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In Times of Challenge


2/20/2022

Matthew 14:27-31

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?


Life is not without challenges, and each of us will face our own difficulties. In public schools there is a term call an IEP. This is an Individualized Education Plan for all students who qualify for Special Education. This IEP contains the student’s personal information and current academic performance levels, as well as assessments of their behavioral, physical, and cognitive performance as determined by the student’s Planning and Placement Team. The IEP outlines needs, services and recommended goals. It is tailor-made for each student.


Built within us, God has placed an IEP for our life. There are lessons, goals, guidelines, and checks and balances. God has built balance, and the desire for balance, into our being. It is one of the qualities of being a Child of God. When we experience loss, we grieve. When we do something contrary to God’s code, we feel guilt. There is balance there.


It is my belief that we are made for peace, joy, and love...that is our nature in Christ, that is the natural state of our spiritual existence. While here on earth, it is our challenge to remain in that state as much as possible. Let us experience our grief, and then return to joy and contentment. Let us experience our fear but return to love.


Like Peter in the boat, we are going to be called by Christ to wander outside our comfort zone. We are going to be invited to stretch, reach, grow, and become more than we thought we could ever be. It is going to be scary at times; at least, uncomfortable.


Without Spirit’s presence in our hearts, minds, and lives, we can interpret the opportunities presented to us as adversarial. We can be filled with suspicion, doubt, and fear because we don't recognize the situation as an invitation from Christ. We just see it as uncomfortable and judge it as bad. We might even emanate negativity and exclusion when we are around people. In return, they treat us harshly, which reinforces our own feelings and attitudes. As we teach this to our children, these feelings perpetuate. It is difficult for them to grow up peaceful when they see us filled with anxiety, chaos, and darkness.

This is where bias, hatred, and bigotry are born – from this downward flow of earthly emotion and false reasoning. We become controlled by the ego, which says it’s me against you. In fact, says the ego, there is no ‘you’, there is only ‘me’. Our morality erodes, and we are left with just the shell of a body and a self-centric exclusionary mindset.


At times like this, as we sink under the waves of darkness, we can call out to God. “Lord, save me.” Through our call, through our willingness, we allow Spirit to reawaken our hearts and minds. Of course, this begins with prayer; it begins with intent, with surrender, with refocusing, with making different choices. The result of communing with God in our minds and hearts and allowing Christ to move through us is to find balance and expanded awareness. Our smaller ‘self’ diminishes, and our larger Self emerges once again.


We are not promised an easy, perfect, struggle-free life. But we are promised other things. No matter where we go, God is there. No matter the path our life journey reveals, God promises we belong to Him. Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my shelter and my shield; I put my hope in Your word.” That is such good advice for us. God is our safe place form hurtful actions and words. Psalm 31:20 teaches that, “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.”


We are promised that Spirit never tires of our troubles or concerns. Christ tells us in Luke 12:22-25, “Do not worry . . . look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap . . . and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”


God’s IEP for our life is greater than we can imagine. He sings our song of Life through our souls. Psalm 40:3 shares with us that, “He has given me a new song to sing.”


God has promised that He is ours, and we are His. In Isaiah 41:3 we read, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." Then in the Song of Solomon 6:3 we are told, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.


Finally, the Divine One promises to choose us and love us irrevocably. It doesn't matter what we've done or what we do, God is always there loving us. In Jeremiah 31:3, we are told, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. So I have helped you come to Me with loving-kindness.” Then in 2 Corinthians 1:22 we are told, “He has set his seal of ownership in us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge, a guarantee of what is to come.”


We are God’s beloved. Our human goals cannot supplant God’s goals for us. Our vision of ourselves and where we want to be can never match what God envisions for us. We may hide behind the busyness of our activities, but Spirit whispers to our hearts, “I see you. I know you. I know your heart. I know your questions and fears. I love you.” When we are still, Jesus whispers, “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened. Let me give you rest."


Poet Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. … I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Christ gently pulls us along the path of becoming a piece of the puzzle, that when Love is reinserted into that path, Life creates an upward spiritual spiral of wonder, peace, joy, and unity. That is where God is pulling us, and not into this worldly decline of chaos, fear, dread, and doubt. That is where the ego is sucking us down.


In Jeremiah 6:16, we are instructed: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.


The path we choose makes a difference, but despite our choices God watches over us, assembling the best results from our decisions, working in the background to make all things right for us. Romans 8:28 tells us that God makes all things work together for our good. The Living Bible translation words it this way: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” We just have to fit into God’s plans – not our ego’s plans.


When living in the world humanity may be at the top of the ecological system, but there is only one thing at the top of God’s system, and that is Love. Without Love, there is no balance in life. Without Love in our own worldly lives, everything degrades and is unstable. We fear that we are sinking into the ocean and about to be overwhelmed by the waves of uncertainty and doubt.


Yet, Christ is always there, offering a helping hand to us, just waiting for us to find the courage to make our plea, “Save me.” It may be true that what we face in this world is beyond our abilities to overcome or resolve. But we are not in this alone. We may complain that we can't do what we are being invited to do, but God will put His arm around us and ask, "Maybe you can't do it alone, but can we do it together?" As Philippians 4:13 states, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


As Psalm 46:1-3 teaches: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling."


Ephesians 2:10 teaches this: For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.


We often have no idea that our insertion into a situation or someone’s life creates a spiral of positive effects: balance, unity, love, compassion, and Light. We are often unaware of the wonder that we produce; we are not privy to that information. Despite not knowing the results of our influence and what impact we make, we have been challenged by God’s call to be a mother, a father, an aunt or uncle, a friend, a teacher, a supporter, an angel. We have been called to be a helper, a server, a co-worker, a hero. We have been challenged to reach out, to smile, to pray for others, to offer our hand, our heart, our talents, our kindness, and our forgiveness. We have been asked to experience and share joy, peace, love, courage, hope, patience, wisdom, discernment, and compassion. Over our lives we have been challenged to be exactly who we are at this moment, and where we are on our journey at this moment, and because of who we are and where we are at this moment, we are important integral part of God’s plan.


We have had challenges and still face challenges. We stand against immorality, bigotry, and hatred, just as Christ taught and exemplified. Not an easy task. I face tests in my life as I age. I am aware that my brain not working as quickly as it used to. My body cannot do the things it could do even 10 years ago. Adjustments are necessary to accommodate these natural, yet frustrating changes. We all confront challenges, and we can do so with the joy that God is with us or with the fear of impending doom.


James 1:27 says this: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. That is the religion that God, our Father, accepts as pure and faultless. It is a religion based upon compassion and love and serving those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is a religion based upon divine principles and not the pollution and stench of the ego and worldly dictates.


It is my prayer that we will expect wonderful things to happen and experience breathtaking renewal just by reinserting Love into our hearts, attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors in times of challenge. I pray that we will fend off the world by choosing to cling to love not to fear, by choosing to cling to hope and not to despair.