“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
I don’t consider myself a brave person but neither am I a coward. While I would jump in front of a deranged gorilla to protect Jenna and Landon and Liam, I will almost always remain quiet in a room filled with assertive people who share different views than I do. Like most of us, I think I am brave in some areas and less courageous in others.
I also don’t particularly consider myself a strong person either but I acknowledge that I am certainly not weak. I am about average for what I can lift and carry considering my height and my weight. In terms of personality-I am not strong willed or immovable nor am I a force of nature with my personality. I have heard I am pleasant but at the same time I don’t dominate the conversation in the room.
Conversely and somewhat ironically there is very little in this world that frightens me. I have been through brain surgeries, losses of loved ones in my life, and being embraced by Jesus at a young age. There is very little in this world that causes me any true fear. I do confess, however, that there is much suffering in this world I have yet to experience.
As a Christian and even as a Christian pastor my struggle, reminded today in Joshua, often lies in being discouraged. Like many of you, I spend time in scripture and read about Jesus healing complete strangers and then watch people I love deeply suffer and die of cancer. Like many of you, I read about Jesus and the disciples, through the generosity of a boy, feed 5,000 people-and know that almost 6 and a half million children died of starvation in 2013. There is more than enough food on this planet so that no one, child or adult, need starve. It can be discouraging.
Even with faith it can be discouraging at times to live in this broken world.
But then I am reminded of the many ways that God continues to bless us. I am reminded through the generosity of God that miracles do constantly occur-both big and small miracles. Scripture reminds us that we are human and subject to human emotions and human frailties such as weakness, fear, and discouragement. And yet-just as we are capable of fear, weakness, and discouragement so too are we fully capable of incredible strength and resiliency, courage and honesty, and being uplifted and inspired.
Scripture reminds us today that while the world may try to chip away at our faith and our trust in God-we serve a God of restoration. God is constantly restoring us and is constantly working in us and through us to ensure we live into the body of Christ. God uses each one of us to lift the other up and to care for each other. We glorify and exemplify the risen Christ when we care deeply for each other through generous deeds and our selfless acts of love.
If you are in a season of fear, weakness, or being discouraged I invite you to be in prayer with me. I invite you to spend time in scripture reading about a God who loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. Most importantly, I invite you to find a friend or family member or church group and be in community. Let each of you lift the other up in prayer and community.
May it be so,
Rev. Lou Ward
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La Junta United Methodist Church
601 San Juan Ave
La Junta, CO 81050
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