“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
Somewhere along the line, we believe that when life feels steady, secure, predictable and comfortable, God is close to us. That's not true. That's a lie. Rather, when things are going well, we make idols and become corrupted. St. Paul feels that God is more present when life is not going well: "I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:11)
There are several moments of deeper, more traumatic tragedies in our lives. In fact, life is fragile, and mortality is real. Life is short and uncertain. There are no guarantees. The future is unforeseeable. That’s the solemn truth about Ash Wednesday.
Tonight, we are putting ashes on our forehead. On Ash Wednesday, we remember that we have a beginning and an end. “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” How do we live with the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death? How can we find God in the midst of our suffering and pain?
First, pray. We pray not to change God but to change us. Mother Theresa said: “I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.” So, try five minutes a day of quiet with God this Lent. And if you are already doing that, expand it to ten minutes or thirty minutes. Just remain, in silence, and wait; wait for God to love us, stay for God to change us.
Today, I want you to make a one sentence prayer, only one simple sentence. Find in this Lent one simple and urgent prayer that is in your inmost heart. Repeat it every day and let the prayer saturate into your heart. The God of grace will meet us even in our chaotic world-a world of war and violence, earthquakes and death, illness and grief, economic uncertainty and fear, injustice and polarization in our nation. Even there God can renew us.