Scripture for reflection: Acts 27
“The angel told me, “Don’t be afraid, Paul! You must present your case to the emperor. God has granted safety to everyone who is sailing with you.” Acts 27:24
We are living in very stormy times – a world that is on the brink of a world war with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the midst of a pandemic. Like Charlie Brown, we cry out, “Good grief!” as we wonder what the future holds. A world plunged into darkness by war and the pandemic is in great need for a tsunami of joy – to hear “Joy to the world! The Lord has come!” Indeed, the good news is that Jesus has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of Christ’s love. In times like these, we need to pray for the complete knowledge of God’s will and for spiritual wisdom and understanding.1
When the apostle Paul was on the way to Rome, his ship was caught in a terrible storm that raged for days and there seemed to be no hope of survival. In the face of despair, Paul shared with his fellow companions that an angel had told him not to be afraid for it was God’s will for him to present his case to the emperor and so all of them would be saved. With a spirit of thanksgiving, he broke some bread and encouraged all of them to eat. When morning came, the ship was shipwrecked but everyone was able to escape safely to shore.2
The war in Ukraine and the pandemic are but urgent clarion calls to repentance – to open our eyes to the invisible war against evil and the spiritual infection of sin in all of our hearts. We will all suffer grief in this dark world sooner or later. But we can choose our response to grief – with worldly sorrow or godly repentance. Worldly sorrow drives us to despair and hopelessness. Godly repentance leads us to joy and confident hope. Godly repentance draws us to the truth that blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.3 We are brought to the end of ourselves so that we will rely only on God who raises the dead instead of relying on ourselves.4 And the spirit of poverty opens the door into the kingdom of heaven.5
The failures of fickle, flawed and fearful leaders are but mirrors of the failures, flaws and fears in our hearts. All of us need to come to g.r.i.e.f. – godly repentance in every failure – to learn lessons from our failures and turn them into stepping stones of faith. And centering prayer is the best response to grief to turn to God – not to change our circumstances, but to change our hearts that we may be the salt and light in the world.
Julian of Norwich wrote that we are created for joy and the more we see (and know our failures), the more by grace we shall long to be filled full of endless joy. Even though we will constantly fail, we have the hope, according to Richard Rohr, that everything can be mended, healed, and restored for failure is not the final word.6
A simple way to practice godly repentance in failure is to learn to be still and to rest in our Shepherd of Love. In silence, we observe and witness our thoughts and feelings such as fear, anger, doubts, and a myriad of other negative emotions and beliefs with a nonjudgmental spirit of acceptance. Suppressing such thoughts and feelings will turn them into inner storms that will shipwreck our peace of mind. Observing and accepting them in silence is the best way to bring these thoughts captive to Christ.7
We will fail time and time again to keep away the “monkey thoughts” from our minds but this is the secret of success in Christian meditation – each time we fail to be still we succeed because the awareness of our failure becomes the expression of our intention and our desire to make Jesus our Lord. When we try to be a master of meditation, we will be mastered by our “monkey thoughts.” However, when we seek to be mastered by Christ through meditation, Christ will be the master of our wandering thoughts and the Holy Spirit will fill our wondering hearts with more love for God.
The goal of Christian meditation is to invite the Holy Spirit to renew our cluttered minds with the will of God and to recharge our hardened hearts with the love of God. In silence we listen and delight in God’s promises by keeping our eyes on the Cross of Christ. This will help us to walk by the Spirit in times of success as well as times of failure. Only then can we be a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.8
When our lives are firmly anchored in the will of God, our hearts will not be divided and we will not be blown and tossed by the storms of life. We will not react to the negative circumstances of life out of anger or fear but we will painstakingly learn to respond with love and in faith. We will then not fear failure nor seek success in the eyes of the world but we will grow in faithfulness to seek the will of God. True success is living a life of confident hope that is rooted in the righteousness of Christ, the joy of salvation in the Spirit, and the everlasting love of God. God’s answers to the woes of our world are blowing in the wind. We are called to radiate God’s love, joy and peace as children of God and to declare:
“This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!”9
Lord, I surrender my fear of failure to You. Lead me in godly repentance in every failure that I face.
- What are the fears that are keeping me from seeking God’s will?
- How can I see God’s plans and promises in the failures of my life?
- How can I know God more deeply so that I can trust Him with my future?
Song Of Praise:
This Is My Father’s World
- Colossians 1:9-13
- Acts 27
- Matthew 5:4
- 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
- Matthew 5:3
- Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, 23rd February 2022
- 2 Corinthians 10:5
- Romans 2:19
- This Is My Father’s World, Amy Grant