All great spiritual giants have experienced seasons when they felt distant from God. Many have even talked about their own ‘dark night of the soul’. When you feel that God is absent in your life, it can be very tempting to go into fix-it mode to find God. But you can never find God, regardless of how hard you try. Then again, you don’t need to. God already has found you – regardless of who you are, or what you’ve done or not done. Your life’s work is to address the things in your life that blind your vision, impair your hearing, harden your heart or distract your will so that you can experience the reality of God’s closeness. Your life’s vocation is to trust more and more that the fullness of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient in all things as you journey through life.
Some days you can handle a whole series of setbacks, disruptions and pain with no trouble at all. Other days you struggle to hang on if even one troublesome thing occurs. What’s the difference? Your thoughts. This is why Paul’s words from his letter to the Romans are so helpful. They remind you it’s your mind that decides how to interpret what happens to you and not the events themselves. “Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants. The thoughts of a person ruled by sin bring death. But the mind ruled by the Spirit brings life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6 NRIV) So remember this when things get tough today: Inviting the Holy Spirit to shape your mind will make all the difference in the world about what kind of day – and life – you have.
Who you are is a complex composite of your DNA, culture, geography, gender, life experiences, choices you have made, family of origin, narrative, ethnicity, race and a myriad of other factors all interacting with each other. But, ultimately, who you are is first and foremost determined by whose you are. And you are God’s. You are created in God’s image. You are saved, redeemed and freed by the blood of Jesus. You are transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. So if you’re struggling about whether you have any worth, tired of feeling beat up and wondering if your life has any purpose, focus a little less on who you are and a whole lot more on whose you are.
It is Inauguration Day 2021. Regardless of how you feel about our new president, we are experiencing yet again the orderly passing of the mantle of leadership from one duly elected president to another. This is always something to celebrate. But today, in light of the violent insurrection in the Capitol just two weeks ago, it is something to cherish.
We live in a broken nation that is devastated by COVID, struggling with racial justice and deeply polarized. It is not primarily a political crisis, even though we may act like it. It is first and foremost a deep spiritual crisis. And it is time for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior to start acting like it. This means it is immaterial whether you voted for the president or not. God is calling you to pray for him – and all of our leaders – to seek God’s will, strive for the common good, and be filled with wisdom, courage and strength.
Christians are also called to do something else in this tender time. We are called to take the lead in working for the common good, seeking justice and building reconciliation. This is challenging work, far beyond our ability to accomplish on our own. But we are not on our own. We are led by the Holy Spirit who helps us experience that, indeed, all things are possible with God.
On this Inauguration Day 2021, and in the days, weeks and months ahead, I will pray for President Biden and Vice President Harris. I will pray that God will abundantly bless America. But most of all, I will pray that America will live up to our highest aspirations so that we can be a blessing to God.
Some days you are filled with energy, excited about what’s ahead and overflowing with hope. And that’s good. But other days – perhaps too many days – you are struggling, anxious and wondering what good will come out of the day. And while it’s heartbreaking, it’s real. If this is one of those days, keep reminding yourself that God is showering grace upon you overtime, Jesus became human to save you and bring you life, and the Holy Spirit is weaving together the tattered threads of your life into a beautiful tapestry. Because this is exactly what’s happening – to you, to others and to the world.
For as long as I have written a daily devotional, I have used this day to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, often including a quote from a sermon or writing I felt was particularly poignant. Today I am going to do something different in light of the events of the past year and our seeming unwillingness to address the ongoing reality of the sin of racism. I am simply going to ask an uncomfortable and necessary question that I pray every one of us will spend time reflecting upon. What will it take for the truth of Dr. King’s words to sear our souls, change our thinking and lead us to take the action God is crying out for us to take?