Good morning from the Desert! Fall is definitely here. The morning was pleasantly cool as I strolled the neighborhood. Whenever I think of fall, my mind fills with colorful, aromatic thoughts. I can see the brilliant colors of changing leaves. Baskets of crisp red, yellow, and green apples line stands for sale. Fields disclose large orange pumpkins previously hidden in the leaves. The smell of burning leaves, hot apple cider, and crisp, frosty air makes fall special to me. Here in Al Ain, I am finding other joys of fall. The temperatures are dropping from the triple digits of summer. Small bushes are sprouting new fine leaves in bold anticipation of less heat. People are venturing out into the neighborhood and parks in greater numbers. Outdoor sports are resuming. Life is becoming less nocturnal. Fall, but a different fall indeed.
Transition times contain uncertainty. Are we really through summer? What will winter be like? Transition times occur in life as well, of course. Whenever we enter a transition, whether it’s leaving high school for college, work in one place for another, life as a single person to marriage, or daily work duties for retirement, there is uncertainty. Anticipated times of change allow the luxury to dream and, for some, the stress of worry.
Other changes occur in truly unexpected fashion. Death of a loved one, a bad medical report, an accident, or unexpected loss of a job can never be anticipated. This last week a family in our church had a house fire which destroyed all they had brought to Al Ain except their lives. What a trial to face! What an opportunity to serve and to let the church be the church! Faith in action is true faith. It is not enough to merely sit and voice, “Tut, Tut! How bad,” if you truly claim to be a follower of Christ. If you have the ability and capability to assist people in need, then do so. There will be times, places, and peoples that call to your heart. Listen and then act. Maybe your heart hears about a neighbor in need of emotional, spiritual, or financial support. Maybe your heart yearns for a CURE child in need of your funds for an operation. Maybe a single mom needs a break. Maybe, maybe, maybe…. Too often we look for others, or even worse, our government to provide care for those in need. We need to engage our words and readings and turn them into actions.
I, too, think way too often, “What can I do as a single person? Others can do this better.” OK, but will they? Will our government actually get help to those in need in the developing world? History records often, no. I have missed many opportunities to serve in past years, but that does not mean I cannot change. You don’t need to (nor should you) say yes to every opportunity that crosses your path. Some opportunities, however, will touch you deeply. Some may touch you so deeply your life course will change. Other opportunities will gain you confidence to take another step on the road of service.
I find it amazing how my reading often fits with life’s circumstances that are ongoing. Some call this a “coincidence”; others see it as God’s will. Earlier in the week, I was reading some writings by William Barclay. The first edition of this text on Colossians was written in 1957. Thursday night I hear about the trial of the fire for this family. Through the week I see patients facing distress due to injuries or illness. Pastor Tripp spoke and taught on “Being prepared for the heat.” Be ready for the trials; they will come. Hmmm. Am I supposed to be hearing and learning something here?
In Barclay’s writing, he reviews two Greek words the Apostle Paul uses: hupomone and makrothumia. Hupomone is a word I have come across many times and love. Hupomone is often translated “patience.” But this is not a “patience” that merely bows down and lets events flow over you like a wave. I think of resignation in the face of overwhelming circumstances in that context. Hupomone is not merely gritting your teeth and pushing through. Hupomone is used by Peterson as the strength to stick it out over the long haul… and strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy. Hupomone is the fortitude which no situation can defeat. Hupomone is the assured knowledge that despite circumstances as they may seem, there is still God in charge.
Makrothumia is often found translated as long suffering. Barclay talks of patience with people as the core idea. Makrothumia is the quality of mind that will allow you to bear with people’s unpleasantness, cruelty, and unteachable spirits and not become bitter.
Together you develop a word picture where hupomone gains you strength in fortitude which no situation can defeat and makrothumia grows your patience that cannot be defeated by people. These two words exude power: power over situations and patience with people who face you in challenge. Paul prayed for hupomone and makrothumia for the people of Colosse — and also for us.
Across the globe we see and hear about situations and peoples that create chaos and pain. We do indeed live in a fallen world. Pastor talked of being prepared for the tough times that will come. Fires show how quickly your life can change. Unreasonable people can drive you to distraction. That is why we need to pray for our own hupomone and makrothumia. We need that strength in fortitude and the patience with people to travel through our life adventures. We need to seize these concepts and live out life as we travel through the trials in His grip.
“Make me, O Lord, victorious over every circumstance; make me patient with every person; and with all give me the joy which no circumstance and no man will ever take from me.” — Wm Barclay, from Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians