Thriving Devotional - April 14, 2020

In a conversation earlier this morning, my friend and I got talking about repentance. We were pondering, whenever “this” is over, what will be normal? What will we go back to? What will we, or should we, not go back to? What needs to change in us and in the way we live? (Which is how we were talking about repentance.)

Remember what C.S. Lewis said about repentance: “Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.” (Mere Christianity)

It may be that for you (and for me), God may use the Coronavirus to turn you around in some way. We may feel defeated by it in more ways than one; confident assertions to “beat this thing” seem to miss the point. In the powerlessness we’ve experienced, there may be a greater Power at work… which reminds me of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, called “The Man Watching.” I share it here for your reflection:

Rainer Maria Rilke – “The Man Watching” (Translated from the German by Edward Snow)

I can see that the storms are coming

by the trees, which out of stale lukewarm days

beat against my anxious windows,

and I can hear the distances say things

one can't bear without a friend,

can't love without a sister.

Then the storm swirls, a rearranger,

swirls through the woods and through time,

and everything is as if without age:

the landscape, like a verse in the psalter,

is weight and ardor and eternity.

How small that is, with which we wrestle,

what wrestles with us, how immense;

were we to let ourselves, the way things do,

be conquered thus by the great storm,—

we would become far-reaching and nameless.

What we triumph over is the Small,

and the success itself makes us petty.

The Eternal and Unexampled

will not be bent by us.

Think of the Angel who appeared

to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:

when his opponent's sinews

in that contest stretch like steel,

he feels them under his fingers

as strings making deep melodies.

Whoever was overcome by this Angel

(who so often declined the fight),

he strides erect and justified

and great out of that hard hand

which, as if sculpting, nestled round him.

Winning does not tempt him.

His growth is: to be the deeply defeated

by ever greater things.

Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at

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