For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3)
Have you ever wondered why it took the children of God forty years to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land? The distance is not that great, but anytime a significant change occurs, there are a multitude of challenges. Traveling through unfamiliar territory, dealing with weather, shepherding a large number of people and providing food, shelter, protection, for the well-being of all. There is a saying, “three steps forward, two steps back,” that applies to moving a large population from one place to another. People are sometimes contrary and difficult, and when they are uncomfortable, they can be even worse. Sometimes we act like little children, getting tired and cranky, flopping down where we find ourselves, refusing to take another step. Then, after a time, we get up and get going again.
Today, we are traveling together through an unfamiliar wilderness caused by the global pandemic. At this point we feel lost, tired, frustrated, surly, lonely, anxious, and a host of other unpleasant emotions and expressions. This is what it means to be human; we like life to make sense, to work out, and to provide us with comfort and security. We are not so welcoming of stress, challenge, threat, or danger.
Our faith is being challenged. This is truly a testing time. This is a wonderful time to listen to the Psalmists and the Prophets. Yes, we are journeying through hard times, just as our Hebrew and Christian forebears journeyed through their own. But, just as the wanderers of old held fast to the promises and visions of God’s grace, so we hold tightly to them today. We may get stuck from time to time, focusing on the negative and losing hope, but very soon we will emerge from this wilderness time to give thanks and sing out, for our God is good.
Prayer: Giving God, help us not lose sight of our blessings. We have much to be grateful for, even when we are in the midst of turmoil and distress. We grow distracted by all that threatens our peace and security, but you are our rock, our firm foundation. Let us rest upon your strength and protection, Lord. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).