Agape: March 6, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” -Psalm 13:5

I had attended a missions conference called Urbana during my Christmas break in 2000 with 20,000 other college students and missionaries, and my entire chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a pan-Christian organization for college students, came home with varying degrees of bronchitis and pneumonia. I had already ended up in the emergency room needing nebulizer treatments before I even attended the conference, so my bronchitis was hitting me harder than most people. Because I was so sick, the energy that usually went to keeping my brain chemistry balanced was diverted to help my body heal, and this was causing me to deal with serious depression.

That particular day, my mom had taken me back to the campus of UC Santa Cruz where I was finishing up my senior year. When she left my dorm, she handed me a late Christmas present, a calendar with pictures of nature interspersed with quotations from the book of Psalms. When I unwrapped it, today’s Scripture appeared on the picture for the month of January. I decided to look up the Psalm and was astonished at what I found:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

I wept because it was exactly how I was feeling. I mean, where was God in this situation where I was suffering so much? Then, I read the last two verses and started weeping harder:

But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

It was a reminder that we are to trust in God’s love and that we can approach God with the things that are causing us trouble.

The lesson of that calendar page has stuck with me, and even on days like today when the panic and anxiety get to be too much, I know I can call out to God for help. As Jim Wallis, editor of “Sojourners” magazine said at the end of a podcast, “God is so much bigger than all the things we fear.”

Gracious God, thank you for dealing bountifully with us even when we just cannot see it through the tears and the panic. Amen.
-Jen McCabe