“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” –C. S. Lewis
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 31
“My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15).
PRAYER FOCUS: Our Time
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo the hobbit beholds his world, once bright and full of cheer, now being swallowed up by darkness, pain and fear. Adverse circumstances not of his choosing have forced him to confront a great evil. He and his friends must work, fight and sacrifice to overcome that evil. Frodo mourns, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.”
Gandalf the Grey replies wisely, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” And then Gandalf reminds him, “There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil…”
Adversity has a way of doing that—making us wish for other, better, times. Hardship and pain challenge our sense of security. Like Frodo we look around and behold the dark peril of our walk through this world. We naturally seek to avoid such awful things. But despite our best efforts and intentions, sometimes trouble brings them upon us.
So how do we cope? Well, quite often we don’t. We seem to prefer escape and evasion to coping with and/or confronting trouble. Some people might escape into nostalgia, reliving times already past. Others might escape to the future, or at least their version of it, imagining things to come. Still others may distract themselves with electronic gadgets and “virtual” living. Then there are those who evade reality in the cloud of denial and depression, cloaking themselves in drugs and dangerous behaviors. Yet every one of these avoidances speaks to our longing for something more, something better.
Shouldn’t we pray for God to deliver us from hard times?
Good question. What does Scripture say?
Just before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for his disciples. He did NOT pray that God would rescue them from the perils they would face. On the contrary, The Son petitioned the Father: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Even though they, like Him, were no longer of this world, Jesus prayed that his followers would remain fully engaged in it. He prayed that they would have peace in the midst of adversity, that they would have hope in the face of hopelessness. Not peace through escape or evasion, and not for peaceful times. Rather, He prayed they would have a surpassing peace that exceeds human understanding. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage—I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The times we live in and the troubles we live through are well known to our Father-God. The great 19th Century British evangelist Charles H. Spurgeon put it this way:
God considers our times, and thinks them over; with his heart and soul planning to do us good. That august mind, out of which all things spring, bows itself to us; and those eternal wings, which cover the universe, also brood over us and our household, and our daily wants and woes. Our God sits not still as a listless spectator of our griefs, suffering us to be drifted like waifs upon the waters of circumstance; but is busily occupying himself at all times for the defense and perfecting of his children. He leads us that he may bring us home to the place where his flock shall rest for ever.
This week’s Scripture is taken from a Psalm of David. “My times are in Your Hands” is a simple yet powerful confession of what is and ought to be. It says that Fate does not stalk you, Christian. It says that Karma is a faithless construct of deceit. It declares that Almighty God—your Eternal Creator, your Abba-Father, your Heavenly Dad—is in control. And it places your trust squarely in His loving Hands, where it belongs.
Yes, there are consequences, both for our sin and for our obedience. And yet we know that He works all things for good to those who love Him…according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Please don’t give in to worry. Pastor Spurgeon reminds us, “Did you ever get any good by fretting? When there was not rain enough for your farm, did you ever fret a shower down? When there was too much wet, or you thought so, did you ever worry the clouds away? Tell me, did you ever make a sixpence by worrying? It is a very unprofitable business.”
Like Frodo and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring, it is all too easy to look around and become discouraged by the troubles that face us daily. We long for another kind of world. But we are not to let that distract us from doing God’s work. Rather, our longing for what should be must compel us to live and to act for God and His Kingdom. Ministry is messy; it is costly and increasingly dangerous. And yet that is still our calling.
There are other forces at work in this world, Christian, besides the will of evil. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be part of those “other forces”. We decide daily what to do with the time that God has given to us. One day soon we will each have to give an account for either our proclamation and action, or our silence and inaction.
Therefore, Praying People, turn to Father-God in prayer, not with a list of wants and demands, but with a confession. Tell Him what you feel and what you fear. Seek from Him what you need. Tell Him your times are in His Hands, and express your gratitude for that. Such a prayer of a few minutes is far more productive than years of complaining.
It’s Monday Morning. This week will close out the old year and begin a new one. It’s a good time to leave your worry behind. What will you do with a New Year that is given to you?