While driving home from church, I was listening to my sports radio and minding my own business. Suddenly a person in an old pickup truck with music blasting drove alongside me. The driver was a young, white male dawning a shaved head, cut-off t-shirt, and wearing tattoos all over his arms. He was yelling and waving his hands, trying to get my attention.
I began to feel nervous and sped up. Then, he sped up too. I thought to myself, “Why is this man following me?”
I started to get irritated. I could not hear what he was saying, though I could imagine what derogatory words might be spewing out of his mouth. I said to myself, “A lot of things still have not changed.” Then I cautiously decided to lower my window to hear what nasty words he was calling me.
He looked me in the eye and yelled at the top of his voice, “Your gas cap is hanging off the side of your car!”
I yelled back, “Thank you!” with a surprised smile on my face.
Our culture wants us to expect the worst of one another, but our God is always full of surprises and reminders. He offers us glimmers of hope in the darkness and a vision for a more “beloved community.”
In this season, I find myself sometimes feeling fearful of contracting the deadly virus, COVID-19, and passing it on to my wife, who has a heart condition. I’m concerned for my 95-year-old father who is in a senior retirement center and is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. I am discouraged that my daughter and son-in-law, who have three young boys, will have to one day give them “the talk” on how to survive an encounter with a police officer, if and when pulled over. I am deeply saddened when polarizing words like “Trump” and “Black Lives Matter” keep us from having a reasonable and authentic discussion.
In spite of all this, I keep hope alive by praying the Psalms.
The Book of Psalms represents our heartfelt praise directed to God for all God has done and does for us. Our utterance of prayers sung and prayed to take our minds off our problems and help us focus on God.
Verses 3-5 of Psalm 146 speak to me right now:
Do not put your trust in princes, or human beings
in whom there is no hope. When their breath departs,
they return to earth: on that very day, their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Psalm 146 tells me that God is the source of my hope and the reason for my praise. Psalm 146 admonishes me not to put my confidence in powerful people, politicians, or government officials because they are human beings and cannot help me. One day they will die and their plans will be meaningless.
Politicians and government officials are so polarized at this point that as a country we cannot move forward with a meaningful strategy in our attempt to rid our state of the dreaded COVID-19. People are dying every day because the politicians can’t agree on a way to combat the pandemic.
But there is hope because God is, as verse 6 declares, the “maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them,” therefore nothing is impossible for the Lord. I can keep hope alive because God is faithful. In God’s own time, God will drive out the dreaded virus COVID-19 and break down the walls that divide us.
I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. My dad was a janitor at a plant, and my mother was a school cafeteria cook. We lived in housing projects during segregation. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my father when I was a teenager helping him with his math. He needed to pass a test for a promotion at work. He was a janitor with two years of college. It had been several years since he had taken any college courses. He was feeling discouraged and doubting himself, but he never gave up hope. He was required to take a written test for a promotion while other employees did not. Many of his white coworkers had better jobs and had not finished high school. My dad passed the test and received a job promotion as a plant operator and a pay raise.
Hope is a fantastic thing. Hope in God transformed my family from discouragement, disappointments, and difficulty to a life full of purpose and direction. I keep “hope alive” for a more just society because Psalms 146:7-9 suggest that God is a God of justice and righteousness and cares for the vulnerable and marginalized.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow
Indeed, my hope remains in God’s faithfulness, not in our circumstances, politics, current rhetoric, or government officials, but in “the God of Jacob, who is our everlasting hope.”