For Times of Despairing

Hope by Iranian Graffiti Artists ICY and SOT

Psalm 69:16-20 NRSV
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies. You know the insults I receive, and my shame and dishonor; my foes are all known to you. Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

Jesus’ life didn’t go well. He didn’t reach his earning potential. He didn’t have the respect of his colleagues. His friends weren’t loyal. His life wasn’t long. He didn’t meet his soul mate. And he wasn’t understood by his mother. Yet I think I deserve all those things because I am spiritual. — Hugh Prather, quoted in Secrets of a Good Life

Big Truth invariably comes from the edges of society, or those who have been to the edges, or the “wilderness” as it is here called (Mark 1:3). Jesus’ new reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the center is seldom ready for the truth because it has too much to protect; it has bought into the system and will invariably protect the status quo. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt,” and it is seldom comfort or security. – Richard Rohr

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NRSV
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Following Jesus means that we have to keep walking on the ground, keep struggling. The work of living does not necessarily become easier because we are disciples. In fact, discipleship can make life more difficult. At the same time, life becomes radically different. Our struggles and pains become different struggles and pains. The reason for this is that we are no longer living our struggles and pains alone. Following Jesus indeed means that we live our same life, but we live it in companionship with the one who understands us fully — our guide, fellow traveler, the one in whom we can trust our whole life. – Henri J. M. Nouwen, A Spirituality of Homecoming

Deliver me, O God,
from a slothful mind, from all lukewarmness, and all dejection of spirit.
I know these cannot but deaden my love to thee;
mercifully free my heart from them,
and give me a lively, zealous, active, and cheerful spirit;
that I may vigorously perform whatever thou commandest,
thankfully suffer whatever thou choosest for me,
and be ever ardent to obey in all things thy holy love.
– John Wesley

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be afraid,” just like “you are forgiven,” are needed companions throughout our lives. We strive to be faithful followers, to be strong and bold in vocation. But sometimes, strength wavers. Sometimes, boldness weakens or mutates into arrogance. By and large, those experiences come because of fear. “Do not be afraid” can fade into the background all too quickly when tragedy or injustice or downright ignorance holds sway. But God does not give up on us. God does not strip us of our calling in those times when we realize that even having nothing to fear but fear itself still leaves us with a considerable antagonist to face. Rather, God calls us out — out of sin, out of fear — and gives us the possibility of a new day. – John Indermark, Do Not Live Afraid

Extended quote by Steve Harper from A Gift From Thomas Merton
The witness of the saints is not perfect consistency, but unceasing devotion. For whether it be Merton, Wesley, or someone else—what we find is that they are as devoted to God when they “don’t feel like it” as they are when they do. Their experience fluctuates, but their commitment does not. And that’s what makes their witness authentic.

It’s only those who try to project the idea that “every day in every way I’m getting better and better” who actually project illusion, rather than reality. It’s only those who believe the only witness they can make is that they “have the victory” who become the plaster saints, who must be treated carefully or they’ll shatter into a million pieces.

Give me a fluctuating saint any day—a witness that faces success and failure—pleasure and pain—advance and decline—happiness and heartache—with unwavering devotion to an unchanging God.

Collect our tears
Tears of sadness
tears of joy
Tears of anxiety
nervous tears
Tears that don’t know why they run like rivers down the face
Gracious God,
collect our tears in your bottle
And pour them back on us as life-giving water!
– Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book: Year A

For an article describing the brave work of today’s featured graffiti artists from Iran, click here

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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