The Old Testament book of Proverbs is just that, a collection of sayings that speak a general truth or offer advice. When was the last time that you read any of the Proverbs? Whence do you get your advice in times of trouble or strife?

Traditionally, most of us seeking advice turn to family or friends. Further from home, there are always the “agony aunt” columns in the newspapers. Today, many “Google” questions hoping to be given useful answers or log on to social media or read blogs or the like to obtain advice from self-proclaimed experts. In comparison, randomly or systematically reading the Proverbs for tips on life seems more like sifting through the haystack in search of the proverbial needle, i.e. much of it seems not to apply to any given concern or issue.

That raises the question why we tend to want advice in times of trouble when we could seek out such advice in advance. Instead of flipping through the pages of the Bible in a crisis, what if we read the Bible regularly, i.e. in advance of life’s dilemmas and concerns? Rather than searching the haystack for the proverbial needle, what if we knew the haystack so well that finding the needle was not a concern in addressing our concerns because the needle was never lost?

Part of the problem with life’s problems is that they seem to introduce hindrances, obstacles, and even dead ends into the course of life. Imagine watching an old film, and instead of it ending with the words “The End” shining on the screen, somewhere in the middle of a scene in the middle of the film the screen suddenly goes black, and then the words “Dead End” appear. That may seem a terribly contrived example because as we know in real life the film will not usually end without a warning, such as problems with the projector bulb or the film jumping out of sync or the like. The really upsetting aspect in this hypothetical crisis would be accidently knocking the popcorn all over the floor, most of which could not be consumed within the five second rule.

More pertinent examples of hindrances, obstacles, and mayhem from real life, however, might include waking up from the anesthesia and realizing that the sermon is not yet over, having a flat tire on the way to work, having the seam in one’s trousers split in the middle of a job interview, getting lost in a strange town, receiving a call from the police about one of your children, discovering that your spouse is having an affair, or being told by the doctor that the condition is terminal.

Hindrances, obstacles, and dead ends place a question mark over what we expect, or expected, to be the future. Our sense of hope in life is inextricably tied to our prospects for a future which we generally take for granted. When our future becomes uncertain or nonexistent, despair can easily overtake us, compounding what may already be a dire situation. Despair itself feels like a dead end. In such times, we may find ourselves looking longingly at those around us whose fortunes seem certain. Meanwhile, in contrast, we may not have the time, energy, desire, or hope to look for the needle in our haystack set alight by the trials of life.

In such times of crisis, it may seem nothing short of futile to search the Bible and, if lucky, be to find, “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:17-18 – ESV). With such a proverb, we are already carrying with us the proverbial needle everyday and hopefully doing so completely unconcerned that the whole haystack could go up in flames. Furthermore, with such a needle to hand, we are much more ready to be able to stitch our lives back together in times of crisis.

Amidst all the hindrances, obstacles, mayhem, and dead ends in life, we Christians always have something which non-believers do not have, namely a future. That future is the promise in this life of the gift of eternal life given to each one of us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hear that promise proclaimed to us. We become part of that promise in baptism. We taste that promise at the Lord’s table. Listen to St. Paul describe the reality of this promise, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-29 – ESV). Jesus Christ, our crucified Lord, is our future, is our hope, and is our life in all the shadows of death because God the Father raised him from the dead. When life’s problems arise, remember that in baptism you have been raised with Christ, and “surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”