It’s that time in the semester when the students are getting really stressed out. Have you ever wondered why they phrase is stressed “out” and not stressed “in”? Yes if the stress starts leaking everywhere, it’s eventually going to come out, but there’s so much inward affect that stress has on us. Facing challenging, difficult, and overwhelming situations from every direction can take a huge toll on a person and as the “prayer” section of Winthrop Wesley’s prayers and praises notebook seems to heartily begin to outweigh the praises you know people are starting to feel down and discouraged.
Around this midterm time it can feel like when it rains it pours. It seems that when things begin to get hard, the difficulty sometimes can grow exponentially. A couple weeks ago, we looked at Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and I feel like some of the themes in that text are cropping up all over the place. God clearly lays out two courses – two ways in which life can go and God asks for us to “Choose life.”
Choose life even when things seem out of control or insurmountable. Choose life even when there’s no way things could in a million years work out. Choose life even when by all logic in this world there aren’t easy or clear answers. A pastor colleague of mine who frequently amuses and challenges me with his facebook statuses, posted this earlier today, “I watched some news this evening. I watched FOX, MSNBC and CNN. The message I got? We’re doomed. There is no hope. Pack up your kids and head to the hills. Empty your bank account and hide your money under the mattress. Stock up your shelves. Be afraid, very afraid. And Justin Beiber made the cover of Rolling Stone. Yep, the world is coming to an end!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or crawl under the bed myself. I admit that I have caught a little “Bieber fever” in that I enjoyed his Glee episode and some of the songs are quite annoyingly catchy, but I’m not watching the movie. That’s neither here nor there. His status was another reminder of very much what the world gives us. We’re doomed. There is no hope. It’s like one of the Charlotte local news networks that Mike and I refuse to watch because the guy always seems so happy when something really awful has happened and he gets to report on it. I know you’ve got to sell the news but do you have to be so gleeful about an awful car accident or shooting or fire?
There’s a lot in our world that says yep, we’re doomed. It actually would be a lot easier to say that in a lot of ways. You don’t really have to work to bring about change and transformation when the world tells you it’s a waste of time. What’s the point?
But is that the way of faith? Is that the way of the cross? Or more significantly – the way of an Easter – resurrection people? Is that the follow up of the verse – “Choose life so that you and our descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lords swore to give your ancestors to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” It’s not just choose life. It’s not just choose to believe in the bright side, the cup half full, the silver lining. It’s not just reject the negativity that we all know is contagious, the complaining and criticism that does harm and not a bit of good, the spiraling of fear and angst that has no end. It’s choose life that you may live – loving God, obeying God, and holding fast to God even when all may seem lost or today feels about as cruddy as it can get. It very clearly reminds us that Jesus said he came to bring us abundant li
What does the word abundance conjure up for you? Abundance is enough for everyone. It’s more than enough. It’s awesome. It’s bountiful. A bountiful life.
Is it hard to believe this sometimes? Yes. Heck yes. We got word on Friday that Mike’s 2 year old cousin, Lachlan, who was born with some heart defects and has already experienced heart surgeries, now has a brain tumor. The neurosurgeon would like to operate and the family is meeting with the cardiologist this Friday for approval of the surgery. I can’t imagine what Leslie and Cullen are going through in these days as they await these appointments. There aren’t any words or platitudes or anything that can sermonize that or make it go away and be all right.
There’s that choosing though even in the midst. And sometimes we can’t make the choice on our own. Sometimes it takes a community of faith, a family of strength, a body of believers united in hope to help us continue to choose life. There are good days and there are bad. Sometimes it means that we need to cut out some of the negative – whether a toxic situation, person, or past hurt or wound that we haven’t given to God. Sometimes it’s not letting our fears or our worries rob us of the joy of today. We have to make the conscious choice to step away, turn off the news sometime or change the channel of our hearts and life. There are days when I know and feel and rest in the promises of God for the life that each of us is given and there are days when I get on Wikipedia and start the worry spin cycle of why’s and what if’s and let me tell you – that path leads nowhere good, productive, or very positive. That’s where that holding fast to God comes in. Holding fast to that peace that transcends all understanding, holding fast to the hope and strength that only God can give, and holding fast to someone that can give us more comfort and love than anyone else. We will hold fast to the promises of God.
I’m not saying that we all walk around as Pollyanna’s because life is real and it hurts and it really is scary sometimes. The key is going back to the Source of life – to the Creator that knows our hurts and the things that keep us up at night and even the things that we don’t want to say outloud. May we in the coming days and weeks and times of uncertainty or chaos or stressed out to the max, find ways to ground ourselves in the power of the One who ignites, breathes and drenches us in new life and hope each and every day.
How will you choose life today?
Yes this is beyond cheesy in some ways and pretty old, but definitely goes with the text – Big Tent Revival’s “Choose Life”:
4 thoughts on “Choose (Abundant) Life”
WOW…. powerful sermon NARCIE! Definitely challenged me! Thank you for your encouragement and thoughts 🙂
Thanks Narcie! I’m sending this to Melissa at USC! I can sense her midterm anxiety. 🙂
A timely word this week when the Gospel passage in the RCL is Jesus saying: “Don’t worry.” Thanks.
“Choose life even when things seem out of control or insurmountable. Choose life even when there’s no way things could in a million years work out. Choose life even when by all logic in this world there aren’t easy or clear answers.”
Sometimes it is a difficult thing to do, but having a relationship with God is just so reassuring that I wouldn’t be persuaded to choose anything other than life. He truly is an awesome God!