Thursday, April 16, 2020

Choosing life: letters from prison

I need to begin with a confession. Choosing life is hard. It’s hard during normal times (whatever “normal” may mean). It’s certainly hard now in this time of pandemic. Everyday I struggle with lethargy, some inner resistance to reaching out to communicate, to being creative, to expressing gratitude, to simply being positive. At the end of each day as I take the time to look back and reflect, I have to confess my failures, as well as thank God for the small triumphs.
Even so, I choose to choose life. Part of it is this blog. I write to myself as well as to any readers out there in cyberspace. I write as a way of groping for courage, hoping to encourage others along the way.
So, on to another way of choosing life: through the Holy Scriptures. Paul calls them “the word of life” (Phi. 2:16). It occurs to me that Paul’s prison epistles (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) might be good reading material for such a time as this. Talk about isolation and restriction! A Roman prison was probably worse than what I am facing. And Paul’s context, the persecution of the early Church, while different than ours, was every bit as fraught with danger.
I start with the book of Philippians and find that it focuses on joy. Paul rejoiced in the midst of his hardship. He exhorted the believers in the city of Philippi to rejoice at all times, even as they suffered for the cause of Christ. He repeats the words “joy” and “rejoice” at least 12 times in this short letter. He encourages us to follow his example. He tells us that this is not a grit-your-teeth-and-endure-it time. Even now, this is a time to trust and rejoice.
I’m going to need some help doing that. Apparently, that help is available.

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