If you’re like me — and most people I know — the world feels like a mess.
Maybe you’re heartbroken and horrified by the latest news coming out of Syria, by the continued slaughter of human life.
Perhaps you’re worried about loved ones impacted by the fires in California — or you are one of the millions of people struggling to make it without clean air, electricity or safety. Maybe you’ve lost your home.
Or you may be the person dealing with internal trial: health problems, financial challenges or splintered relationships. Maybe someone you love has recently died and the grief has you frozen in sorrow.
It could be that your Gospel living — your faithful walk with Christ — has you meeting roadblock after roadblock. Each detour and struggle has you feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere or making any progress. You are losing hope and confidence that you’re on the right path, that God wants you to proceed. You don’t know if you have any steam left in you for loving others.
No matter which circumstances have you carrying a cross, here’s what I want to assure you today: you are not alone. Jesus is with you in all of it. The community of Christ cares for you.
To boost you up and impart consolation, I’m offering some inspiration in the mess. Here’s some goodness that keeps me going.
THE WORD OF GOD
Much of the Bible contains encouragement to persevere, to trust, to remain faithful and accept the cost of loving God and neighbor.
I’ve heard a lot of people proclaim that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” which is a cliché I dislike, because it suggests that we (individually) must handle the hard times, the painful parts of living. But such a sentiment doesn’t match what I have come to know: we are strengthened by God and community, we all are in need of help and support.
Here’s a verse that agrees: only if we rely on God, if we turn to Christ, will we be able to handle what’s tough:
“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” — 1 Corinthians 10:13
Scripture reminds us that a paradox of the spiritual life (and discipleship, for that matter) is accepting hardships as part of the price we pay for growing closer to God; once we embrace our weakness, we’re able to know strength.
“Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Plus, Scripture assures us that God remains with us; God is the true source of our strength.
“I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
FROM THE MESSY JESUS BUSINESS ARCHIVES
A poem, “encouragement” (
overwhelmed, I wonder/gazing out the window, I sigh …”
“As I gain awareness I usually become overwhelmed or angry. Fires burn in my belly and I am compelled to respond. The challenge is to respond with love.
On my way to work, I prayed prayers of lament. I begged God for mercy. I asked that all of the unjust systems that humanity has so sinfully created are reformed. As we are converted, may the ways of humanity be converted.
Soon after, I am with my students. I decide to be real with them. ‘I feel so angry about what’s wrong with the world today that I want to go scream in the streets …'”
“You may not do what you want,” Galatians 5:17 insists. For good reasons too. If I did whatever I wanted, I’d be a very selfish, greedy person who would probably not be so interested in serving the needs of others, in pleasing God. I am not saying I am scum, but I am, of course, a work in progress who struggles with being sinful as much as the next person.”
“I am not the messiah. It’s not my job to free people, to save them. I am called to love and let God do this rest. This is freeing, good Gospel news!
But to tell you the truth, companioning others, and not aiming to change them, is a struggle. That’s especially true when I encounter people who have views that are offensive to my own, who say things that make me cringe.”
“When we serve others we touch the wounds of Christ; we encounter the heartache and pain of our neighbors. When we read the news headlines right alongside the promises of Christ, it can be tempting to doubt that the Incarnation really changed things and made the world better. Our consciousness about global oppression and the weight of natural disasters can be crushing, discouraging.
One way that I keep my eyes open to the Light is to tune into songs that feed me with encouragement and strength. I want to have music in my head that keeps me singing with hopeful joy. I want to dance to beats that help me persevere and trust that God’s in charge, that the fullness of God’s goodness is on its way.”
Plus, much of the music by Liz Vice boosts my spirit. Here’s one gem for you:
THE BIBLE, AGAIN
Praying with the Gospel stories and the lives of the saints could also offer you a lot of inspiration and encouragement.
This lovely prayer video, made by my friend Susan Francois, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, reminds us of the Gospel call to persist for peace and justice:
Lastly, this passage from Romans reminds us that much goodness is ahead:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
What gives you encouragement and hope in the mess? Share with other Messy Jesus Business readers in the comments below.