When my youngest daughter Fiona was growing up, she took up rowing in high school. She became very proficient and soon was selected to row in both the coxless ‘8’s’ and the ‘4’s.’ She preferred rowing as part of a team and not alone. She was a strong oarswoman and had the ‘bow’ seat or the ‘stroke’ seat in many of the races she competed. These regattas or ‘heads’ as they were known took place all around the country where we were, and she would regularly return with medals and trophies that the team had won. I remember of one car journey that we took, Fiona remarked on the fact that rowing was the only sport that you raced in looking backward.
I was reminded of that when I recently re-read this quote by the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard, ‘Life must be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backward,’ and there is a lot of truth in his observation. So often we cannot make sense of our existence from one day to another. We look for a purpose but see only a riddle. We try to see where God’s hand is at work but we draw a blank. We cry out for help, but nothing seems forthcoming. At such times, faith can be tested to the limit, as we struggle to understand why God seems remote and unmoved by our situation. As is often the case in life, time can make all the difference. Weeks, months, even years later, we look back and recognize the hand of God at work in our lives just when we were least aware of it. Experiences that seemed cruel, situations that felt hopeless, turn out to be formative moments in our journey of faith, leading us forward to new insights and horizons.
Remember that next time you feel God has forgotten you. Remind yourself that, though you may not see it now, the time will surely come when everything fits into place, and you realize that God’s unseen hand has been leading you safely onwards, through good times and bad.
Are there experiences you have had that puzzled you at the time but in which you later recognized God was at work? The Psalmist reminds us that in all circumstances, even the darkest moments in life or death, God is with us and by the Spirit is guiding us and one day we will see the pieces fall into place.
Perhaps this can be your prayer this week? Loving God, when I cannot discern your hand or glimpse your presence help me to understand that you are no less near than you have ever been, and that, seen or unseen, you continue to work out your purpose. I pray all this through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.