When life throws up difficult problems, too often we seek easy answers instead of believing in ourselves, our community and God’s grace.
Each morning I start the day doing a cryptic crossword. It’s a daily challenge and diversion from all the busyness of the rest of my day. I get up early, make a coffee and find somewhere quiet to do the crossword. These days it’s an app on my phone, but for many years it was The Age cryptic crossword. The Age had a stable of crossword setters and each crossword had the initials of the setter below it. Some setters were harder than others. I grew to hate DA, who seemed to delight in setting near impossible crosswords. DA, David Astle, has gone on to be something of a media personality about words and puzzles.
Firstly, the answer is right there in front of you. It’s encoded and sometimes almost impossible to discern, but it is there.
Secondly, and most importantly, don’t cheat! Don’t look up the answer. You need to persevere, trust yourself and avoid seeking easy answers. This is hardest to do when the answers are readily available, in the back of the book or online. Clues that were impossible in the morning, somehow fall into place in the afternoon, or even days later. There is great satisfaction in solving them yourself. You learn nothing from seeking easy answers.
There is a well-known story told in the Gospel of Mark about Jesus and his disciples crossing a lake in a boat. Jesus isn’t a sailor, but a number of his disciples are, he’s tired so puts his head down on a cushion and goes to sleep. The boat encounters a storm and is in danger of sinking. But rather than trust in their own skill and collective ability to weather the storm, the disciples panic and wake Jesus accusing him of not caring. Characteristically, Jesus calms the storm with a word, but then rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.
Was it their lack of faith in God or their lack of faith in themselves? Maybe both. Jesus was their easy answer. The challenge is hard, it appears overwhelming, do we trust in our skills and our teamwork or do we take the easy solution. “Jesus please make it stop.”
It’s hard to believe in our ability to endure life storms. We hear the voice of self-doubt, that voice in your head that says “You can’t do it. You’re going to fail.” When self-doubt gets loose, it devours our confidence, strips logic and reason from our mind, and steals happiness from our heart. In return, it leaves us with only fear and insecurity. We too pray to Jesus to make it stop to give us the easy answer to our troubles.
Sometimes we do find healing. Sometimes the storm is set at peace. But often the true answer is that we are stronger than we think. We are more resourceful, more resilient, more connected to others, more able to learn and to grow than we dare to believe. Sometimes it enough to know that Jesus is with us in the boat and trusts his life to us.
This is the gospel and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister