Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, Isaiah 54:1-10 (11-17), Galatians 5:1-15, Mark 8:27-9:1
It’s always darkest before the dawn. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. No pain, no gain. These and other clichés remind us most successes are preceded by a period of hard work and struggle. We usually hear these when someone is trying to offer us comfort, or when we are doing the same for someone else. Unfortunately, they aren’t always helpful when we are in the thick of the darkness, the brokenness, or the pain.
As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, he spoke more bluntly with his disciples. He knew hard times were coming and he wanted them to be prepared. They had not been especially insightful when he taught through parables, so he told them in no uncertain terms he was going to suffer, be killed, and rise again. The disciples didn’t welcome this news. Peter went so far as to pull him aside and rebuke him, prompting Jesus to utter his famous reply: “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus knew fulfillment of his mission would require great sacrifice, and Peter’s misguided attempt at redirection embodied all the temptation he had resisted from the beginning of his ministry.
Are we willing to face the work and struggle it takes to follow Jesus (or any worthwhile goal), or are we listening to the Peters in our lives who may mean well but misdirect us to an easier but ineffectual path? Maybe our own inner voice is our Peter, the Satan loudly rebuking us in one ear while our more angelic conscience whispers urgently in the other. It’s always easier not to voice the unpopular opinion, not to deny ourselves something we desire, not to risk losing what we’ve worked so hard for. The easy way is indeed tempting, and on extremely lucky days it may be the right way, but those cliches are common because they are true: success – especially spiritual success – requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of ego, comfort, money, time … whatever it is that stands between us and God. We have to crack that shell before we can get to the gold.
Comfort: This too shall pass.
Challenge: We offer clichés when we don’t know what else to say. Sacrifice a little time to think about and prepare for what you might say the next time someone you know is experiencing a difficult time.
Prayer: Thank you God for giving me the strength to endure so I may be triumphant in you. Amen.
Discussion: What’s something you’ve worked hard to achieve?
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