You brought us into the snare;
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water;
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
I know someone who has been through one of the worst 18 months I could imagine, and the trials she continues to face seem never ending. And all of it started with an accident that took a fraction of a second to occur. Accidents can be like that. One moment you are fine, and the next, your entire life is changed.
When you are going through a terrible time - when you feel your life is in a snare or that heavy burdens have been placed upon your back, or when enemies are taking advantage of you or you are called upon to have ridiculous amounts of stamina and courage in order to get through something - it is easy to believe that it'll always be like this - that it's never going to change.
The psalmist in this Sunday's psalm is not in the midst of tough times, but is looking back upon recent tough times in the past. The psalmist says, "It was a really, really hard time, God, but you brought us out of it. You brought us to a place of refreshment."
When life is going poorly it is important to remind yourself that it won't always be like this. A storm eventually gives way to calm seas. A crisis passes by in time. An injury eventually heals. This doesn't mean things always get back to 'normal' again, but it does mean that nothing of this life lasts forever. Change happens, no matter what. Sometimes people fear change, thinking what is coming must always be worse. This psalm reminds me that change is for the better just as often. And that if, like the psalmist, we put our lives in God's care, we can trust that even while we are going through hard times, we will still be able to recognize moments of consolation, for God finds all kinds of unexpected ways to grant refreshment to those with grateful hearts.
Over the past few Sundays, the first letter of Peter has talked about the issue of suffering. Peter's been talking about how even those who follow Christ will inevitably find themselves suffering at times through no fault of their own - suffering, even, for doing what is right. He tells his readers to take heart! Don't be afraid, and don't let hard times intimidate you. Christ has been where you are and is with you now, and even if this world gives you pain, you are fully alive in Christ, who has overcome pain and death.
Life is full of crosses that are difficult to bear. But in the season of Easter, we are reminded that the cross is only a sign that new life is on its way. I pray that as the warm weather arrives, we all feel the warmth of God's love in us, between us and among us at St. James, that through our worship together we may find God's refreshment, so that we can bring the love and healing of God out into our suffering world.