How Shall I Repay the Goodness of the Lord?

Do not be afraid. Hell is angry because Christ is risen from the dead and has destroyed death by death.  When Satan can no longer vent against us, he vents himself against those we most love. For all of this, do not think that the Lord is indifferent — this is a great mercy, for HE is leading those we love into truth about about the world, the meaning of life and the mercy of God. So we go forward on the pathway of life sent by the Risen Lord. We do not go alone. And you, with your great love and fire tried faith, are the instrument by which the Holy Spirit will make your friends strong and invincible to evil.

Great is the mystery of our religion – more powerful than sin and death! In Psalm 116, we find a prayer offered by a soul entangled by death and who realizes that everyone suffers from a lack of integrity. In the face of all this evil, this soul sees the salvation of the Lord and gives thanks, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?” Such is the greatness of our faith – we can see past evil and death, and believe in the salvation that God’s love is working out in our lives even when it seems most impossible.

The Lord has permitted your afflictions for reasons that we cannot understand on this side of heaven.  Many young adults have similar struggles, and these are all especially augmented by the COVID policies of shelter in place. For many reasons, this present generation suffers from an excess of technology – and as a whole, our culture has come to worship the works of its hands, the machines that we give dominion over us. In exchange to the homage we pay to our technology (personal communication, medical, transportation), these machines have provided illusions of power and control – fantasies about life and about oneself.  These fantasies might distract us for a while but they do not offer firm enough ground for the weight of human existence.  The current crisis makes this known.

Because of imprudent policies and political games, a certain darkness has settled over our lives. Social enmity seems to have sway over our interpretation of our neighbor’s actions. We swell with righteous indignation and justify to ourselves the condemnatory spirit and social fear that we indulge. We judge one another with a certain harshness and find it difficult to be gracious and forgiving. This lack of mercy effects the next generation in ways that we do not understand.

Cut off from friends and their old way of life, the deep pain that our young people were trying to avoid now surfaces. The illusions of life have been taken away and self-delusions about one’s own purpose have been lifted. The intoxications of boorish entertainment and selfish indulgence are sobered. Now the terrible nakedness and awareness of deep pain emerges — and by ourselves, we cannot know how to deal with this. Not only our psychology and body, but even the deepest recesses of our hearts are at risk. This is why during COVID and shelter in place, there is so much abuse, depression, anxiety, and addiction because there is also so much un-dealt with sin, guilt and shame. Sometimes, there is even temptations to self-destruction and for some, they lose confidence that there is relief from these torments. Here, the evil one is also at work — testing us and our peers, angrily sifting us like wheat, prowling like a lion ready to devour us. We are, as prays the psalmist, entangled in death — but we are not alone or without hope.

How is it that the psalmist gives thanks to the Living God even in the midst of affliction? It is because he knows that darkness and trials, even those that cause extreme anxiety, do not get the last word about humanity as a whole or his own life specifically. There is a deeper purpose that no evil can vanquish – something about who and what we are that is precious in the eyes of the Almighty.  Indeed, the Savior of the World in his faithfulness has not allowed what is most true about sacred humanity to perish. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. He is risen from the dead and no human or diabolic power can outlast His Mercy.  No machine or artificial intelligence can anticipate the glory by which He makes all things new. He raises up. He raises the weary. He raises the sick. He even raises the dead. Who can stop Him? Thus, we have a reason for our hope even in the midst of the present darkness.

We must learn to listen to our neighbor with faith. We must not be afraid to enter into the heart of another with the hope that Christ has given us. If we do this carefully, the Word of God will allow us to listen a soul into existence. This is especially true of the young people that the Lord places in our path as we journey where the Risen One sends us. In the midst of the storms that we meet them, we need to give these fellow pilgrims a safe-place to vent and to unburden the terrible evils that weigh down their hearts. They need to know that no matter what they suffer, the Lord has never abandoned them and is always waiting for them, anxious that they should feel so alone, and longing to share His heart with them. If we do this carefully, respecting the gift of freedom that is itself a reflection of their image and likeness to God, a soul can find ground to stand on, to rise up, to step forward. Our faith becomes a cup of water, a gesture of hospitality to a weary fellow pilgrim. Together, no matter the darkness or trial, we come so see the light and salvation of the Lord.

This post was originally published on Beginning to Pray and is reprinted here with permission.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

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