There are times in our lives when we begin to think that God isn’t helping us….or that God isn’t even there. Those times are hard. From an early age I have felt that God was with me….most of the time. Sometimes when I am anxious and I can’t seem to “feel” God with me I am lost. I don’t know what to do. Is everything that I believed a lie? I am cast into a deep dark hole. I am in the “valley of the shadow of death.” I am not just anxious but afraid. My worst fears raise their ugly heads and take hold of me.
When I am like that I can’t pray. I am so far down that prayer won’t come. I am lost. Then I remember that I have a community of faith who pray daily and that their prayers rise like smoke to God and God reaches down to me and helps me. I may not “feel” his presence since feelings ebb and flow but he is there. And somehow I am comforted.
There are definitely times when we can’t pray for ourselves. That’s why we need others who will pray for us.
The 23rd Psalm has so much wisdom. We seldom stop to think about it. We just recite it because we have done it so often. Tonight I have been thinking about this part of it.
Psalm 23: 4 NRSV
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
or from The Message
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
I have always wondered about the rod and staff. In our time that image didn’t mean much. Now I see it as someone strong and caring walking with me….someone who will keep me safe no matter what. Walking with God I have no fear.
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Finding calm in the midst of a storm is not easy. For those who experienced Dorian know this for certain. But Jesus calmed the storm. Just his words did the job. Resting in the promises of Jesus is the way to find the calm. He has told us not to worry. God is in charge. Be still and be calm.
1 Peter 5:8
8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
I don’t know if you have ever read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis but everyone should. It is such a good portrayal of the devil. The devil is wily and tricky. He will trick us if he can by making something seem good when it isn’t. He doesn’t appear evil. This is deliberate. Watch out!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
I really wish that I were never afraid. Fear can take over when something goes wrong. We have so many things to fear: poverty, homelessness, crime, disease.
We could spend each day cowering in our homes afraid to go out. Some people do. But God doesn’t want us to live like that. He has given us his peace. All we have to do is take it. Sounds easy but it never is.
Prayer: Father and Mother of us all, remind us that we are your children and you wish only good for us. Help us to grasp onto your promises and your peace and never let go. Amen
Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them. Vincent McNabb
I am one of the worst for worrying about things. I cross every bridge before I get to it. When something is really wrong fear can rule my world. We shouldn’t expect all our fears to disappear. This is the real world. But by leaning on God’s grace can I begin to hold fear in check and rely on hope.
Prayer: God, our father and mother, we turn to you as to a loving parent. Help us to remember that you love us and want only the best for us. Help us to bind up fear and put it away. Amen
Chronic illness, whether mental or physical, is so draining. It can be a struggle to get through each day. It takes the knowledge that God’s love is with us no matter what. Even if life is difficult it is still important and you have something to share with the world. When I visited sick and shut-ins as a parish nurse they always felt they could do nothing to help anyone. I reminded them that prayers are needed and possible even though ill. There is always something we can do to help heal the world.
Sometimes life is painful. It doesn’t matter whether the pain is physical, mental or both. Pain can bring on anxiety and fear. it makes us question if there is anything that can help us. We wonder where God is or if he is there at all. But even in the darkest pain there is hope and hope comes from god. God turns us to hope and helps us learn from the pain. We are like pottery made beautiful by the fire of the kiln.
Have you ever felt so far down that you couldn’t see any way out? This is what happens to those who contemplate or choose suicide. Living in this kind of darkness is miserable. Strangely enough many of the mystics have been there. It is called “the dark night of the soul.” This is when you can’t imagine God being with you. You may not be able to pray at all. Your belief in God is shaken to the core.
Even though I have never been so far down as to contemplate suicide I have been in a place where I can understand that suicide feels like a peaceful solution. When we are in this place I have felt one thing that has brought light into the darkness: the prayers of others. If you feel yourself sliding down into darkness send out a plea for help. Ask others to pray. Know that they are praying and those prayers will be your lifeline out of the abyss.
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
If someone asks you for prayer follow through for you may be someones light.
Psalm 27: 1
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
We are afraid of so many things. We fear not being liked. We fear losing the things we have accumulated. We fear not having enough. We fear being alone. I could go on and on. Yet there is no reason for this. We must turn to our God and push away fear. God is with us…what more do we need?
Understanding God, you know our fears and our weaknesses and yet we are loved. Help us to turn to you and away from fear. AMEN