SURVIVING THE HAZARDS OF LIFE
Eugene Peterson was a pastor outside of Baltimore for over 30 years. He talks in one of his books about how one afternoon he was donating blood at a Red Cross bloodmobile. The nurse came over to ask him if there was any reason to disqualify him from giving blood. She asked him about his medical history, his current health, and his lifestyle. The final question on the list was “Do you engage in hazardous work?” Peterson answered, “yes.” She looked at him, surprised, just going through a routine and expecting him to say no, and asked him what line of work he was in. When he answered, “Pastor,” she smiled, ignored his answer, and marked “no” on the form. Before she walked away she said, “I don’t mean that kind of hazardous.”
No matter what we’re doing in this life, pastoring, teaching, buying and selling, policing, or working in government, it’s all hazardous work, because life is hazardous. We’ve become well aware of that over the past few weeks. Confronted with the reality again that something too small to see with our unaided eyes can sicken us or kill us. We know that in this world we get sick, our loved ones get sick, and we or our loved ones can die. We know that other hazards stare us down at different times: we lose our jobs, we can’t pay our bills, our marriages begin to crumble, unexpected tragedies come from nowhere and smack us right in the face. We struggle with a besetting sin that threatens to eat us from the inside out, or someone else’s sin toward us that threatens to eat us from the outside in. We’re surrounded on all sides by injustice and suffering and pain and loss. Life is hazardous.
So what do we do? Some people turn to things to cover up and try to numb the pain: alcohol, pot, pornography, prescription medications they don’t need, or worse. Others become bitter, shrinking into themselves, angry at life, angry at God, and angry at everyone else. Others live in fear and anxiety, despairing and losing hope, slowly disconnecting with life and others. But if we know the one true and living God and his Son, Jesus Christ, we’re told to turn to him for help. All of us need help. We need God’s help. We know when something like a pandemic hits our world, the first thing we need to do to prepare is to turn to him and to be ready to meet our Maker.
One passage of Scripture that helps us do this is Psalm 124. This psalm serves as a witness to God’s help, even in our most hazardous circumstances. It is a testimony to the wonderful truth that God is for us, that he is on our side. Take some time to meditate on the words below. Pray through them. Turn to God in Christ through the Spirit. Our fundamental reality in this life is God, not this world, or our circumstances. It is Jesus Christ who defines us and centers us.
“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say,
“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side When men rose up against us,
Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;
Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul;
Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.”
Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.