By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with the [disciples], he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”—Acts 1:4-8 (NIV)
Living in a fast-paced, instant gratification culture that is often hectic and rushed, it is so difficult to catch our breath. We face constant underlying pressure to prove our worth.
Even our youth feel the pressures of today’s world. Earlier this summer, the SEJ Youth Harambee convened at our own Claflin University campus. The young people gathered there expressed with me their concerns of needing encouragement and hope—requesting prayers for strength, guidance, the struggles of their families, single parents working multiple jobs and for building their personal relationships with Christ.
We are often in need of encouragement, inspiration, reassurance and support.
Charles Tindley penned lyrics in 1905 that were later adapted into a popular gospel anthem: “Encourage, my soul, and let us journey on. Though the night is dark, and I am far from home. Thanks be to God, the morning light appears. The storm is passing over, the storm is passing over, the storm is passing over, hallelu!”
The hymn speaks of the journey toward a destination that is far away, accompanied by the fear and uncertainty of being lost in the darkness of night.
Despite the perceived danger, the singer finds solace in the knowledge that they are guided by a God who is bigger than any storm.
The repetition of “the storm is passing over” reflects the idea that whatever challenges are faced are temporary and will come to an end.
Though we know not the times or the dates, we believe with confidence that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes.
Hope is that one encouraging thing that carries us through the darkness, through the waiting in our own lives. When we feel anxious thinking of things we need to do, the tasks we need to complete and the people we need to see, hope will strengthen our souls for the journey that awaits us, wherever it may lead and whatever it may bring.
Brian Wiener, writer and entrepreneur, has described hope this way, namely, “If you carry one thing throughout your entire life, let it be hope. Let it be hope that better things are always ahead. Hope that you can get through even the toughest of times. Hope that you can get through any challenge that comes your way. Hope that you are exactly where you are meant to be right now, and you are on the path to where you’re meant to be. Because during these times, hope will be the very thing that carries you through.”
Early in the spring of 1905, while Civilla Martin and her husband, Walter, were sojourning to Elmira, New York, they developed a deep friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle, who Civilla called “true saints of God.”
Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for more than 20 years. Mr. Doolittle experienced serious handicapping conditions and propelled himself daily to and from his business in his wheelchair.
Despite their challenges, they lived happy lives.
During one visit, Civilla and Walter commented to them on their faithfulness and hope, asking them, “What is your secret?” Mrs. Doolittle shared a simple response, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”
Civilla Martin was inspired to pen a poem and mailed it to a composer who wrote the tune that we know so well today.
If we trust that God cares for all of creation, then why would we question God’s care for us?
Of course, God’s eye is on the sparrow, and God is surely watching over you and me.
All it takes is slowing down and catching your breath. Then, be filled with hope as you fix your gaze ahead, soul strengthened and following where Christ leads.