The Time Given Us
I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” - The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The whole world seems to be reeling and worrying.
Will there be enough...
Toilet paper (Insert eye-roll here)
The 50 people I saw in line outside a Target today in 35 degree weather wouldn’t mind telling you.
“For me. Will there be enough for ME?”
It’s tempting to see the news stories, the madness, the social media posts and worry enough to completely turn inward.
So, it’s tempting to buy too much. To obsess to the point of nausea. To shut down. Or maybe...to run through a grocery store with a set of walkie-talkies between you and your friend to ensure you get it all before the slow people do (my Mom was witness to this very thing this week.)
My lovely friend Pam Cravens likes to bring Elizabeth Cheney’s poem to bear on many a circumstance. It came to my mind today as I drove away from that Target I told you about:
Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”
(“The Robin and the Sparrow - Elizabeth Cheney)
And I’m right there with them. I’ve panicked like the best of them. I’ve gotten depressed over the fact that life is not going to return to normal anytime soon. I’ve refreshed my news app a billion times in an hour. I’ve raced to the store at 6a.m. and taken a few too many peanut butter jars off the shelf.
And none of it has brought me sanity, relief, peace, or joy. None of it.
Honest confession: I could probably quote a few news stories more accurately than I can quote a lot of scripture at this point. And that’s a problem I really didn’t think I had.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that God is SO good that He is bringing good IN AND THROUGH this crisis we’re in. Yes, a powerful God could have kept this from happening in the first place. But a God who can bring good in and through the bad...not just simply prevent it....
...a God who will be with us in the midst of our difficulty
...a God who invites us to cry out to Him so that He can answer and deliver us
...a God who says He is making ALL things new
...a God who offers eternal salvation to all who would come to Him
...now that’s a God worth knowing.
And a God worth obeying.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” - Isaiah 58:6-7
I have fasted from many things in my life, especially during Lent. I cannot say that I’ve ever thought of fasting as giving up something for someone else’s benefit...going without so that someone else may have enough...spending my energy and resources on someone else’s freedom and full belly and wardrobe.
But man...what if I did?
What follows this passage answers that question:
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water...” - Isaiah 58:8-11
This passage was written to Israel...Israel, whose people would abide by the institution of a nation-wide fast but acted unjustly, unfairly, unlovingly, and selfishly on a daily basis.
Reminds me of….me.
If it reminds you of you, take heart. Jesus died for us hypocrites too; and thanks to His work on the cross, we don’t have to live in this state forever. Because Jesus spent Himself completely on our behalf, we are freed from the prison of self that prevents us from seeing and serving others.
Please also hear Matthew Henry’s words concerning this passage. He says we can do this together:
“....Yet persons, families, neighborhoods, churches, or nations, show repentance and sorrow for sin, by keeping a fast sincerely, and, from right motives, repenting, and doing good works. The heavy yoke of sin and oppression must be removed. As sin and sorrow dry the bones and weaken the strongest human constitution; so the duties of kindness and charity strengthen and refresh both body and mind. Those who do justly and love mercy, shall have the comfort, even in this world. Good works will bring the blessing of God, provided they are done from love to God and man, and wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.” - Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary On The Whole Bible
I hope you’ll join me in resisting the temptation for the foreseeable future to fold inward and miss this opportunity. What better time for people of the Light to shine than in a dark one? If we, the Church around the world, start giving instead of hoarding, reciting God’s word instead of journalists’ words, satisfying others’ needs instead of obsessing about our own, we will surely find the strength, joy, peace, refreshment, and fulfillment that comes to those who live as the sparrow and robin.
All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.