Weighed Down

There is an important question we need to ask ourselves when worldly woes and troubles assail us.

The Scripture

Luke 21:25-36
New Revised Standard Version

Jesus told his disciples, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among cultures confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; when their leaves begin to sprout you can see that summer is on the way. That’s how it will be when you see these things taking place: you’ll know that the kingdom of God is near.

“I’m telling you: this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“Be on your guard that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, or that day will catch you unawares, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

“Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Photo of a flower

Reflection by Deborah Beach Giordano
December 3, 2018

A Question

Is it well with your soul?

Seriously. Is it well with your soul?

Take a moment to consider. Take as long as you need.

❧   ❧   ❧

The Aftermath

What was your reaction to that question? Were you surprised, confused, annoyed? And what about the answer that presented itself; did it bubble slowly to the surface from hidden depths, still hazy and uncertain, or leap into view, clear and uncompromising?

And how are you now; now that you have received an answer? Perhaps a bit sad or weepy, discomfited and edgy, or irritated, almost angry — at no one in particular, since, after all, who is there to be angry at?

Now take another look. Do not be afraid! Take a breath and consider the question again, gazing into the answer, as into the depths of a garden pond. There, just below the surface, beneath the worldly reflections, more may be revealed. As we sit in silence, we are absorbed into a calm and quiet nature, the sound and fury of the world around us fades away. Free from all pressures and demands, all pretensions discarded, all defenses dropped; there is only the still small Voice that we so rarely can hear.

pond

Is it well with your soul? Is your spirit at peace?

Where does it hurt? What do you fear? Why do you hate? What gives your life meaning — and does it really matter? If the dusk-winged angel took you by the hand right this minute, could you leave without regrets? What would hold you back; what would you try to cling to, in an effort to remain?

A Heavy Heart

single featherWe react with annoyance and anger to questions that trouble and confuse us; “Is it well with my soul? What do you mean by that? What business is it of yours?!” Our attitude reveals what a long and lonely time it has been since we’ve had a heart-to-heart conversation with the Lover of Our Souls.

We weep with sorrow and frustration at the sense of emptiness: the hollow place we fill with busy-ness; with our never-ending doing and achieving; our charitable deeds, good works, and self-satisfaction. We do all of the right things; we’re good, through and though. Then why, why, why are we so desperately unhappy? Why is there no joy in what we do?

The ancient Egyptians believed that, after death, our heart was weighed against a feather; if the heart was heavier — due to evil deeds and harmful intentions — the soul would not transition into eternal life. We do not need to share their faith in order to appreciate the point: our hearts and souls can be dragged down with ugliness and hate, our spirits sunk in pits of sorrow and despair through what we say and do — or fail to do — with our lives.

Worldly Temptations

I see many kind-hearted, well-intentioned, faithful people who are active, engaged, involved in countless good works — and exhausted, frantic, desperately unhappy; their spirits low, their hearts heavy. “But I don’t know why,” a good friend confided. It was then that I realized that was the answer: not knowing why — having no idea why we are doing all these things. Rarely is it from a sense of calling: a heartfelt, spiritual inclination; an action born of prayer, contemplation, and compassion; instead, these are goals to achieve, signs of our commitment, evidence of our holiness. But busy is not the same as meaningful; and if a work makes us prideful — disdaining others, keeping score, puffed up with self-satisfaction — then it is an evil disguised as a blessing; a millstone hanging around our necks.

Listen again to Jesus’ warning:

“Be on your guard that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, or that day will catch you unawares, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”

We are to be on our guard against the things that distract us from what is ultimately important: how will we stand up when we meet the Lord, face to face? Will our hearts be as light as a feather? Or will we have been so busy with our doings — intoxicated by the heady fumes of “righteousness” — that we will have had no time for God? (How much time do we spend, relatively, in prayer and reflection?) Are we driven to distraction by the worries of this world, dissipating our energy on anger and frustration, and ignoring the glories of the Kingdom that is already here?

When our lives come to an end — as the end comes to all who live upon the face of the earth — will we greet the Lord joyfully? Or will we be weighed down with sorrows and regrets?

Hunger

hungry hensLike malnourished hens, we pounce on each new crumb of “meaning” thrown our way, running between projects and programs like chickens with our heads cut off. But our souls cannot be fooled; our spiritual hunger will not be assuaged by worldly substitutions: nothing less than God’s own self can fill those empty spaces in our lives.

Without prayer and contemplation, even the best of intentions can cause us to stumble and fall; the greatest of our doings can bring harm instead of good. And no amount of impressive accomplishments can disguise the fact that one day we will die. There is no time like the present to examine the state of our souls.

Now, As Then

“Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

As it was in Jesus’ time, sadly, tragically, it is on the earth over and over, again and again: chaos and disorder, war, distress, destruction, and violence; it can seem as if the end is near — and we’re tempted to lose heart, lose our nerve, run about, and generally freak out. But that is faithless foolishness. Instead, we must be alert to the harsh reality of these things, and wary of their ability to deceive and distract us, and entice us to forget what is ultimately matters:

Is it well with my soul?

May the peace and grace of of the Lord shine brightly upon you,

Deborah 

Suggested Spiritual Excercise

Ask yourself, “Is it well with my soul?” It is a tremendous question; a question that can empower, challenge, and transform. Embrace it, delight in it, repeat it often; recognize it as a precious opportunity to stand in the Presence of the One Who Loves Your Soul. And do not be afraid.