Left with Comfort

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
My personal life and emotional rollercoaster doesn’t always coincide nicely with the liturgical calendar. There have been Lenten seasons that feel lighter and Easter seasons that feel exceptionally heavy. A lot of that has to do with circumstances over the years– vocational confusion, moving states and countries, getting married, losing my brother, pregnancy, children, moving again, vocational confusion revisited. Our lives are rarely neatly ordered (and even more rarely ordered as we planned), but we submit the mess to the Lord and our emotions are “the caboose of the train of our living” and not the engine, as Marva J. Dawn puts it.

As I think of the Father’s great care for the disciples, left gaping mouthed at their risen Savior’s miraculous exit, I can’t help but picture some of the emotions threatening to be their engine. Fear, discouragement, anger, confusion, pain might have surfaced as they searched the clouds for a sign that Jesus might descend once again. I can imagine a temptation to look at the circumstances through the lens of these emotions instead of looking at the circumstances through the lens of God’s character. If we, with the disciples, assess the turn of events with the former, we might spiral into catastrophizing. How can we possibly go on? What does it even mean to follow Someone who has left us? How do we know what to do next? What about our detractors and enemies? What if no one believes us? What if we stop believing?
 
This little nugget of a prayer reminds us that the God who made us knows when we need comfort. Just like the disciples, we are often left gaping mouthed at circumstances, “How can this possibly work out, Lord? How can this be good or end well or bring you glory?” In God’s kindness, he assured the disciples that they wouldn’t be without a Helper. They would “receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8) and be witnesses to neighbors close by and far off.

The next scene is so important. Though they didn’t know exactly what was happening, they started moving with obedience and faith as the engine. Jesus had said to wait for the promise of the Father in Jerusalem, so “they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14).

As we pray and obey, with whatever emotions are threatening to be the engine of our days, we can know that God has promised comfort and will keep His promise. We pray with Jesus’ Ascension behind us and His promised return ahead of us, that the Holy Spirit would bring us strength to do the good work set before us today.

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