Life can get pretty hard at times. There’s no point trying to gloss over this fact or pretending that it’s all plain sailing. There are times when we feel disconnected from life, when we feel like we are in our own personal wilderness and are struggling simply to survive. There are times when we are in the grip of something or someone that restricts our liberty and freedom to live as we would want. There are times when we feel we are the outsider or the outcast, alone and friendless. I think most people would go through some of these feelings at some stage of life. There are probably some going through it right now.
Our readings today cover a lot of these feelings. We will read about Israel being slaves and having a hard time in Egypt. We will read about Israel being in the wilderness and things being so hard, they wished they were slaves again. We will read about Israel being exiled and ruled over by foreign powers. But throughout all this history we will also read of the common theme that they could call out to God in their pain, and God responded. We will end our reading with the apostle Paul reminding us that we too can become part of Israel through a simple act of faith and will also be able to call on God for help. This gives us the confidence that God will hear our prayers and respond.
It can seem a pretty trite response to someone in crisis to just tell them they need a bit of Jesus in their life and all will be well. Jesus never promises us that life is easy. Jesus never promises us wealth, health or status as a result of following Him. Jesus warns us that life is hard and we will face times where we feel abandoned and alone, even as followers. But what we see from Israel’s history is that God remains faithful to Israel even where they are not faithful to God; that God always responds to Israel when they call on God. That is what Jesus promises us too. So spend some time this Lent reflecting on the hard times in your life and see God’s presence during them. If you are in a hard place, know that God is there for you. If you can, spend some time with someone who is struggling with life and be God’s presence for them. This promise we have is our hope in dark times; we need to bear it to the world to give hope to those who have none.