And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. ~ John 14:16; NRSV
On the last night of his life, Jesus speaks to his disciples, comforting them. His arrest is just around the corner, and we can imagine their furrowed brows and fearful expressions as he tries to explain he’s about to go away.
Jesus tells his disciples about the Spirit whom God will send to them. The Spirit Jesus describes is a force that’s even stronger than all the disciples dread. One who will lift them up and transform their lives. This Spirit reaches way down deep into the depths of the world’s pain and those whom the world pushes aside, forgotten and lost.
Jesus’ words remind us of the most amazing gift of our faith: that we’re never alone. When we feel isolated and hopeless, it’s love which holds us together. We are bound by a Holy Spirit of reconciliation, and when we abide in the Spirit, we are made whole.
Where in your life do you need this Spirit, this Advocate? Where are the broken relationships that need mending, and the hope that’s become stunted? Do you watch the evening news with exasperation, hungering for a society and world in which peace and justice reign? Do you see people around you who are exhausted, spent physically and emotionally? Might you, yourself, be one of them?
There are moments we all feel alone, when we wonder where in the heck Jesus is, and what God could possibly be up to. I’m not naïve enough to believe there aren’t some really good reasons why some people don’t believe in God. God never promised life would be easy or that we’d have smooth sailing the whole way through. Some of what we endure is of our own making, but let’s face it- a lot of it just doesn’t make any sense at all.
There are lots of reasons to question, and plenty of reasons to doubt. Resurrection may be at the heart of the Christian faith, but resurrection comes only after pain and death. It’s not always easy to see where redemption is breaking through.
It was in the throes of the U.S. Civil War that the poem of an anonymous soldier was discovered. As the story goes, a confederate soldier had composed the poem at some point, and it was ultimately found in his possession after he died on the battlefield at Gettysburg. The eloquence of this soldier’s words speaks to the power of that which is unexpected, and the beauty that can be found through adversity. In his words:
“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.”
When it comes down to it, maybe our task is to keep reaching for the Spirit- the Advocate, the Comforter. And at some point, we might just realize that the Spirit has been reaching downward the whole time to carry us.
Let’s pray together:
Lingering Spirit, abide with us a while. Linger with us when we’re tired, when we’re afraid, when we doubt and question, and even when we curse you. Be the solid ground upon which we tread, and the breeze that awakens us to new hope and possibility. Amen.