Psalm 42:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Who would ever think or tell you that stress and distress can be a blessing? Not most psychologists or therapists! In fact, quite the opposite, they will tell you that stress and distress in your life have to be removed for the sake of your sanity.
You see, we live in the “me” culture where people, even good meaning people, even Christians will tell you that you need “me” time in your marriage while raising your children, while living your life…, so that you can part company with stress and .distress. And while the advice seems innocent enough, let me ask you what life would be like without stress and distress? Our immediate thought might be that that’s a life that I would enjoy and would do anything to have in my possession, right? Well, life doesn’t exactly work that way.
In fact, the Bible makes it very clear to us that trials or we might call it stress and distress are character builders for God’s children. Look at the Psalmist’s prayer in verse 5 up above. It is a prayer of faith worthy of all of us to ponder. “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” Is it because you’ve been betrayed? Is it because the one you said, “I do” with 20 years ago, is now saying, “I don’t”? Is it because work is becoming increasingly more dull and boring and unsatisfying? Is it because your having problems raising your children? Is there some illness dragging you down and depressing you? Is it because the budget has just become increasingly tighter because of the new job you just took, or the old job you just left? Or…, maybe it’s all of the above.
Ask your soul the same question the Psalmist asked his soul, “Why are you downcast?” Seriously, say it out loud! Say it again. “Why are you downcast?” Have you forgot that God has made you an heir of eternal life through baptism? Have you forgot that you are going to spend eternity with God in heaven because of what Christ Jesus has done for you on the cross? Are you too busy thinking about your stress and distress, that you have forgotten the promise of Jesus that a home is being prepared for you in the Kingdom of heaven? Have you forgot that each day you awake, God’s mercies to you in Christ Jesus are brand new? You see, when you put life into that perspective, stress and distress might not go away, but they certainly become manageable for our short, earthly lives.
Now look around you, dear Christian. Look at your brothers and sisters in this congregation of believers. God put them into your life to support you, to encourage you, to comfort you. He’s placed pastors and teachers in your life to sustain you in both Word and Sacrament. Put your hope in God and see the good that comes from stress and distress – it leads you ALWAYS to the well of salvation, God’s Holy Word, where we find relief from both our sins and from the dog eat dog world that we live in.
Last night I left council meeting a tad early when they began discussing the compensation package for your future called worker at this church. And when I left, I smiled as I walked out that door, which I will get to do one more time in the month of April. And I smiled because God has blessed this church, not just with faithful men, but with very, very faithful women, eager to serve Jesus and to serve God’s people in this flock! That is a blessing from God’s own hand, dear friends! God who always provides for his children will continue to do so and like the Psalmist says, “I will praise him, my Savior and my God!”
May God, who is rich in mercy and love, comfort you in your stress and distress, and lead you to his well of salvation this evening, as we shall travel with Jesus down the long, dusty road that leads to Golgatha’s cross and the empty tomb on Easter morning.