The Pastor’s Piece – January 28, 2024

The Pastor’s Piece


January 28, 2024

Many years ago, my wife and I were driving through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  It was at night and a winter blizzard had blown in.  We were on the switchbacks, winding our way down the mountain.  At times the road was clear and we could see well.  At other times, the falling snow was so heavy and thick and blowing, it was a total black out behind the wheel – like someone had thrown a blanket over the windshield.  During those times, we were just guessing at where the road was.  Off to our left was the solid rock the highway had been cut out of.  To our right was sheer drop-off for many hundreds of feet.  It was difficult and scary.  There was nowhere to pull off, and if we stopped in the road, we took the risk of another car, or worse, a semi-truck, running into us, not to mention that we may have well been stranded up there for days waiting to get dug out if this thing went on long enough.  So we continued our treacherous journey down the mountain as carefully as we could in the dark with the blizzard hollowing all around us. We said, “If we can just get through this blizzard and into Denver, we will be fine.”

What should have been a three- hour trip ended up taking us all night.  But just before sunrise, we rounded one of the last switchbacks and there before us was the city of Denver in all her glory.  The skyline was beautiful.  She was nestled in between mountain rises on all sides, all lit up and inviting.  It was a sight to behold after struggling all night in the darkness.  We had made it at long last.  We stopped and fueled up the car and ate breakfast at Denny’s. That was the best Grand Slam breakfast ever.

As we got back in the car, we knew we were just one long day from a good night’s sleep in our own bed.  From here on out we knew it would be smooth sailing.  And so it was – for a while. But then we got to the plains Nebraska – far away from the hazards of the Rocky Mountains – only to travel into a lovely winter ice storm.  As we zipped along, unaware of the treachery, we saw cars suddenly spinning out of control in front of us – and then a semi tractor-trailer rig did a slow motion jack knife in the grassy median right before our very eyes.  We slowed to a crawl and once again went into survival mode.  Just a few more miles and we’d hit dry pavement again – or so we thought.  We said, “If we can just get through this ice storm, we will be fine.”  After several hours, we finally drove out of the ice and we were able to travel at highway speeds again.  

Snow is seen covering hills around the Bay Area as a massive winter storm passes along the west coast, delivering snow, freezing rains, and gusty winds, in Redwood City, California, U.S., February 24, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By the time we got home we were exhausted but happy to have finally made it safely.  But once we got home, we found that we were right in the middle of one of the most severe winters on record.  We had four separate blizzards hit, four weeks in a row.  The snow banks along our road were twenty to thirty feet high.  Many times we had just one lane of road to navigate over blind hills and around curves.  The thermometer fell to more than 30 below on several occasions. We said, “If we can just get through this winter, we will be fine.”  

Eventually, winter gave way to spring and then summer.  But the rains dried up that summer and we had a drought.  The crops withered under the hot sun and we prayed for rain, but very little came our way.  We said, “If we can just get through this drought, we will be fine.”  

Then a few years later, we had so much rain we couldn’t get the crops in in the spring or out in the fall.  On Christmas Eve, as we hauled our last load of corn into the dryer, we said, “If we can just get this harvest done, we will be fine.”

And so it goes with life.  It seems we maneuver our way through snow and ice, heat and cold, sunshine and rain, and we tell ourselves in all the seasons of life, “If we can just get through this, we will be fine.”  And the funny thing is, one way or another we always manage to get through it, and we find ourselves ready to face the next obstacle that life throws our way.  I catch myself sometimes saying, “If I can just get through this, I’ll never have to deal with it again for as long as I live.” But then I find myself having to deal with it in a different setting again and again.  They say that adversity builds character.  Well, good for “them” because life is all about adversity.

We can’t help it. The Bible says that all of creation groans under the weight of sin, which it has been subjected to. Blizzards, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes – they are all part of the imbalance that has come because of original sin.  Our own struggles are because of sin in our hearts. People don’t like to admit that, because for the most part we feel that we are pretty good people most of the time, yet the Bible says that we are not good by nature.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  It was Jesus who said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34). We need Someone to intervene on our behalf. We have that Someone in the Person of Jesus Christ.

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).