For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8 24-27
Has anyone notices that there are some days, or even groups of days, when it is just hard to follow Mr. Wesley’s third general rule, “attend upon the ordinances of God”? Those ordinances include prayer, Scripture study, worship, fasting, observing the Sacrament. There are times when we do all of them with joy and enthusiasm. (Well, I have never been especially good at fasting.) But there are other times when it is just difficult to make oneself do these things. Even the most devoted Christians as Saint Teresa, Martin Luther, and our dear Father John Wesley had such bleak periods in their lives. Perhaps one begins to pray and cannot seem to make the connection to God. Or maybe one opens the Bible to read and soon finds the mind wandering into other paths.
It seems to me that these difficult times through which we are now living make it easier to fall into one of these times when God seems far away. After all, 2020 has brought not only a pandemic that has disrupted our lives – even though we understand the necessity of it, it is still hard, but also hurricanes, earthquakes, the deaths of several beloved public leaders, wild fires, floods, and political advertisements that I would not want my grandson to watch. These things come on top of the regular issues that we would normally bring to the Lord. Some days, I just want to look toward the heavens and cry out, “God, are you still there?”
In a very timely way, the following words from my favorite Duke Divinity School professor, David Steinmetz, popped up in my Facebook memories.
“From time to time everyone endures a barren period in the life of faith. Prayers bounce off the ceiling unanswered. Hymns stick in one’s throat, and whatever delight one once felt in the contemplation or worship of God withers away.
“In such circumstances Christians should ‘do what is in them’ – that is, they should keep on keeping on. They should keep on with their prayers, their hymns of praise and their daily round of duties. Even though it seems like they are walking through an immense and limitless desert, with oases few an far between, they plod on, knowing that obedience is more important than emotional satisfaction and a right spirit than a merry heart.” David Steinmetz
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou are;
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart. (UMH 384)
Thank you, dear Lord, for the love and grace with which you surround us every day. Keep us on your path, even when we start to stray away. Keep out hearts fixed upon you, knowing that even when we wander off your pathway, you are always near to us. Amen.
Pastor Rachel Moser