By Bruce Clemenger. Read more of these columns with a free print subscription to Faith Today.
Finding comfort as we wait upon the Lord
I first memorized Psalm 23 as a child in the King James version. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…." The Psalm describes God as our shepherd, green pastures, quiet waters and the refreshing of our souls. It’s about the comfort of God when death is near or the shadow of death is looming over us.
Words and actions expressing comfort are incredibly important in times such as these – a world now filled with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. This is our light.
When people see each other at the supermarket or gas pumps, all of us feel a moment of hesitation on how to greet or whether to speak at all. Natural public exchanges are now unnaturally dominated by one thought – contaminated or not?
A smile and patient gesture given and received refreshes our souls.
Through prayer we bind ourselves to God as twined rope.
Yet even a trip to the grocery store is something many Canadians can’t afford with lost jobs or cutbacks in hours. What about rent or mortgage payments and other necessary costs of living that can’t be met? What of our seniors living off savings now drastically reduced in the financial market downturn?
The gap between those who can afford the basic necessities and those who can’t is a growing chasm.
Anxiety is worsened by the uncertain duration of the government’s emergency measures, financial and educational losses, and the restrictions and potential abuses of power on civil liberties. Can scientific research and development arrest this virus in time to save lives and salvage economies?
Some might make it through weeks, but months? And the fallout on social services, especially the charitable sector, will be felt for years – as will the impact on those served. How long until frontline workers reach their physical and emotional limits?
In times of trial and affliction, indeed at all times, we are encouraged to pray. "In everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God" (Philippians 4:6–7). As Jesus modelled, the Early Church practised (Acts 1:4, 2:42, 6:4) and the apostles encouraged, we are to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18–19) and be devoted to prayer (Colossians 4:2).
In prayer we wait and hope on God, and this is perhaps the most difficult part when the horizon is still dark. Through prayer we bind ourselves to God as twined rope – that is the biblical connotation of the Hebrew word for wait or hope. That’s the reason Isaiah can assure us those who wait upon or hope in the Lord "will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31).
We are renewed in God’s strength by binding our will to God’s will, and we wait with expectant hope as Simeon waited for the Messiah (Luke 2:25) and as a farmer waits for the earth to bear fruit (James 5:7). We wait with patience (Romans 8:25) and with eager anticipation (Romans 8:19, 23; Galatians 5:5).
And as disciples of Jesus we are not alone in trusting our Shepherd’s leading. We walk in the unity of the Spirit with longing and anticipation in the knowledge of God’s mercy, compassion and provision – the source of our hope born of faith and trust in God, and the sacrifice of His Son.
And waiting is not idleness. Waiting upon God we continue to fulfill our callings – food production and distribution, counselling, medical and pastoral care, educating children at home and more.
… the witness of the Church – a lamp in the shadow of death, giving comfort and hope in the name of Jesus.
We care for our families and find new ways to safely reach out to care and comfort others. Our churches are also finding creative ways to minister to those grappling with the pressures and uncertainty of this time. Many people are asking those big questions for the first time.
At the EFC we press on in heightened ways in our advocacy for vulnerable persons and the religious charitable sector which contributes significantly to the well-being of so many, and in our work with denominations, churches and ministries across Canada responding to the unprecedented impact of this crisis.
And these become the witness of the Church – a lamp in the shadow of death shining brightly until dawn, giving comfort and hope in the name of Jesus, the bright morning star (Revelation 22:16).
As we follow the Great Shepherd through this darkness, we are entwined and renewed in our strength. We find and offer comfort as ones waiting upon the Lord.
Author: Bruce J. Clemenger