“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:4, 13 ESV. http://bible.com/59/rom.15.4,13.esv
Hope is a byproduct of living through difficulty with endurance. If Peter’s denial of Christ means anything, it gives us the confidence that, by God’s grace and mercy, there are second chances. We will make mistakes. We will deny Christ in word and deed. But if we acknowledge our errors and remain faithful in believing, by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.
None of this is our own doing. It is through the God of hope that we may be filled with joy and peace in believing. Our task is to find encouragement in the Scriptures, to remain in Christ, and to endure. We must learn that the most profound lessons of life are given by God for our good. Life will throw all kinds of shit at us, and it takes discipline and also patience to endure it. Our God is a God of hope and he sends us his Holy Spirit so that we may also be alive with hope.
Without hope we are dead. We live like corpses, dumbfounded as if sleepwalking. There is so much more to life, if we are just a little willing to live with hope. And hope doesn’t have to stretch into the distant future. We can hope that this afternoon God will instruct us in His will. He makes known to us the path of life, bit by bit, not all at once. This is for our own good, because if we had the entire plan, we would be discouraged and crushed under the sheer weight of its entirety. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Today has enough to deal with so save what hope you have for this afternoon. God, by his great grace, will show us the way.
Today is the last day of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life program that I joined last September. Praying an hour a day has been a great, no an awesome, disruption to my life. Because of it I recognized for the first time I am an addict. I have come to realize my life as an addict is unmanageable and my only recourse is to surrender myself completely to God. As I have done that before, at least I thought I had, I have to ask myself what is different this time?
Shortly after disclosing my addiction to my family, I started going to a therapist and I joined a 12 Step program. My therapist is great and is doing me a great service, but it is in the 12 Step program where the real recovery work is done. It was after attending meetings for a few months that I felt, but didn’t understand, the magic of the program. It was a great mystery to me that I was feeling better in some way.
It took more meetings over more months for me to discover what I think is the mojo of being in a recovery group. It is the connection with other addicts. Here is where we work on our recovery. Even the 12 Steps themselves are not taken in isolation. It is all about we and us and our. There is no “I” in the program. We are embarking on this recoverery as a fellowship. The fellowship of recovery includes confession, accountability and comraderie. Connected in fellowhsip, I know I am not alone; other’s have my back.
So the difference in my surrender this time is that I am not alone. The third step of recovery is we surrender our addiciton to higher power as we understand him. Paul also understood the principle that we do the Spirit’s work together as he wrote to the Galations about it. (5:25-26, 6:2-3, 9-10) “If WE live by the Spirit . . . let us not grow conceited . . . and let us not grow weary of doing good . . . so then as we have the opportunity let us do good to everyone.” We cannot do life alone. We’re in this together whether we realize it or not.
One sub theme in the biblical narrative is to wait, to not be anxious, to bring silence and peace to all circumstances. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” Psalms 37:7 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.37.7.esv
To slow down in a culture that moves at the speed of light is a difficult task. To sit in silence and to breathe deeply seems like an undeserved luxury, or in my anxious moments, it is so counterintuitive it seems to bind me in chains like I’m in a prison cell. I can’t sit still without squirming. If I’m honest, I don’t want to hear the still small voice of God. I want a god who speaks in thunder and lightening, not one who speaks in the silence. I want a god who immediately heals my deepest wounds without any suffering.
When I can hold a space for silence, God’s quiet voice speaks more personally to me. It’s a voice of steadfast love and faithfulness. It’s not about speaking in tongues nor angelic voices that are loud gongs and clashing cymbals. If I’m willing to follow, God moves slowly and quietly in my life gently nudging me one way then another and healing me bit by bit.
My work is to not be deaf to God’s voice. He is speaking as awesomely and as mysteriously as the wind trembles through an Aspen forest. But there are moments when there is no wind. The air is sweet and still. What can I do but to wait patiently and wonder? The only air that moves now is His spirit, in and out through my own lungs. The life giving air rushing into my nostrils, held only for a quarter rest and then rushing out is the breath of God in me, the hope of glory.
So I will sit in silence and wait. Only God can say what this new spirit gradually forming within me will be. I will give the Lord God the benefit of believing that his hand is leading me, and accept the anxiety of feeling in suspense and incomplete. – adapted from a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.” Psalms 37:34 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.37.34.esv
“Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.” Psalms 37:37 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.37.37.esv