Ups and Downs
Acts 2:22-32 (ESV) [On Pentecost, Peter preached,] “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
It is a truism that life is full of ups and downs. This is especially true of Christians, since our lives follow the pattern of Jesus’, and His life was shaped by the cross and resurrection, the biggest down and the biggest up in all of history.
In 1 Corinthians 1, St. Paul says that the cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s wisdom and power to those who are being saved, even though it seems foolish to the world. When you were baptized, you went down into the tomb with Jesus and were also raised with Him by faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead. So you have died to the world’s wisdom and now live in the foolishness of God, which “is wiser than men”; even though the cross and Baptism appear weak and helpless in the eyes of the world, “the weakness of God is stronger than men.” God has chosen to save us through the “foolishness” of Christ cross, but that also is the pattern that God has given for our lives.
So for our Christian lives, God takes the pattern He used for His only-begotten and Incarnate Son and then applies it to us. St. Paul says that we are continually being conformed to our Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29). So look to Christ’s life for the pattern of your own. Jesus experienced great ups and downs in His life, much more extreme than we ever could experience. The greatest “down” was His shameful death on the cross, bearing the weight of our sins. The greatest “up” was His glorious resurrection in which He declared us righteous—forgiven of all our sins and heirs of His glory. So when He tells us to take up our crosses and follow after Him, He knows what He’s asking us to do. He leads us down no road that He hasn’t already traveled for us, and He knows the best way for us.
But in order for us to learn not to rely on ourselves, but on Jesus, He sometimes lets us plunge down into the depths and get to the end of our rope before He pulls us back up. If you are in one of those “downs” right now, just be patient, as Psalm 27 says: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” He’ll never forget you, He’ll never leave you or forsake you, no matter how low you get, for you are baptized, you are God’s beloved child united with Jesus, God’s Son.
In the darkest moments, as well as when you’re on the top of the world, what matters most is the Lord’s promises to you, and He guarantees that after all your ups and downs in this life, He will finally will give you one eternal, perfect “up” in the resurrection, as Psalm 16 also says: “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
As we saw in the reading above from Acts 2, those words first applied to Jesus, as He awaited the resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand. And God made good on His promises to Jesus, didn’t He? Because of this, you can most certainly be sure that He will make good on those promises for you. So no matter how wild the ups and downs of life, you always have the certainty of the future resurrection to comfort you when you are down and to thrill you when you are up. You follow in the footsteps of your risen and ascended Lord, who will bring you safely along your journey of life down here on earth just as He has already done for all the saints who are enjoying eternal bliss up in heaven, where there is “fullness of joy.”
Prayer: O Lord, our God, we acknowledge Your great goodness toward us and praise You for the mercy and grace that our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hearts have known. We sincerely repent of the sins of this day and those in the past. Pardon our offenses, correct and reform what is lacking in us, and help us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Inscribe Your law upon our hearts, and equip us to serve You with holy and blameless lives. May each day remind us of the coming of the night when no one can work. In the emptiness of this present age keep us united by a living faith through the power of Your Holy Spirit with Him who is the resurrection and the life, that we may escape the eternal bitter pains of condemnation. By Your Holy Spirit bless the preaching of Your Word and the administration of Your Sacraments. Preserve these gifts to us and to all Christians. Guard and protect us from all dangers to body and soul. Grant that we may with faithful perseverance receive from You our sorrows as well as our joys, knowing that health and sickness, riches and poverty, and all things come by permission of Your fatherly hand. Keep us this day under Your protective care and preserve us, securely trusting in Your everlasting goodness and love, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.