Faith & Worship: Life is not easy — but it is better than the alternative

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2018

“Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck. (Psalm 69:1)”

Sometimes, bad luck seems like the only luck I have.

Just when I think I’m clear of bad luck, the transmission on my car starts to go out. Just when I think I’m clear of bad luck, I have a big bill to pay and not much money in the bank. Just when I think I’m clear of bad luck, my knee flares up and my back starts barking.

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We humans are fragile creatures, in light of all the things that can go wrong with us physically, emotionally, financially and relationally. I wish I had a magic elixir that protected me from all the troubles that afflict human beings, but the problem with this elixir is that it would prevent me from being a disciple of Jesus.

On the surface, the certainty that comes with a magic elixir that does away with any and all problems seems wonderful, but this fantasy is really nothing more than a temporary escape hatch from the problems of life.

Being human is really the struggle to come to terms with our divine call to love God and love the people around us, in spite of our fragility and mortality. I wish I were better than I am, but Jesus calls me to follow him, and love him and love others regardless of these limitations.

In fact, the great virtues of this life can only be developed because of our physical, emotional, financial and relational finitude and fragility. If there were never an opportunity to get hurt or to die in this life, then there would never be an exercise in courage and love.

This reality is the rub of our lives. As much as I want things always to go well for myself, a life without problems to be solved and overcome is not really much of a life.

In many of the gospel stories, the disciples want Jesus to elevate them out of their human condition.

Peter doesn’t want Jesus or the disciples to go to Jerusalem. James and John want to sit at Jesus’ right- and left-hand side without understanding the implication of being with Jesus on the cross.

The disciples, like me and many of you, want easy answers and quick fixes to the difficulties of life.

Why, Jesus, should we go to Jerusalem, when we could stay on this mountain top with you, Moses and Elijah? We wouldn’t have to suffer if we stayed here with you.

The problem is that life can’t be lived on the mountain top, and Jesus isn’t staying on the mountain top. Jesus knew that a savior who runs from death — even a cruel, unjust and inhumane death — is nothing but a fraud.

The only savior worth following is a savior who looks at life with complete honesty and who also helps us to look at life with complete honesty. This honesty means that we are called to love, be courageous, forgive, be joyful and even pray with great hope and faith when the waters of this life have risen up to our necks.

This is no easy task, but the alternative is no life at all.

Life is not easy. It is not fair. It is painful.

Yet, there is Jesus from the cross, calling us all to love courageously and joyfully even in this mortal flesh of ours. 

Father Robert Ard, Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross