“Do not abandon me in time of trouble, in the midst of storms and dangers.” This comes from the 51st and last chapter of the Book of Sirach, one of the books of wisdom literature in the Old Testament. This book also goes by the titles Ben Sira, or, The Book of Ecclesiasticus, in various translations. This particular verse comes in the middle of a long prayer of thanksgiving. It echoes our own personal experiences of doubt in the midst of danger, yet also expresses our faith in God who is always faithful to us—-especially in our troubles.
One is moved to give thanks always as a response to something. Thanksgiving for its own sake is meaningless. We give thanks when we have received something from another, some unexpected gift of kindness, or help. We are struck with thanksgiving in the presence of undeserved generosity. This is especially so when we are surprised by the aid of another when we have been caught up in troubles that threaten to overwhelm us. As Christians we have come to know that this is what we are called to do for one another.
The inspired writer here prays earnestly, remembering that he had been caught up in the midst of a sea of troubles, that he had been at the point of death. He reports that he had turned every which way looking for help, but there was none to be had. “Then I remembered the mercies of the Lord, his acts of kindness through all the ages past…” (verse 8). It is in this graced moment of “remembering” God’s mercy that points him again in the right direction, indeed, the only direction for true help in times of trouble, to the Lord. This is the center of the target for our reflection today as well.
When we are caught up in troubles that threaten to wash over us and carry us away, we need to stop, take a deep breath, and turn our thoughts to God. And God will not fail to respond to our calls for help. You see, when we are focused only the troubles about us, we are focused on ourselves and fear takes over. But when, like Ben Sira here, we raise our eyes up to God, our focus shifts to the proper source of both aid and comfort. God is greater than all of our troubles. We know that because we, like Ben Sira, remember all the things that God has done for his people in the Old Testament. Even more, we remember what the Father has done for us in his Son Jesus Christ. In remembering this and in giving our troubles over to God in faith and trust, he will never fail to aid us. It is for this reason that we can give thanks to God with joyful hearts.
Lord, in you we trust. Though, at times, we become overwhelmed with troubles, help us to never forget that you are always ready to fill us with your grace when we call on you. Give us the wisdom to keep our eyes on you in all things. We pray, as always, in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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