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by Kyle Meyaard-Schaap
It’s my job to follow climate and environmental policy headlines. Every day.
And the headlines these days have me thinking about a seminary professor of mine who used to ask, “How is it with your soul?” If he asked me that question today, I have to admit that the answer would be somewhere between panicked and hyperventilated. All it takes lately is a cursory glance of the day’s top headlines before I feel my pulse quickening and my anxiety rising.
As of this writing, the Trump Administration has already green-lit the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, proposed a 24% cut to the EPA, rolled back the Clean Water Rule of 2015, signaled plans to scale back historic CAFE fuel economy standards, and is expected to release an executive order any day now killing the Clean Power Plan and is rumored to be considering whether or not to trigger a U.S. exit from the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015.
It’s enough to make anyone concerned about the climate queasy, and it has me feeling desperate for a refuge from the chaos.
It’s also my job to preach once a month at my worshiping community in Ann Arbor. And I’m starting to think that it’s no accident that I was slated to preach on Psalm 121 last Sunday.
As a child, I had always grown up hearing the promises of Psalm 121 (i.e. “the LORD will not let your foot slip,” “the sun shall not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”) as promises of wholesale protection from any pain and difficulty life might dish out. Joel Osteen-style. And I lived a safe enough life to believe that this could actually be the case.
That is, until I grew up a little bit and life knocked me down a little bit and I started to doubt a little bit.
I think what I’m learning about the promises of Psalm 121–about the promises of Scripture writ large–is that they are not about the complete and total absence of hardship. The promise was never invulnerability in the face of a dangerous world. God does not promise to save me from a heartbreaking headline, or to save the frontline communities from the actual real-life consequences of those heartbreaking headline. But God does promise to be present inside of them; to meet us in our pain and walk alongside us.
The promise is not painlessness in a pain-filled world, but that the maker of heaven and earth is walks so closely and attentively beside us that God sees every wobble of our ankles as we pick our way over the rocks and ruts of life’s paths; as we slog our way through discouraging headline after discouraging headline.
The promise is that the God who made the very hills to which we look in our distress is the very same one who watches so attentively at our side when the exhaustion of the journey overtakes us and forces us to rest.
The promise that the God who made the good world that I fight so hard everyday to protect; who is more grieved than I at its wanton abuse and neglect is the same God who walks so closely beside me that his presence is protection from the scorching pain of discouragement and the uncertainty lurking in the dark shadows of imagination.
God has given me jobs to do; has given us all jobs to do. And they can be hard and discouraging and heartbreaking sometimes. But God has a job to do too, and God is faithful to the work even when all the evidence points to the contrary.
God is reconciling the whole world back to Godself even though the headlines scream otherwise.
Christ is steadily bringing his kingdom even as the kingdoms of this age flex and sneer.
God is accomplishing the job of redemption, it is simply my job to point ahead to God’s good future that is racing back into our present.
And as I do, Christ’s very own presence strengthens me.
Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, who is filling in today for Kate Kooyman, is the national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. He also serves as Ministry Associate at the Campus Chapel in Ann Arbor, MI.