This morning I was struck by the temporary nature of life. The passages for today’s service seemed relevant to that. Each moment of our lives is just that– momentary– and passes away as quickly as it comes. Of course at the same time there are some things that seem to last forever and we wonder if they will ever end– a frustrating class, a bad cold that won’t let go, that habit that seems to never be conquored…but still, what has been will never be again. There is no doubt that most people probably are far too ignorant of the past, of history, and we often live disconnected fragmented lives. But some of us dwell too much in a nostalgic hope for the past, for what we’ve known, and this can lead to a fear of change, fear of the future, a wishing for what we know and frustration with what we don’t.
But Scripture seems to call us to embrace the unknown future with hope, and with an expectation for God to do great things. It is very easy at times, times like right now, to begin to expect the worst, to begin to lose hope because of frustration with the system, with politics, with our lives, with changes we see which we don’t know how to respond to. And there are likely changes which at times we should be concerned about. But what the Bible seems to call us to is an attitude of hopefulness and life-expectation in the midst of whatever comes our way. To act otherwise– to be a fear mongerer, or a person spreading hopelessness and adding fuel to the fires of suspicion and cynicism which are always there to feed, is, I think, not Biblical. God does call us to faithfully expect and await for his blessing, and to have eyes to see his faithfulness and his goodness in the midst of what those with natural vision would see to be disaster and dread.
To reflect on past goodness, former blessings, is good, but to get fixated on it is not good. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:18-19 Isaiah calls us to have eyes of faith to expect good from God. That doesn’t mean that we sit back and accept everything that happens as God’s will passively– but it does mean that when we encounter something we are concerned about, and that we respond with hope and faith, not with fear and cynicism. Living with a response of hope when circumstances seem to dictate alarm is unusual and seems strange– if you don’t understand what that hope is rooted in. But for Christians, that hope– an expectation of Good things and God’s provision– should be the natural response.
The mystics I love to read are always trying to see Christ in the world, and to quiet their hearts so that they can experience Christ’s presence. A cynicism will not allow that. A constantly distracted self will not be able to be still enough to know God’s presence. A spirit of fear and expectation of disaster will not be able to see the blessings of Christ and the hope of the future, the goodness of this moment…
Another passage was also good for me to hear again: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, …” Phillipians 3:8 I find happiness in a lot of things– my family, my friends, my construction projects, my writing, my students, my reading– but I know that these things also bring me sadness– when I am not able to enjoy them as I think I’d like to. Right now I wish I could spend all my time on my houses, all my time with my parents, all my time writing, and all my time with friends…so I feel a strange frustration of not being able to live 4 lives at once…but this is ridiculous. Phillipians calls me back to my foundation– that I should consider all these things loss except for the knowledge of Christ.
I try to know what this might mean. I think that it means that for these gifts of God to be really sanctified in my life, I should look to see Christ in them, to know Christ more through them. So today when I go to work on 2709 Dewey I will think of it as working on Christ’s building, because I’m just taking care of his stuff. When I dream about a new project I will try to focus primarily on if this is a good use of his life in me– a good use of my life for Him– or if it might be instead a distraction from Him. It seems that almost anything can be a distraction from Christ, or, alternatively, a means of sanctification which draws me closer to Him. Thats how I think about marriage, about ownership of anything, about new projects, old projects, and even about friends and family that you dearly love — any of these can be a distraction from knowledge of Christ, or a porthole into knowledge of Christ.
I hope I can keep perspective on what is of real value throughout my day today, and to make sure that knowing Christ through the day is more important than any of the other temporary blessings which God provides. I want to have eyes of hope, and of expectation of goodness.
May God have mercy on us all… andy