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A face palm kind of world.


The sculpture Cain by Henri Vidal (1896) is a vivid expression of face palms, the action of bringing the palm of the hand to your face in exasperation, disbelief, frustration, or disappointment. You'd think people of faith, especially spiritual leaders, would be immune to such emotional shifts. Wrong. They may be even more prone to them.

Underneath the practice of faith are core beliefs that every believer and spiritual leader will usually embrace. They include---

1. The deep conviction that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26).

2. A corollary belief that God is always working in our lives (John 5:17).

3. The mystery that God is always working for our good (Romans 8:28).

Even the pessimists and glass-is-half-empty people in our ranks will ultimately depend on these foundational beliefs when assaulted by the emotional dark side. Still, there are occasions, evident in the lives of many of our biblical heroes, when the weight of the hour causes such a sudden jolt to our systems that the face palm is our most natural response. Please know that I'm not talking about the comic relief face palms, our humorous reaction to stupidity or acts beyond the scope of sanity. No, here we're dealing with serious face palms, those resulting from genuine angst.

Several face palm experiences are most prevalent in the lives of spiritual leaders, whether pastors, teachers, church staff, servants, or parents at many levels of church life, kingdom ministry, and daily family experience---

disappointment: when our expectations are not met.

discouragement: a loss of confidence or enthusiasm.

frustration: annoyance at our inability to change or achieve something.

disbelief: inability to accept something as true or real.

grief: a multifaceted response to loss.

shock: when we are surprised, dismayed, or offended.

And, of course, there are many others, the sea of emotions being so diverse. What is more, they are often mentioned in Scripture, especially in the writings of King David, the face palm moments of abandonment, opposition, incredible loss, and sense of frustration. There were even times when King David, a man after God's own heart, would feel separation anxiety that distanced him from God.

The Apostle Paul dealt with face palm moments too. Using a broad brush, he usually swept them into one category where the emotion of the moment would cause someone to lose heart. One of the most direct texts regarding the loss of heart is in his second letter to the Corinthians---

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing

power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way,

but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted,

but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying

in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be

manifested in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10, ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner

self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is

preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we

look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For

the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

You see, the earthen vessels is a reference to the limitations that define us. The human species is physically, emotionally, and spiritually defined. We're subject to the pain, suffering, and emotional distress of a fallen world. But, Paul asserts that believers are spiritually alive in Christ, and therefore, "...we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." The disappointment, discouragement, frustration, disbelief, grief, shock and others are temporary, transient, momentary, and will pass away. But, the essential hope of our faith is eternal and will carry us in the day of our emotional crisis.

Of course, hope is the anchor of our soul and is eternal (Hebrews 6:19). His grace is sufficient for every circumstance (2 Corinthians 12:9), and he gives more grace (James 4:6). But, there is a catch to this face palm thing. Paul indicated that "...our inner self is being renewed day by day." It is the presumption that we are in a growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that we are being transformed to his likeness with every increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Here's praying it is more than an assumption.

Like it or not, we live in a face palm kind of world, especially under the demands of Covid-19 during the past few months. . Incredible and unbelievable things are happening as secularism invades even the sanctity of our faith. But, we have a Christ who lives in us (John14:17). Because he is near, we quickly move our palms from the face into the air to glorify him.

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!

Psalm 134:2, ESV

And, yes, there will still be the comic kind of face palm. As they say, you can't fix stupid.


Cain by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1896. Cain is depicted after killing his brother hiding his face in his hand. From Wikipedia.

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