Sleep eluded me last night; the cares of the world closing in. I tried praying. I tried counting my blessings. I tried getting up and reading. When I finally fell asleep, I replayed troubling news images and awoke exhausted.

Stepping outside in the cool of the morning, blue skies promised a beautiful day. I soaked in the morning’s golden sunlight hoping for a renewal of spirit. Beauty was everywhere I looked and yet I found William Wordsworth words looping through my mind.

“The world is too much with us, late and soon

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

I suppose it’s human nature to want life to be easy. When it isn’t, we assume something is wrong with us, that we are somehow lacking in enough smarts, energy, will power, resources, creativity. We’ve come to believe that if our faith is strong enough God will reward us with power, prestige. and possessions. Then when bad things happen, we are puzzled. How could this happen to us? Aren’t we God’s chosen people? But, what if living is not about the good life, but in sharing what we have so others may also prosper as the Bible teaches?

We are taught to be brave, but not vulnerable. We are taught to take what we want with little thought of how our actions impact others. We are taught whites are somehow better than others. We are taught “might makes right.” As a result we have lost our capacity to hold pain and discomfort, love and caring close to our hearts without being destroyed. We have come to define freedom as being able to selfishly say and do whatever we want when we want. Yet, the consequences of economic inequality, racism, sexism, etc., are living in constant fear.

When we choose comfort and privilege for the few over reconciliation, cooperation, forgiveness, and problem solving, we don’t just exacerbate our existing problems, we become the root problem. The more we trust that God will make all things right if we share our resources, knowledge, emotions, and experiences, the more we can live in peace with both friends and strangers. Perhaps the reason God allows so much suffering and pain is because we need frequent reminders that life is not about accumulating power, prestige and possessions but in consistently being a good Samaritan in everything we do. After all, it’s the times of danger and tragedy such as Hurricane Ida’s devastation that we temporarily drop our differences and come together to help and share what little we ourselves may have? And so, as the Bible tells us, “In everything give thanks.”

Cut the ties that bind us to our fears, our faults, and our mistakes, O Lord, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt. Don’t let surface things distract and delude us, but free us from what holds us back. Make us truly grateful that we may see as You see, hear as You hear, and love as You love. Amen

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.

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