By Dane Neufeld
A Reading from Wisdom 3:1-9
1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
3 and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
4 For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
6 like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
9 Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
When we consider our own poverty or wealth, our success or failure, happiness or misery, we tend to assess these things in light of our immediate comparator groups. In the internet age, we are exposed to so many more lives of people by which we can compare ourselves and form — usually unfavorable — assessments of how we are doing. We are constantly being told and shown what our lives could have been.
Of course it matters entirely what sort of lens we choose to view our lives through. It is interesting how one state of affairs could look so different to two groups of people: “In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.” A righteous person suffered and died, and a bunch of people around that person shook their heads and congratulated themselves for still being alive. They missed the point.
The Book of Wisdom goes on: “For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them.” I will admit that a large part of me would rather not be tried in a fiery furnace, though if the alternative is living a glib and foolish life, I might be more inclined.
To be tested and found worthy by God is to escape from the many judgments of this world and to rest in the higher opinion of the one who holds all our lives in his hands. Though at times, the sight of others is all we can comprehend and feel, our calling is to follow Jesus beyond the crowds and scowling critics, into the plans and purposes of God. Christ looked particularly wretched as hung on the cross, and yet he has filled our hope with immortality.
The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.
To receive a TLC Daily Devotional in your inbox each morning, click here.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Tucson, Ariz.
The Diocese of Brazzaville (Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo)