“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed” (Heb. 12:12-13).
At one point in the church I served some years back, we had a particularly large spate of deaths. People who had been pillars began to die, and the effect unnerved everyone. One lady said to me, “Preacher, it looks like this year is going to be one for the books.”
At the time, I wished I knew what to say to that. Even now I wish I could say that death happens, and that people get sick, and that people suffer, and that that is all a part of life this side of the eschaton. Actually, what I mean to say is that I wish I could say all of that in a way that would make sense of all the tears. I wish I could say something that eased the ache in all of our hearts when fear confronts us. I wish I could say something really pastoral, full of confidence and solace. I wish . . .
I knew that there were people hurting in our church. There were people who were afraid of what our church would look like after we had fought our battle of attrition with death, people afraid of what life would look like without our heroes, without the faces we had counted on to pick us up when we had fallen, to soothe us when we mourned, to chastise us when we quit, to teach us when we sought, to lead us when we wandered.
In my personal life, as many of you are aware, it appears as though “this is going to be one for the books.” With both my father in Hospice and my youngest brother with an advanced form of colo-rectal cancer, things have weighed heavily on my family recently. I want to thank all of you who have asked about and prayed for the situation my family faces. I’m grateful for your love and support. But I’m not the only one facing difficult times. I know that many of you also have concerns about your loved ones, anxiety about what your future may hold. Please know that you’re part of a community that longs to walk beside you through uncertain times—even when we don’t have any good answers to give.
Most days, getting out of bed is a habit for us that requires little thought and little motivation. But when the skies darken and our horizons fade in the night, figuring out how to survive another day, let alone move forward, without the certainty that the familiar human landmarks of our lives will always be with us seems impossible. Despair comes easy.
And yet, somehow God calls us forward. Like a lover God stands before us, wooing us toward our collective future, asking not that we should forget our pain, but that we should endure in spite of it. In the face of great pain God neither requires great acts of bravery, nor does God expect it; what God requires and expects of us is faithfulness. Because in some ironic twist of circumstance, our faithfulness in the face of our fear and grief transforms us into models for those who come behind us. Then, even though we are scarred, we may be healed.
Sometimes hanging on is the best we can do. According to our faith, sometimes hanging on is the best there is. Thanks for helping me hang on.