wife valiantly live and die with cancer six years ago.

In my morning reflection I turned to the words of James. His little letter near the back of our Bible is pragmatic, blunt, directive. He does not have the eloquence of Paul, nor does he focus on the wonder of God’s grace. His words are ‘in your face’ challenges to live what we believe.  ” Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, NIV)

Under the Spirit’s inspiration, Pastor James holds two truths in a tension that gives us balance and creates wisdom.

First he reminds us that life, as we see it,  is uncertain

As much as we might want to control all outcomes, we need to know that we cannot. A snowstorm blew over my state on Sunday, dumping 31 inches of the white stuff on us over a 48 hour period. Life stopped. Plans changed. It is a minor inconvenience but a reminder of the unknowns.  The world deals with a pandemic that turned life inside out 10 months ago.  The best and brightest are still trying to figure out the best way forward. Thousands still grieve the ultimate result of COVID, left with memories of a loved one who was taken, sometimes in a matter of days.

If we are realistic about our limits of control, we will grow wiser. I’m glad my kids bought a car with features like airbags, well-engineered for safety. That’s wisdom, not fear.  Years ago, knowing that it was likely that a time would come when my earning ability would be diminished, I set aside some money regularly.  At the end of 2021, when I step down from the pulpit, those funds will become essential.  But, safer cars and 401(k) accounts are no guarantee that we will escape the uncertainty of living in a world where there is cancer, wrecks, financial crisis, and COVID.  “You are a mist.”

So …

Second, James reminds us that we trust the ‘will of God!’

Here is the true security of the Christian. He knows, by faith, that the Lord of the Universe holds his life in His hands. We need humility to say, “Lord, lead me.”  This is not resignation to fate. This is a choice of wisdom that allows us to avoid spending our lives in trivial pursuits.  Asking God to lead us will cause us to love Him and others better, to be generous, to see life with an eternal perspective.  Those things that cause such stress – machines that break, rude people,  crazy politics – fade in significance if we know that we are on our way Home and can be led by the hand of God.

The Song of Moses (Psalm 91) includes this line – “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV)  Lord, help me to know I won’t live forever so that I will live my best life in Your will right now!  

Are you living wisely and well, dear friend?  There is no need to be pre-occupied with death and danger. That is a terrible way to live and Jesus says it is foolish, too.  His words are our word from the Word today.  I hope they are comforting and instructive.  I have chosen to use the modern language paraphrase of Scripture, The Message.  Read these excerpts from Matthew 6 and soak your heart in faith!

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.  … “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:25-34, The Message)


My Life Is In Your Hands
(The Brooklyn Tabernacle choir sings the Kirk Franklin song so well!)

You don’t have to worry
And don’t you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning
Troubles they don’t last always

For there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say

(Oh) I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands

With Jesus I can take it
With Him I know I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands

So when your tests and trials
They seem to get you down
And all your friends and loved ones
Are nowhere to be found

Remember there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say
My life is in Your hands (3X)

Kirk Franklin © 1996 Lilly Mack Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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