If you are on the yellow brick road to find someone who can help you find your way back to “normal” or back “home,” whom do you choose?
In the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has unexpected encounters with three characters who need something from the Wizard. As a result, Dorothy tells them maybe the Wizard could help, and they decided to accompany her on the trip to the Emerald City. Who could possibly handle what they need? The tin man is looking for a heart. The straw man is looking for a brain, and the lion very much longs for courage.
When traveling an unfamiliar path to a place we have never been, one key is to choose the right companion for the trek.
“The Christian life can be likened to walking up an incline. Jesus called it ‘the narrow road.’ Along the way are many opportunities (temptations) to stop, or at least become distracted. Our potent enemy (Satan) has littered our path with every stupid, pleasurable, and deadly thing at his disposal. Too often we fall for the ‘apple’ he offers. We think it’s just ‘kids’ stuff’ or exploring what’s out there.”Max Lucado
When someone has been isolated or locked away and is then freed, it isn’t uncommon for he or she to be torn between wanting to do anything and everything they have missed and longed for or to be uncertain about what to do because there have been few (if any) options available to them for such a long time. Some of us might identify with that contradiction since the pandemic began in 2020. We have been hesitant about entering back into our previous “normal” world or have sought to try to put all the components back in without pausing to determine what is wise. Either choice can be hazardous to us potentially.
“Jesus wants us to understand that it is the powers of hell that are trying to overpower us, to crush the human heart – especially the hearts of his followers. The strength God urges us to ask for is a combative strength, a strength to win the fight, to overcome.”John Eldredge
What we have experienced the past several years is meant to wear us down, make us more vulnerable to be impacted and falter when the next thing comes along. Anxiety and fear have been powerful weapons against us during these years. Ask any mental health professional and he or she will tell you their schedules are full, and it is hard to find a time to schedule someone new. Ask some pastors and they will tell you that even though their churches are open now, many have not come back. Some have checked out of faith totally and others are content with virtual church instead of the community they once had.
We want so much for life to be good again, but when we go out trying to satisfy our own souls, we find our world is still filled with tension and fear for one reason or another. Principles and values that were once held dear have been shaken to the very core. We find it harder to trust anyone.
Now is the time when endurance will make all the difference. The endurance we need is what happens if we are running in a marathon and when we are more than halfway through, we are tempted to quit. We are tired, thirsty, and worn. Expert marathoners know that is when they need to dig deep within to run the race and finish the course.
Some of us have weathered the pandemic fairly well but are now facing the economic crisis of inflation, soaring prices for everything we need to live (beyond things we just want to enjoy), and news reports of potential famines. That seems impossible to many nations of the world and yet the pandemic gave us a taste of that when products we needed were in short supply if they were available at all and the brand we always used was no longer something we could count on. More recently we have been searching the shelves for peanut butter to find shelves bare or with very few options of brand or type. And this reminds us again that we can’t be sure of what is ahead of us next. These things and more have reminded us that crises such as these and so many others bring out the best and worst in us.
“Who we are, what we love, and how far we are willing to trust God are revealed when we are truly hard pressed.”John Eldredge
Someone recently said to me that she had asked her husband if this might be the “end times.” We know only God knows the timing and yet, scripture reminds us of signs that will alert us to be on the alert. Some of the last things Jesus shared with his disciples related to this.
“As Jesus began to explain the trials of the final hours, he warned us several times about hatred, and how hanging on to love will be difficult: ‘And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other…Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.’ Mt. 24:10,12 (NLT).”John Eldredge
We long for answers, solutions, and more in this desire for life to be “good” again. We long for someone to fix all this and our resilience has diminished. We are set up to be tempted to look for solutions that sound good and look good without considering if God is in them or not. It is vital that we grow up and dig deep and look to Him as the source before we give our allegiance to anyone or anything else.
Christ has promised in scripture to be with us, but we have a part to play as well. He created us with choice and what we choose each moment in little things and large ones will make the difference in the final outcome. We can’t simply conjure up the resilience, strength, and endurance we need. Many of you have already learned that in the last several years. We need supernatural strength.
For us, digging deep should remind us that if we believe in Christ, He is not off somewhere else. He dwells within our hearts and never has it been more important to quiet the internal and external noise to listen to his voice through the Holy Spirit.
“16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love…”Ephesians 3:16-17 (GNT)