“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.” (Psalm 51)
I have a confession to make.
I mean well, but I have a bad habit. People come to me frequently for spiritual guidance and counseling. I try to listen carefully and offer sound practical and Biblical advice whenever possible but make no claims to know all the answers so at one point I inevitably say to someone… “Hang in there!”
LA couple is going through marital problems… “Hang in there? What is that supposed to mean?”
LAn alcoholic is struggling with addiction… “Hang in there? Is he really listening to me?”
LA friend is told that he has cancer… “Hang in there? Does he think I’m a bat or what?”
People, who are looking for hope during a time of crisis, instead receive a canned answer… ”Hang in there!” They could watch a talk show and get better advice. I have a tendency to say, “Hang in there,” when my brain is on automatic pilot. To someone else it could be interpreted: “I don’t care enough about you to give a more meaningful answer, so ‘hang in there!’”
“Have mercy on me God…” I confess my shortcomings to you, Lord. Help me become a better listener. Help me to more thoughtfully and prayerfully answer the deep concerns of others. “…purify me from my sin.”
Larry… what do you really mean when you say, “Hang in there?”
I thought you would never ask. The Bible calls it among other things: persistence.
URomans 2:7 – He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good…
UEphesians & 18 – Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm… Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
UMatthew 24:13-14 – But those who endure to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world…
Here is the first part of the lesson: If you will persist in doing what is good… Be strong… Stay alert… Be persistent in your prayers… But those who endure… In other words, God completely understands your trouble, your disappointments and pain and says to you… “Be persistent!”
The second part of the lesson involves God’s reward for persistence. He will give eternal life… you will be able to stand firm… you will be saved… the Good News will be preached throughout the world… God’s reward for persistence amidst obstacles is eternal life and a heavenly reward.
Have you heard the story about an old mule that fell into a dry well? The farmer decided that neither the mule nor the dry well was worth saving. So, he decided to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the poor old mule was in a panic! But as the shovelfuls of dirt struck his back…the old mule began to… “shake it off and step up!” Each time the dirt hit the mule would shake it off and step up. It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly out of the well!
What seemed to bury the old donkey, actually blessed him…all because of his persistence amidst the dirt. He was able to “shake it off and step up!” Maybe this is what it really means to “hang in there.” If we endure despite our difficulties and refuse to allow panic, bitterness, or self-pity control us…
The obstacles that appear to bury us could actually become part of God’s richest blessings! It may be a bad habit, but it is sound theology when I sincerely say… “hang in there!”
As a pastor, I see so many examples of miraculous healing, but I also witnessed more situations where a miraculous healing was wished for, prayed for but the answer was not what was hoped for. One example happened many years ago in a small town near Amelia, Virginia.
I don’t know the story behind each person waiting at our border hoping to have a better, safer, happier life or to provide a better life for their children here in the United States. But I do know it was a dangerous journey to get there and they need help while they wait for their turn to enter and be reunited with family members and/or sponsors who are in the United States. Most of the men have had their shoelaces and belts taken away from them. The women often arrive with no panties. Many have survived assaults and had their possessions stolen on the way.
In case you haven’t noticed, this column is about risk. I can’t imagine anyone has ever escaped life without taking at least a few risks. Some of them work out, while others don’t but one thing I’ve learned over the years. The answer is never to stop taking risks. The answer is how to make better decisions whether you take a risk and how to manage that risk once taken.