Saturday, March 28, 2009

In a Time of Famine

(This photograph was taken from the bulletin board of St. Mary the Virgin University Church, Oxford, England.)

Through the years they have come in one by one. They tell me stories—sometimes terrible stories. Sometimes they are desperate. Often they don’t believe God has heard their cries at all. Once in a while they say they do not believe in God at all. But they sit across from me—reaching often for that box of Kleenex close by. Haltingly, slowly—ever so slowly they pour it out as best they can. Confessions. Sins. Doubts. Anger and rage. Questions—many questions. Sometimes when they leave I wonder how in the world they will make it.

Later on I see them on the street or at the store. They’re smiling. They’ve gotten over their terrible burden—at least temporarily. Some have gone on to better jobs and some have made do with what they have. Some after a painful divorce found someone else and are happy. I am amazed as I walk away. Once upon a time life was dark and there seemed to be no way out. And yet there they stood smiling and going on with life.

I have few answers for these miracles. On my pious days I say it is grace or answered prayers or maybe sometimes just fortitude on their parts. Who knows? But Psalm 33.18-19 says: “Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine." Some very wise writer must have come to see that God really is in it with us all. That we will be delivered. As Isaiah puts it: “carried on eagles’ wings.” There is nothing too big for God to tackle. And that, the Psalmist says, even includes death. Our death or the death of someone close to us.

How will we stand it? God will deliver us. But there’s more here: we are kept alive in a time of famine. Eugene Peterson’s The Message translates this last part of the verse: “in lean times he keeps body and soul together.” But I think I like the famine idea better. So many are predicting hard times for us all. None of us want that. And yet—whatever comes—even famine, even death—God is here and that will be enough.

Dear Lord, sometimes we get scared when we face things we cannot handle or we lose people we love--yet you promise to deliver us and I claim that promise for all of us. But more--your word says that even in the hardest of times you are there and you keep us alive. Thank you that you are always here. Amen


  1. Roger, Thanks for these encouraging words. So well said.

  2. One of the things this brings to mind is the notion that salvation (whatever we mean by that) is a result, not just of the crucifixion and resurrection, but perhaps mostly the incarnation. This "God with us" presence in Christ and subsequently in the Spirit is the heart of your encouraging reminder that we truly are not alone, and that we are accompanied, even in the valley of the deepest darkness.