Watching this year’s political cycle is one of the most terrifying and disturbing in our nation’s history. Never before have I felt the choice is so clear – like the future of our democracy is in the balance. Gun violence and racism also reign supreme in our country, with the fabric of decency, moderation, and self-control elusive at best. Amidst the anxieties and fear of the future many of us hold, I also see the daily stresses of many of us almost too much to bear – with decisions coming about loved one’s health, the best way to care for sick relatives, sometimes not knowing what to do or how to feel. Anxiety and fear of the future loom.
Amidst the immense pressures and struggles we are facing, I turn to our reading from Acts today. Against all odds, Paul stands before the Council and speaks harsh words. The world is bearing down on him, and against all odds he stands firm in his faith. They strike him on the mouth. They accuse him. There is dissent. The dissent too becomes violent.
“That night the Lord stood near him and said, ‘Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.” This hardly seems like words of comfort! He has endured all this, only to be sent to Rome to endure more! It is there he faces his own death.
I could understand if Paul’s confidence melted away! This hardly seems like a fair life. And yet, we have to realize that God is not interested in what is fair – but instead is concerned with the truth, and righteousness.
In the midst of Paul’s anguish – in the midst of his struggle – there is something that kept him going and that was the hope of the gospel which is in Christ Jesus. Paul seemed to grasp completely that his joy was beyond this life. He did not need money to be happy. His happiness was something deeper – it was joy, sown into the heart. His joy transcended the difficulties of this life, because he saw the prize that was beyond.
It is this joy which I pray I can have this day. I pray that I can remain above the anxiety – to speak words of calm and peace to a hurting world. I pray that I can add just a small glimmer of “the beyond” to a world that has recently been thrust whole-heartedly on the present. I hope and pray that my comfort can rest beyond my life – instead rest with the One who was and who is and who is to come.
I also pray for this country. That peace may reign, violence may end, and decisions about the welfare of our nation be entrusted to those who have the stable hand of leadership and can guide us into God’s bright new future.