So I am not having a very good day today. Actually, let me correct that, some people around me are not having a good day. No worries about me or the family, but some people we know are having a rough go of it.
For obvious reasons I can't really go into any detail about what is going on - because it isn't my place to share. But the bottom line is, life sometimes isn't fair and many times there seems to be little to nothing we can do to change some of the circumstances in our lives - the things that happen 'to us' that are 'bigger' than we are.
Sometimes this crappy stuff happens to us and we ask, why? Sometimes it happens to people we care about, to people around us and we ask, what can I do about it?
So it with all of that swirling in my mind that I read this Psalm (33)
Kings are not saved (at least not ultimately or permanently) by their armies - no matter how great. Even the best warrior is not delivered, in the end, by his strength - no matter how much strength he has. Putting our hope in things, even the biggest, best or strongest (like a war horse) is 'vain hope'.
The hope that is rewarded is the hope and trust in the steadfast love of God.
So what is the connection: I think it is that we really aren't supposed to be able to do anything about so much of this stuff. While I don't, in any way believe that God wants or intends for us to go through difficult times, God knew that in our fallen world we would encounter difficult times, tragedy and trouble.
I also believe that we are intentionally not equipped to be able to handle these situations on our own. Again, this isn't because God wants for us to go through these things, but knowing that we will, God will use even the crappy stuff to point us to him and draw us into a relationship with him (and I believe with each other).
Jesus essentially says as much in the gospel passage today, when he is discussing Lazarus:
"This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
So, that is what Jesus had to say about the illness that would kill Lazarus. But, of course, Jesus was right because when Jesus finally arrived (I say finally because Jesus spent two more days where they were after hearing of Lazarus' illness), Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead - a miracle that certainly brought glory to the Son of God.
The point, I think for us is that in our suffering, in the crap of life that we can do nothing about , there is an opportunity and a choice.
The choice is, what kind of hope are we going to have, vain hope placed in things like our own strength, resources or skills or the hope in the steadfast and true love of God -a love demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ.
The opportunity comes in two ways. First, when we are the ones going through the difficulty, we can allow ourselves to be drawn ever closer to God and begin to really and truly rely and find hope in God's promises of providence. This kind of reliance on God is a witness and a revelation to all that encounter it. The second opportunity is when bad things happen to those around us. God was glorified when Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, because Jesus pointed to God as the one with the power. When we see those in need or suffering around us and we do something - no matter how big or small - about it, if it is done in the name of Jesus and to the glory of God it is a lasting witness to the fruitfulness of hope in Christ and the steadfast love of God.
As you make your choice, remember that the hope that is 'rewarded' is the hope in the steadfast love of God and in that hope go out into the world redeeming the opportunities to glorify God - even when they come in the midst of trouble, hardship or tragedy.
see you tomorrow.