Grateful for grace, and sun rises
January 6, 2022 by Glen Bell
Getting out of bed is an act of faith –
for the widow with husband lost to COVID,
for the single father, bone tired, already working two jobs,
for the pastor whipsawed by so many demands.
Sometimes I experience a love/hate relationship with Isaiah 43. God’s admonition and promise are clear in verse 18 and 19:
“Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth.
Do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
But sometimes my response to God has been, “Lord, to be honest at this moment I do not perceive it. Right now feels dry, rough, barren.”
I walk early every morning. I breathe, look and listen, meeting the dawn and trees and sky around me. In the last few weeks, mindful of the burdens and griefs of friends, I have echoed the prayer of the father in Mark 9:
“Lord, I believe . . . help my unbelief.”
It is a genuine petition, an honest plea. In those moments, I am grateful for the One who picks me up, dusts me off, and sets me again on the right path. I am grateful for the grace that enables me to see the sun rise.
For many of us, this particular season is harrowing. A month ago, the Barna Group reported 51% of mainline pastors thought about leaving ministry during the last year. Female pastors are even more likely to have considered it. Faithful leaders are weary, worn and overwhelmed.
But right now is not only a wilderness moment. There is more. For us there is a bedrock promise in Isaiah 43:1-2:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Our fears and concerns, the rough waters and raging fires, are not the final word. This new year brings challenges – oh, yes – but also the promise of God’s New Doings. No matter the past, no matter the brokenness around us, there is an opportunity to be embraced by the Spirit and transformed by the Holy One.
May God grant us renewed strength, determination and courage – and centering peace, comfort and healing, to the glory of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Rev. Dr. Glen Bell joined the Foundation in August 2020 as Senior Vice President of Development. Before joining the Foundation, Glen dedicated 30 years as a pastor in a wide variety of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations, serving churches in North Carolina, Indiana, and Florida, including serving as executive pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana, and pastor/head of staff, First Presbyterian Church, Sarasota, Florida. You can reach Glen at firstname.lastname@example.org.