Overcoming Obstacles

Matthew 9:1-8

Today, we’re invited to think of the obstacles that we face in our lives. Which of our obstacles scare us the most?  Which of them seem almost insurmountable? Which of them have we given up trying to overcome? 


In today's first reading, the prophet Amos was told to quit doing God's work: Get out of Dodge – don’t prophesy in Bethel. Yet he had a mission to do; he knew that he'd been sent by God. Should he worry about the reaction he was getting and turn away from his assignment? No, he wasn’t going to let others’ reactions be an obstacle to him. He listened to God and obeyed him no matter the personal cost.


Look at the obstacles faced by the paralytic in today's Gospel. The crippled man needed healing, but his first obstacle was transportation. He couldn’t get to Jesus by himself.  So, he accepted the help of his friends. He accepted their rather “outside of the box” method of solving the problem. Was he worried about what others would think if he let his friends damage a roof that didn't belong to them? No, all that mattered was getting to Jesus, regardless of any obstacles.


If a task or the dream that we have is a calling from God, no obstacle should be considered insurmountable. Accomplishing it might require some innovation, determination and humility, as was the case with the paralytic, but our possibilities are endless if we keep our focus on God.


The obstacle of pride is very powerful. The paralytic's friends could have been consumed with their reputation, what others thought of them. But their focus was instead on what God wanted them to do. When we face the potential disapproval of others, how do we weigh that potential disapproval against what Jesus wants? God’s will for us is all that really matters!


In Galatians we hear, “Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”


In our everyday lives, many of us feel like we are running short of energy. We don’t have enough energy to overcome our obstacles. There’s an analogy about energy that compares our souls and minds to our computer or cell phone batteries. I don’t know how many times that, when shutting down my laptop, I’ve come to realize that I have 5 or 6 or 7 programs still running in the background, never been turned off, and each of them have been draining energy from the battery.


In a similar fashion, many times, we don’t recognize how much energy we expend having the events of our days still rolling around in our heads, in the background, wearing us down, and draining our energy.


And just as our computers and cell phones have programs that are bigger energy drainers than others, there are similarly bigger energy drainers for our minds and souls. Anger is one of them. We hear someone say, “Did you see what so and so did (or say) about such and such?  And before we even get all the facts put correctly in context, we get all worked up, and join in on the sinful chorus of disparagement of someone who may or may not be guilty– anger drains energy.


What about the drain of managing our reputation or proving for worthiness? Reputation management (let’s be frank about it – pride) is a big battery drainer. Without realizing its presence, it paralyzes us during the day and keeps us up at night.  It drains a lot of energy.


Thankfully, for both Amos and the paralytic and his friends, both anger and reputation management were not in the forefront of their minds.  It was about the mission they were given and their relationship with God.


The truth is, no matter how old or young we are, we can overcome the biggest of obstacles if we submit to God’s will for our lives. What others think of us, what others say about others, are background noise that will take care of itself. We need to hit the off switch on that background noise, and the obstacles that they create.


Obstacles are really just illusions, not the end of the path. They are merely tests of our determination to move forward with God.


And so we pray today: Dear Lord, help us to focus on the mission that you have set for us. Help us to follow your will and not the background noise of anger and reputation management. You have shown us that your approval is all we need, and with it, we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way.  Amen!


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