At times the events of day-to-day living can overwhelm us. We attempt each day, as best we can, to deal with the gifts and challenges that life gives in order to gain some modicum of peace and hope.
But, as in the past few weeks, our news from around the globe can touch us deeply and make it difficult to cope and maintain our usually hopeful attitude.
The Jewish scriptures offer us an opportunity to reflect on the variety and challenges that happen to all of us. The writer of Ecclesiastes (meaning teacher) describes well the ups and downs of daily living:
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant… A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces… A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak… God has made everything appropriate to its time, (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2,4-5,7,11b)
Scripture scholars tell us that God’s interaction with us in this list of joys and woes can be seen from several viewpoints. One view describes God in what classical philosophers view as a “Deus ex machina” (One who enters our live from afar, suddenly fixing or taking away bad things). This seems to view God as Someone outside our daily experience.
Another view, which I prefer, sees God as One who walks with us, accompanying us through life — much like God in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, who is “walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day”, and calls to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:8). Here God is seen as an ordinary part of our daily living, ready to help us celebrate our joys and deal with our challenges, as listed so well in Ecclesiastes.
Sometimes when we get upset at some event such as the recent bombing of the plane traveling to Russia or the atrocities experienced by the people of Paris, unfortunately we may initially react and totalize — blaming a whole group of people for what a few crazed fanatics have done.
Listen to some words of wisdom:
"True piety is this: to believe in God, …to give of one's goods, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveler, beggars, …to perform the prayer, to pay the alms… Take no life, which God has made sacred, (and) …Woe to (those) who pile wealth and lay it by, thinking that his wealth would make him last.”
This is but some of the wisdom of the Qur’an (2:177, 6:151, 104:1-3).
As my mother reminded me more than once: “You know, life is not easy.” You can say that again, Ma!
In our daily effort to keep before us our deep-seated values and continue to treasure the life we share, it would be good for us to accept the fact that there is certainly a time for everything under the heavens — the good times mixed in with those more challenging events.
In the midst of this sometimes complex reality, we can appropriately ask God to help us, and perhaps walk with us, accompanying us today through the gifts and challenges of life on Mother Earth.
the Avenue of the Champs-Elysees (from Wikimedia Commons)