The Best We Can Do
"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me."
Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Today, Christians around the world will attend services of reflection and introspection, marking the day with a cross of ash on their foreheads. The ash represents repentance and serves a reminder of our mortality. From the dust were created, and to the dust we will one day return. It is a reminder of the frailty of our lives and the fragile beauty of the time we have to live them.
Over the next several weeks, people will fast from certain things in their lives. Addictions, hang ups, and distractions that they put their faith and strength and hope in. Fasting reminds us of our weakness and focuses our hearts and minds on the strength of God to sustain us when those other things fail.
For others, the reminders of their frailty are already there.
In my own immediate circle, people dear to me have been struggling with grief, with sickness, with despair, with loneliness, with hopelessness, with anger. Bad news gives way to worse news. Apparent silence from God is met with more silence. Questions go on and on with no answers. As a friend, I listen and pray. As a pastor, I struggle to find encouraging words. Some pain is too deep for any words of mine to reach for comfort. And so I continue listening, continue praying. It's the best I can do. Maybe it's the best any of us can do.
Around the nation, there is unrest and distrust. Jaded cynicism soaks every corner of the human heart. People are tired and fed up, not just with circumstances, but with each other. If there has ever been a time with more malaise in the country during my lifetime, I am unaware. I am guilty of it as much as anyone. And in my own aggravation, I find my words and thoughts lost in the noise. And so I listen and I pray. It isn't much, but it is the best I can do.
Across the world, war rages. People are displaced from the homes they love as despotic men and women wield their power to claim bits of soil and water that were there before their time and that will forget them long after they are gone. People go hungry while others eat their fill. People die of sicknesses while others are cured. People lie awake through danger while others sleep in safety. This is not the world we were created to live in.
And so I listen and I pray. I listen to the cries of lament and injustice from the world around me. Most importantly, I listen for the holy voice of God to tell me my place in it; perhaps it is simply to go on listening and go on praying, to be a small light for those who sit in darkness.
And I pray for the wisdom and the strength to live as God directs me. I pray for a better world, even if it only means that I do what I can to make the world better for the people I meet and the places I go. And I pray for other men and women to do the same.
Easter will come, and with it, the recognition and celebration of the victory of God in the resurrected Christ. It is a victory that reminds us that we are not long for the pain of this world, and that Christ is ever moving, ever loving, and ever redeeming. But before that, we focus on what Christ redeems us from. We wait. We listen. We pray. It isn't much, but perhaps it is the best we can do.