Sunday readings reflection: When things get tough

Readings for August 22,  2021

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18
Psalm 34:2-3, 16-21
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

On the whole, the Bible is filled with sad stories. Stories of defeat, struggle, and chaos. But most of those stories have endings that defy the tough times through God’s mercy and redemption. But, possibly not all of them. In my opinion, and not knowing the true end of the story for those involved, this Sunday’s Gospel account is the saddest story of them all. Those that were following Jesus, his disciples, left and “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

At this point in his ministry, Jesus had many disciples and even more curious onlookers. It can be assumed that those counted as disciples were those that followed him for an extended period of time, and that they even perhaps invited others to join the group as well. But when the teaching got tough, they could not accept him and they returned to their former way of life. 

How many among us who count ourselves as believers, even as disciples, have been tempted to and perhaps even done the same, if only for short periods of time? Perhaps we blame corruption in the Church, or hypocrisy among believers, or “rules” that don’t correspond with what we think is necessary. Perhaps we have gone through a struggle and felt abandoned by God. And sometimes we may just walk away because we no longer find it interesting or exciting.

Abandoning Jesus in tough times, from tough teachings, or even when we’re no longer excited by the whole church thing, we walk away from the promise of our salvation, the opportunity to live on in an unending joy and love. We should not be walking away. It is, in fact, within these tough times that we should lean in, not turn away. That is our faith. That is our hope. 

We know from Jesus’ parable that some will be the seeds sown in less fertile ground, perhaps sprouting and growing but not able to grow roots deep enough to sustain us. But we, as humans, are not so firmly planted in our ways that we must succumb to the difficulties of life. And most often the way to have peace and joy is to keep growing those deep roots in Christ, not giving up at the latest hard teaching. Here is the truly tough teaching: If we can only believe when our hearts are full and comfortable, our faith is not what it should be, or even what we think it might be. And that is the saddest story of all.

My Lord Jesus, I knew from the start my faith in you would be challenged and your teachings would be hard. Grant to me the gift of a firm faith, one that can withstand the tough times by pinning my hope on you. May I forever follow you–in good times and bad. Amen


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