The last trip to the beach. Backpacks and pencils. The school buses on the morning run.
I had to drive to Morgantown last week, and already there is a touch of color in the trees around Cooper’s Rock. So soon the end of summer is upon us, and we begin the routines of autumn. And it all comes around again.
A novel I read recently repeated the theme that life is a wheel, and the rituals tend to repeat themselves on schedule. Whether it is the annual cycle that is reflected in the school year or the church calendar, or the habits good and bad between couples, or the next generation that grows to adulthood and stakes their claim on the world, life is a wheel and the patterns that unfold look remarkably similar.
By now, most would agree that the time flies by, and we are continually surprised that it all comes so quickly. But there is also comfort in the rituals of life, there is some degree of predictability in the routines that we experience, and the cycles and patterns that are an integral part of this life provide a necessary framework that gives us structure and a degree of peace. The family dinner at Grandma’s may generate a modicum of stress, but it is a stress that can be anticipated and dealt with, because it is so similar to what happened last month.
When natural disaster, medical crisis, or the truly unexpected events come upon us, life becomes unpredictable and uncertain, and the levels of anxiety increase dramatically. When the framework and pattern of life is totally thrown out and everything that happens comes with an unseen outcome, that is when life becomes really difficult and hard to cope with. And to be honest, we shouldn’t be surprised when calamity comes upon us. The old proverb reminds us that Into every life a little rain must fall, and part of life in this broken world is that it on occasion, we get taken by surprise and thrown into the lion’s den.
How then shall we endure when what we expect is not what we get? Where can we turn for comfort and help when life delivers the staggering bombshell that takes your breath away? Yes, life might be a wheel, but sometimes it sneaks up behind us and hits us in the fanny. What then?
Times like that is when the life of faith, and a confident hope in an Eternal God matters the most. The Scriptures remind us repeatedly to Fear Not, God is with us. We can trust and count on God when life falls apart. He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). He is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in time of need. (Psalm 46:1) And in spite of the unpredictability of human existence, the Lord our God is Eternal, Unchanging, Sovereign, and at work strengthening his people, and guiding us through the difficulty of these days. And if we would trust in Him and His works and His words, He will deliver us through the disasters and heartaches of this life.
Indeed, the routines and rituals that shape our lives are circular and come around to us in due time. Usually. Now and again, a bolt from the blue will bring shock and dismay, and those patterns that were expected are shattered like glass and swept away. In any case and on every day, God is God of all of it. He is with us in the peaceful and comfortable.
He is with us in the day of distress and trial. He is with us when we see His mighty hands at work, and He is with us when we are unaware and unconcerned. In each and every day, He is worthy of praise.
— The Rev. Brian Hotaling is the pastor at Charles Town Baptist Church