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October 9, 2020

“But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.'” Isaiah 49:4

The Old Testament verse from the Daily Texts gives voice to something we all experience, the feeling that all our work is for nothing. No matter how much we do, there’s so much left undone. Whatever amount of effort we put in, things just don’t seem to come together. Sometimes we need the gift of encouragement. Keep going! Keep working on the piano piece, or your pitching motion, or the sermon for Sunday. Often that’s enough to help us push through and finish the job.

And sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we falter and fail. Sometimes the work is so enormous that we only move it forward a little bit; it is not for us to see the end result. And, of course, we’ll all die with work left undone. But this is not all there is to the story.

In Isaiah, the Servant speaks, feeling that his work has been in vain. Even so, he locates his failure within God’s victory. Our spent strength and vain struggling are real, but so is the reward of the Lord. Our death is overwhelmed by resurrection.

There is much work for us to do. We need to solve an environmental crisis. We need to create a society that is equitable for people of every race. We need to beat COVID-19. And we need to do the everyday, unending work of loving one another, raising our children, caring for our parents, blessing our communities. We won’t always get it right. We won’t always see the end result. Keep working anyway; your reward is with the Lord. It is promised to you by Christ and cannot be taken away.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God, we are tired. At times it seems too much. How will we get it all done? Comfort us today, Lord, with the promise of Christ, the One who has completed your work. In him, what we do is not in vain. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Torsten used to come to work with me on Mondays at St. Peter’s. We always got a lot done.

From → COVID-19

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