The Message of Hope
“Just when it doesn’t seem it can get any worse,” begins multiple adages I have heard through the years. We thought we had enough with the pandemic and the multiple challenges and isolation it has brought in the last year … until we experienced a winter storm like Texas has rarely known. We had adjusted to how we had to convert our sanctuary into a studio until everything flooded following that storm. Now the sanctuary is torn up, and we have been pushed out to the reception area we call the Munch and Mingle.
(Photo below is also listed on our Facebook page seeking appropriate captions)
So where is God in the midst of this when things go from bad to worse? In all my years, that has been the most common challenge from those who are somewhere between agnostic and atheist. My high-dollar theological education taught me to come up with sophisticated answers about theodicy (the theological reflection on the problem of suffering … especially among believers.
It is also tempting to just avoid the question or use trite phrases about it being a matter of faith. As if to say that those who ask the question just don’t have a deep enough faith.
But as I have aged a bit, I have come to realize that this is a legitimate question put forth by people who are using their critical thinking to evaluate what we defenders of the faith are saying. When things go from bad to worse, where do we find God?
I was told a story many years ago about a preacher who stood in front of the congregation and said, “God has richly blessed us with wealth and prosperity.” Upon hearing this, all those in the congregation who lived in poverty and who struggled to make ends meet got up and walked out.
The pastor then said, “We thank God for the blessings of marriage and happy families.” Those who had divorced and whose children had left home in anger never to return again and whose families were otherwise estranged from one another walked out of the sanctuary.
Then the pastor said, “We thank God for health and strength,” and those who were in poor health and struggled with mobility left the room.
Soon the pastor realized that no one was left in the sanctuary. He walked out to find out where everyone went. They were standing in the parking lot talking to one another. When he asked them why they had left, they told him that the message he was proclaiming had little to do with their lives.
The preacher then asked what they would wish him to say, one of the wise sages in the congregation replied, “All we need to know is that, no matter what we face, God is with us.”
The pastor then announced his new message: “No matter what we face, God is with us.” And the congregation began a journey toward becoming a more authentic people of God.
Lord God, be with us that, no matter what we face, we will know that you are wish us. Amen.