I didn’t used to think I was vulnerable. I tried to fortify my capabilities so that I could defend myself—and those I love—from dangers that might come along. I was young then, and those were different times. I don’t think that way any more. In these later decades, I have come to see that, along with everyone else, I have always been exposed to perils.
Lately it has occurred to me that my ancient faith forbears spent their entire lives in hazardous circumstances. Physical ailments or accidents—e.g., a broken leg—could disable them for life. Their rulers could be cruel and greedy. Wars littered their political landscape. Occupying armies and wealthy elites exacted crushing economic costs. Food and water could be scarce—drought or pests could wipe out a crop. Technologies were precious and primitive, not always available to everyone. Bandits and wild animals roamed the countryside.
From the earliest biblical times, tellers and hearers, writers and readers knew quite well that their well-being was in jeopardy at all times. We have to read their history and their faith with that emotional context in mind.
Perhaps because of their sense of helplessness, though, God’s people often found reasons to be grateful for anything. For everything. Deep sorrows might have punctuated their lives, but yet they rejoiced, celebrated and praised God. After disastrous events, they picked up and moved on with life. They encouraged each other. They looked for God’s eventual rescue.
These twinned realities are simple to understand, but hard to live out. Even as I acknowledge my vulnerability, I can also follow the example of my spiritual ancestors. I can live gratefully, generously and hopefully. I can still trust God’s providence to outlast dangers and dangerous people.
That’s how I hope to live!
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